Love can come in the most unexpected of places.
A widow and widower of famed novelists who both passed away have found a new life with each other following the deaths of the beloved authors.
When Breath Becomes Air writer Paul Kalanithi and The Bright Hour author Nina Riggs both wrote books chronicling their illnesses — Paul, as he faced lung cancer at age 37, and Nina, her final years as she faced breast cancer at age 39.
Both books were published posthumously and were literary hits. Now their spouses have found love with each other.
“I’m still surprised,” Lucy Kalanithi tells The Washington Post of her relationship with Nina Riggs’s widower, John Duberstein. “I’m surprised by how ridiculous it is and how natural it is at the same time.”
The two gave a joint interview last week, with John saying, “Everything seemed almost bizarrely to fit. It was kind of stunning.”
It all began when Nina, on her death bed, expressed worry about her husband and would get on with his life when she was gone, and suggested to him that he contact Paul’s widow, Lucy Kalanithi, for advice. In the meantime, Lucy and Nina had become close friends.
“One of Nina’s final acts, in effect, was to play matchmaker for her husband,” reports WP, but he was grieving too much after her death to think about moving on. Instead, he needed immediate advice.
He sent a note to Lucy, asking, “How do I write a eulogy? How do I sleep through the night? How do I not go insane?”
“Lucy wrote back immediately, advising John to focus on the eulogy and ‘to take a chill pill’ about the rest. ‘I felt a desire to support their family. And Nina was John’s character reference,’” the report says.
Over the next months, he emailed Lucy almost daily, and the messages grew longer and longer.
We learned that when a gmail thread reaches 100, it rolls you into another thread,” John said. “There were spools and spools of threads, ‘a Google-plex’ of messages, he joked.”
The two began discussing falling in love while also grieving. Eventually meeting in person, the two hugged for a long time and found they had a lot of chemistry. John’s children — Freddy, 10, and Benny, 8 — knew about the blossoming friendship, as did Lucy’s 3-year-old daughter, Cady.
After a dual publicity tour, the two couple began to reveal the relationship to family and friends.
Both have pictures of their deceased spouses lining the walls of their homes, and both still wear their wedding rings. Both say that Nina and Paul “had given their spouses radical permission to enter new relationships, even to remarry.”
Credit: Amy Osborne for The Washington Post via Getty Images
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