Relationships

An Update on My Twin Sister

Lucy Kalanithi

This past summer, my twin sister Lucy called to say she had something important to tell me…

You may remember her story — In 2013, her 36-year-old husband Paul was diagnosed with lung cancer. After the shocking news, he struggled with how best to spend his remaining time, however long that might be: Should he continue his job as a neurosurgeon, write a book, or try for a baby? In the end, he did all three.

Less than two years later — on March 9, 2015, just shy of his 38th birthday — Paul died peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, including Lucy, his parents and his brothers. His bestselling memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, was published posthumously and dedicated to their daughter Cady.

Lucy, Cady and Paul Kalanithi

Lucy, Cady and Paul

My sister Lucy was devastated, to say the least. After a year of deep grief, she still dreaded returning to an empty house. To try to help (how does one help?), we gave her apartment a new look, so she could try for a fresh start with her daughter. “I’m not itching to get out like I was before,” she told me afterward. “I feel like a fresh, cool lady in my house.” Of course, Paul’s photos and books (including his tattered neurosurgery textbook) remained happily at home. He was still there and always will be. “Paul is in the air,” she said. “He’s in the mix.”

So, this past summer, on the phone, Lucy was nervous but excited to tell me her news: “I’ve met someone,” she said. “His name is John.”

John’s wife — a poet named Nina Riggs — had also died of cancer, Lucy told me, and she had also written a memoir during her final days. Lucy had been in touch with Nina and even wrote a blurb for her book; and when Nina died, John reached out to Lucy for advice on how to grieve, sleep through the night, and, as he said, “not go insane.”

That week, I found a copy of The Bright Hour and devoured it — at first to see what John was all about, but soon to fall head over heels for Nina and her take on motherhood, family, books, love and loss. Certain lines took my breath away, including this part about her two sons: “Their very existence is the one dark piece I cannot get right with in all this. I can let go of a lot of things: plans, friends, career goals, places in the world I want to see, maybe even the love of my life. But I cannot figure out how to let go of mothering them.”

John Duberstein and Nina Riggs

John and Nina

Over the summer and fall, Lucy and John’s connection deepened — they took trips to visit each other (Lucy and her daughter live near San Francisco; John and his boys are in North Carolina); their children and families met; and they spent a gazillion hours on FaceTime.

When Lucy and John visited Brooklyn this fall, Alex and I immediately approved of the 6-foot-2 defense attorney with an easy smile. “You look cozy,” Toby said the first evening, as he sat next to John. “You just look so comfortable.” And then he climbed right into his lap.

When I asked Lucy what she liked about John, she insisted that making a list was impossible. But I’m her twin sister (and two minutes older), so I forced her to. “Okay, he makes dad jokes. He’s literary. His arms are ridiculous. He’s emotionally astute. And he makes amazing scrambled eggs. Really, Cady and I are both in it for the scrambled eggs.”

After spending last week with the twosome (and our extended families) in San Francisco for the holidays, I saw again how much they just like each other; how they chat so easily; how they repeat funny things the kids say (like when John’s 10-year-old son requested that all the younger cousins call him “Uncle Freddy”).

When I asked John the same question, he rattled things off: “I like her glasses. And she’s beautiful, I’m overwhelmed by her. Even when we were first emailing, we already had inside jokes.” The only catch? “She hasn’t seen any movies,” he laughed. “The only one she likes is So I Married an Ax Murderer. Every movie I mention, she’s like, ‘Don’t even make the reference, I haven’t seen it.’ I have a million I want to share with her.”

And yet Paul and Nina are still right there — as Lucy would say, in the mix. Favorite photos are hung around the house (Cady’s bedside table is covered in snapshots of her doting father), and their names come up in conversation all the time.

“If your child or sister died, that person would be your family member forever,” Lucy told me. “That person is a huge piece of who you are. This dynamic feels the same. Nina was John’s wife and his children’s mother; she’s part of him. Paul was my husband and Cady’s father. It feels good and natural to talk about them.”

After all, discussing the loss of their spouses is how their relationship began. “Talking about your person is such a strong urge. You want to keep them present for yourself and your kids,” says John. “Lucy and I would both undo these dual tragedies in a heartbeat (meaning we’d likely have never met, let alone be together now); but I have to say how incredibly grateful I am that we found each other.”

Of course, as Lucy’s sister, I initially worried about these strong emotions getting mixed up. But, as I’ve now witnessed, you can fall in love with someone and grieve someone else at the same time. “I would never have known that that was true until I experienced it,” says John. “It’s such a mix of tragedy and joy; it’s both.”

