The Bright Hour – Nina Riggs

~~ Month of Memoirs ~~

Before you open The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs, you should invest in a fresh box of tissues.  Trust me, you will use them all before you finish the last page.  The poet Nina Riggs wrote this memoir during the last months of her life.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer at thirty-seven, a mother of two young boys, a wife and a published writer.  Within a year of her diagnosis, she loses her mother to cancer and learns that her disease has metastasized.  Her outlook on her last months and her need to write about her experience and her emotions are packed tightly into this volume, wrapped in light and pastel paper and tied with a shining bow as a gift to everyone she left behind including every reader of this book.  While a difficult read, it is hopeful and necessary.  Riggs teaches readers not only how to live every day but how to die gracefully.

This memoir also brought a silver lining to a dark cloud.  The Bright Houris often mentioned in conjunction with Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, (which, by the way, is also fabulous). Kalanithi also received a terminal cancer diagnosis in his late 30’s. Because he was a doctor, he felt compelled to write about his final months as well.  His book and his passing predated Riggs death and publication by about 18 months and his widow, Lucy Kalanithi, supported Riggs both in her writing and in her journey with cancer.  The two women kept in close touch and Kalanithi emailed Riggs just two days before she passed.  In her last hours, Riggs suggested that her husband, John Duberstein, reach out to Lucy after she passed.  Lucy, she said, understands what he will be going through.  John emailed Lucy and met her in person when they both were speaking about their spouses’ respective memoirs.  The two found that in addition to their love for their spouses, they had also developed a love for one another.  A lovely legacy.