In a remarkable story that sounds like something out of a tearjerking novel, or perhaps a big-screen rom-com, the spouses of two late memoirists who both wrote popular books about dying have found love together after loss.
As chronicled in The Washington Post, John Duberstein, the widower of The Bright Hour author Nina Riggs, is now in a relationship with Lucy Kalanithi, the widow of When Breath Becomes Air author Paul Kalanithi.
Their story, which seems improbable and fated all at once, began when Riggs, who was dying of breast cancer, suggested that her husband contact Lucy Kalanithi for advice and support. Kalanithi went through a similar ordeal as Duberstein when her husband battled lung cancer and died in March 2015, and she and Riggs had bonded through correspondence.
Duberstein did as his wife suggested. “I had so many questions,” he told The Post. “I was bursting with this intense need to get things squared.”
In the wake of Riggs’ death last February, Duberstein and Kalanithi forged a bond through a stream of constant emails, and their feelings for each other grew and deepened. “We talked a lot about the minefield of managing to fall in love and actively grieve at the same time,” Kalanithi said.
The two finally met in person and had “a lot of chemistry,” they said, and they kept a low profile with their blossoming relationship even as they embarked on a dual publicity tour for When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour. They’ve since been working on blending their families, and recently celebrated the New Year’s holiday together with their children.
“I’m still surprised,” Kalanithi said of their relationship. “I’m surprised by how ridiculous it is and how natural it is at the same time.”
Read more about their story in The Washington Post.