As for the kids — John’s sons, Freddy (10) and Benny (8); and Lucy’s daughter Cady (3) — they get along well, other than to-be-expected-and-actually-kind-of-sweet sibling spats now and again. Over the holidays, the cousins, including Toby and Anton, ran around the backyard, splashed in the hot tub and watched old episodes of Full House.

And kids have a sixth sense. One morning, Cady turned to Lucy in the kitchen and gave her approval of their families joining: “Mommy,” she said, “I make Freddy and Benny three.”

Lucy Kalanithi and John Duberstein

Lucy Kalanithi and John Duberstein

Lucy Kalanithi and John Duberstein

Thank you so much, as always, for following this story, and for your kind thoughts and words throughout. It has meant so much to our family over these difficult years. The Washington Post wrote a wonderful article today, as well, if you’d like to read more. xoxo

P.S. An essay by John after Nina’s death, and Lucy’s advice on how to write a condolence note.

(Top photo of Lucy by Elizabeth Weinberg for Elle. All other photos courtesy of Lucy and John.)

  1. My goodness this really is the most beautiful, bittersweet and touching outcome. I am so happy for both of you, John and Lucy!!

  2. Lauren says...

    This makes me so happy! Tearfully Happy! Praying all good things for the 5 of them!

  3. I couldn’t read this without (1) bursting into tears, and (2) leaving a comment. I never leave a comment, but I certainly am no stranger to happy tears.

    WOW.

    So so soooo happy to read this wonderful and thoughtful update about Lucy. I’ve been following for so many years, so when you shared the news about Paul’s diagnoses those years ago, and then everything that followed, this is just such a beautiful update.

    SO happy for them both, their children and just sharing with us to shed light on such a delicate tragedy but also, like you said, beautifully joyous situation.

    • Hannah says...

      Yes – all this. Amanda said it perfectly.

      Paul’s book has provided a wonderful framework from which I’m developing my own thoughts and perspectives on life, dying, and death. Through reading it, with my young kids sleeping in the next room, I empathized so deeply with Lucy.

      I appreciate her willingness to share this chapter of the story and wish her such powerful joy. And boredom. I wish her comfortable, mundane, ordinary life, surrounded by people she loves and nothing more stressful than trying to get three kids out of the house in the morning. I hope she knows, on some level, that she and Cady have a virtual village behind them.

  4. What a wonderful update with a cinematic ending! I wish them both more joy than they have ever known.

  5. Tricia M says...

    This is the best news ever! They look so happy together. I read your brother in law’s book, it was so very moving and heart breaking. You were all so lucky to have had him in your lives albeit for that short time. I loved what you did for your sister’s apartment too, such a kind thought. They both deserve happiness so sending sincerest wishes for the future. Keep us all posted please.

  6. Jackie says...

    I’m just reading Pauls’ book now! I’ve waited forever to check it out at the library…I’m loving it so much! I’m so happy she’s doing so well!

  7. I absolutely love this for both of them! Thank for your sharing. I’d been enveloped by each individual story and read each late writer’s book along with any articles I discovered they’d written previous to this post. Celebrating and cheering you all on with a warmed heart!

  8. maureen says...

    I imagine that two people who have gone through what this couple has, can fully exhale when they are with each other. That was a poorly crafted sentence! But I don’t know any other way to say it. I’m sure that when they lost their spouses, they were both subject to endless “I know how you feel” comments from people who could have no WAY of knowing how they felt. Now, though, they are with someone who can truly know what that experience was like. They speak the same language.
    Fortunately that language can also describe the need to move on and reconnect with life. Any loving spouse would want the best possible future for the spouse they are leaving behind. And I am so happy that they are once again, experiencing life with a loving partner.
    There’s no way to say this without sounding corny, but I feel the deceased spouses are looking down with love and showering blessings on their loved ones. I a hoping and wishing for the best for these lovely people.

  9. Christine says...

    It just makes sense, right? I have a friend who lost her husband at the young age of 33 to cancer – their son was 9 months old. She reconnected with an old friend who also lost his wife to cancer in her early 30s. They are now married with a son and their previous children. It just made sense.

  10. Kelly P says...

    What a strange coincidence as I just picked up Nina’s book from the library yesterday after a recommendation from someone else. I also deeply enjoyed Paul’s book. I am so happy to hear that they have found each other. I’m actually holding back tears of joy for your sister. Wishing them all the best!!!!

  11. CAROL VARON says...

    After finishing Paul’s book I was heartsick for a long time. I am so happy that your life has entered a new chapter with someone you can share your life with. The connection u share, your shared life experience has helped two families heal & become one. Thank you for sharing ❤️.

  12. What a beautiful way for their lives to continue! I have read Paul’s book and always kept an eye out for updates about Lucy. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer almost 2 years ago, also with a very rare mutation that allowed him to be treated with a targeted therapy. It was working amazingly well until just 2 months ago when they found innumerable brain metastases. He’s been fighting hard and is on a new medication now, waiting and hoping it works. He recently wrote about his journey and wants to share it with anyone it may help. Please take a look!

  13. Kelly says...

    Wow! What an incredible and touching story. The gifts of companionship, patience and understanding are so special. I’m so happy your sister and family has been able to find joy with the grief.

  14. Annie says...

    A friend recommended this book to me about 2 years ago (?) and it’s been on my list ever since. I have read your sister’s story and know you’ve mentioned the book before, but I am JUST now putting two and two together!! I’m so thrilled that this book I’ve been wanting to read is his. I just bought it today and can’t wait to start it tonight.

    I’m so so happy for your sister. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Morgan says...

    This makes me so happy!!!!

  16. Lindsay says...

    Thank you for the update! I was super curious how she was doing after reading (tears streaming down my face I might add) “When Breath Becomes Air” while on vacation in Thailand last year. Super happy for both of them and wish them much love and happiness on this journey.

  17. Balaji Panja says...

    I read the wonderful book.now I am very happy for Lucy and her family

  18. Alicia Wagner says...

    This is the best news I think I’ve ever heard!!! This makes me so happy!!! I loved reading both Paul and Nina’s books… I haven’t stopped thinking of either of them or their families since. It is so beautiful to see something emerge from such heartache. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  19. What a beautiful and inspiring tale of hope and love. So pleased for everyone and so inspired by their open hearted courage. Thank you all for sharing.

  20. Stacy S says...

    This is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful! I’m so happy they found each other.

  21. This is such a beautiful story. We can not imagine grief until we feel it we live it. I have followed your blog for a long time before kids and can see how close you are to your sister. It must be so amazing to see her happy after so much grief. It is true though that you can probably find love while mourning a deep spiritual loss. I hope the best for them all and so glad Cady can have a happier mother and a new extended family. It is as if that is what Paul and Nina wanted for them all along, to find each other to find love and understanding on this little blue planet we call Earth.

  22. caitlin says...

    omg i am at my desk sobbing. I happened to have just started When Breath Becomes Air over the weekend – wow, this is incredible, i’m so happy they have both found each other.

  23. I’m glad Lucy is happy. I remember reading your previous posts on the subject. Very moving.

  24. This is so lovely and brought my heart pure joy. Thanks for sharing xx

  25. This is nothing short of incredible. I feel a lump in my throat. I read The Bright Hour and was so moved by Nina’s words and her relationship with her family. As a loyal reader of Cup of Jo, I’ve read everything you’ve written about Lucy and Paul. This union, however unlikely and yet completely destined, blows my mind in the best way. I am sending my best wishes for comfort and joy amidst the grief process.

  26. My heart is so full for your sister, John, and your families. I think to find that level of companionship after such loss is deeply profound, and I often hope the same for my cousin’s husband and her children. We lost her a couple of years ago to cancer, and I know she’d want nothing more than for them to find that light again. She once wrote in her blog, “My wig was long gone by this point, my hairless head, and eyelash-less eyes making the stream of grief seem all the more unadulterated. Every time I thought of my children it was unbearable; I couldn’t get any air.” My cousin’s husband is one of the most incredible people I have ever known, and he loved her fiercely. I see him struggling to fill a void, but I know time will reveal a new kind of peace. I love how Lucy says both of their spouses are still, “in the mix.” They will never be replaced or the relationships duplicated, but to create space for a new kind of love and friendship is such a gift. Your sister’s story is proof, and I could not be happier for you all!

  27. Cynthia says...

    Wow… crying a lot of happy tears right now. It’s so wonderful to see two drifting souls finding each other, it truly warmed my heart. Thank you for sharing this.

  28. Anna says...

    So lovely and joyful. Congratulations :)

  29. Laurie says...

    So moving…this makes my heart happy! Blessings! Had to share this with friends who I knew would feel the same way!

  30. Ana says...

    I am very happy for your sister. I read Paul’s book last year. I first heard this news scrolling through WaPo headlines on my phone last night and I recognized Lucy in the picture. My father died when I was growing up. My mother quickly came together with a friend of his and no one ever talked about my father again, I think due to jealousy and insecurity on the part of my step-father. I am very happy for Lucy and John and their children that they are able to handle things differently. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to hear some good news.

  31. Estefania says...

    It’s simply heartening!

  32. Natasha says...

    This amazing and heartwarming story brought tears to my eyes. Talk about new life rising from the ashes! It makes me so happy to know that Lucy has found a new love. I wish her and John great joy in their future together.

  33. saemi says...

    what a happy news! yay for lucy – :) so happy for you AND her!

  34. I think of Lucy sometimes, because of your posts about her, and I wonder how she is doing. I am so very happy to learn that she is in this wonderful relationship and that she and John (and the kids) are supporting each other. I am so glad to know that they are in love. Thank goodness for love. Thank you for letting us know.

  35. Graes says...

    What a wonderful beginning to an ending. I was teary-eyed reading this. Hope and love – what we need so much of nowadays. Thank you for sharing, Joanna.

    ps. When is the movie coming out :-) ?

  36. Faith says...

    This warmed by heart. Thank you for sharing this with the world. I think this speaks to the beautiful fact that love is deep. It goes beyond even death. Love has a bitter-sweet way of showing us THEY are still with us- those who left us. Nothing in life is permanent and eventually, everything parishes. We can only give thanks and cherish what we have today.

  37. Laura says...

    This is so lovely, all the very best to both xx

  38. Kasia says...

    a perfect match is what it is! so happy for them :) <3 all the way from Poland ;)

  39. Mary says...

    I’ve read both books. This update is so beautiful and wonderful!

  40. Sheralyn says...

    I don’t know Lucy but from time to time I’d hope that she would be okay and find love again. Reading this made my heart burst with happiness. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful update :)

  41. Rachel says...

    Joanna, my sister and I saw Lucy in a bar in SF over the summer. We spied on her saying “it’s Lucy! she looks just like Joanna!” and then both said “she looks SO BEAUTIFUL” – she had a glow about her. I thought you had magic family aura genes – now I know she was falling in love ;) my heart is so warmed by this – thank you for opening the door to love stories for all of us in 2018!

  42. Jocelyn says...

    I too was widowed rather young (57 is young). It was sudden and devastating. My children were all married but living close by but I was alone and lonely every night. Less than six months later a widower (his wife died 9 months before my husband) came into my life. Despite everything we married 14 months after I was widowed. When we first started dating we felt like we were double dating with our first spouses in the back seat. We’ve been married 6 1/2 years and are very much in love. We can talk about our life before and about our first spouses with ease because we both “get it.” Even with other people we can talk about or mention our first spouses without embarrassment. Life is good. We miss what was but are so happy for what we have today.

  43. No words to express how lovely this is…grab that happiness John & Lucy x

  44. Marti says...

    This is so wonderful to read. ❤️

  45. Pat says...

    Thank you for this. I needed it today, and I am so happy for your sister.

  46. Rebecca says...

    Well my heart exploded when I read this!! Life has the most beautiful way of working out. I often think of your sister and Cady. I adore When Breath Becomes Air and Paul’s words still haunt me. And I often think of John and his father-in-law after reading Nina’s book. I don’t know either personally but I am filled with joy that they found each other. They both deserve the best! Sending so much light and love their way today!

  47. Allegra says...

    I actually saw the article in the Washington Post before I saw your post, which I’m only just reading now. Life is so strange and surprising; so very happy for your sister.

  48. Magdelana says...

    I can’t believe this story. A true example of hope conquering heartbreak. It reminds me of this gorgeous quote from JRR Tolkien:

    “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

    Having a sister of my own, I know how much we crave for their happiness, even more than our own. Much love to Lucy. Thanks for sharing!

  49. Kelly says...

    Warms my heart… Love is all u need.

  50. Shelley says...

    I married my husband not all that long after his first wife died. We had all been friends when she was alive. There were very different reactions from the kids when we got married (his youngest kept telling us we should get married even though we were both grieving his first wife), and it was a rough go at first. Long story short, we made it through many years (almost 20) of trials and tribulations and we are now a cohesive family sharing each other’s joys and successes. One of the things I did was, on the first Mother’s Day after we married, give each of my stepchildren a framed photo of each of them with their mother holding them as a baby. Mother’s Day could be about both of us. Memory of their mom is a constant in our family, and they love it when I talk about my own memories of her. When my husband started going out with me, he’d often say that he couldn’t explain it, but he felt grief for his first wife but happiness for me, all at the same time. That’s life. I hope Lucy has a life of happiness while holding memory of Paul close to her.

    • This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

      xo,
      April in Nashville

  51. Rachel L says...

    I read ‘The Bright Hour’ at the end of last summer and was in awe of Nina’s bravery and beauty…and ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ was a recent gift from a loved one. How amazing and wonderful that these stories are intertwined and that something beautiful has emerged from such immense tragedy and loss. Love has such power. Thanks for sharing Jo and every good wish to Lucy, John and their children x

  52. This post moved me to tears! Thank you for sharing x

  53. KR says...

    This was so heartwarming to read! So happy for Lucy, John, and the kids! I remember when I realized that Lucy’s husband was Paul, and that he was your brother-in-law. The world felt so connected in that moment. Paul and Lucy’s story came into my life at a pivotal point, and it is with great honor and privilege that I’ll be starting my fellowship in hematology/oncology this July. Thanks COJ for making a space where we all can discuss real life, the ups-downs-and ups again :)

  54. Emily says...

    This is the sort of story that great movies are made of! So happy that it’s not just a story, but that it’s true! ( and someone, seriously start writing the screenplay, please!) I feel certain Nina and Paul approve. Wishing Lucy and John all the very best!

  55. Amanda says...

    I have read and deeply loved both books. This incredible love growing from shared pain feels like magic. Thank you and your sister so much for sharing.

  56. This post has me feeling very thankful. My brother died unexpectedly when I was nine years old. I can’t recall more than a handful of conversations about him since…I’m 45. His name is almost taboo, I’ll never understand it. So thank you so much!! for showing me people who, although are in much pain, grieve with more than themselves in mind. It’s so selfless to bring loved ones who have passed into relationships. This post has me shaken, a bit to the core. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  57. Megan says...

    I just finished The Bright Hour. This post is making me so happy for your sister and hopeful about the world.

  58. e says...

    I remember reading When Breath Becomes Air a while back and tearing up. teared up again (future oncologist here) reading this but am so, so happy for lucy & john! (and rah rah rah on the long distance, it’s tough)

  59. So happy for Lucy and the family. Love comes in many forms. It is a continuum.

  60. Katherine says...

    So, so beautiful. We need more love and human connections like this; thank you so much for sharing.

    Also, I love that last picture of Lucy on FaceTime; the way the lights are reflecting in the window and the placement of John’s screen makes it look like Lucy is dreaming/thinking of John :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!! haha, katherine, i love that you caught that. that’s why they were laughing in that photo!

  61. Anna says...

    Beautiful.

  62. Lark says...

    I just can’t stop thinking about this post! It makes me so hopeful.

  63. Allison Stabile says...

    Wow. I had no idea you and Lucy were sisters, let alone twins. I’ve read Paul’s book and watched her Ted Talk and been so very moved by their story. How beautiful that she has met someone who shares her experience AND blends so well into your family. So happy for all of you. And, yep, I’m crying, too.

  64. Doug says...

    So beautiful! Glad rejoicing at this news! Who can understand but we are all in awe of how God works. May I add another name to second chances in Love after the unthinkable happens? Davey Blackburn. Google his name. Best to all.

  65. Heather says...

    Thank you for this post. Next on my TBR list is When Breathe Becomes Air, so I will be reading it with knowledge that the circle comes round again, and there is hope. Bless you all. (Your blog is terrific, although I am a little beyond you in age and phase of life. I enjoy GOOD writing.

  66. Joanna
    I am a huge fan of your blog and also of your sister. I share a similar story to her – husband passed away at 34, leaving me with two small children. I totally understand what she went through. I am extremely happy that she’s found true love again. What a love story! They should both now write a book. Here is an article I posted on Medium about my story:
    https://journal.thriveglobal.com/my-husband-died-at-age-34-here-are-40-life-lessons-ive-learn-t-17b102935efe

  67. Steph says...

    I see an future episode of “Terrible, Thanks for Asking”…

    • John Duberstein says...

      Nora McInerny is the co-founder of Hot Young Widows Club, which Lucy recommended to me and we’ve both found to be an essential resource in grief! :)

  68. Effie says...

    Tried valiantly to hold back the tears, so that I could finish reading this. So glad I came across it, because you always wonder…Did the people left behind make it through? Did they find happiness? Did they learn to smile again? You can’t not go on, but when you lose someone you love, it sure feels that way.
    So glad they found each other. Much love & happiness to them…all. I hope Paul & Nina are looking down on them & smiling too.

  69. Nicola says...

    This made me so happy!!! I heard Lucy interviewed on a radio show called White Coat Black Arts here in Canada a while back and my immediate thought was “It’s Cup of Jo’s sister!!!” Her and Paul’s story is such an incredible one and it was so amazing of you to share it with us and keep us updated! I am crying happy tears!

  70. Barbara says...

    This is the most beautifully poignant next chapter of their stories. So so overjoyed for them to have found each other.

  71. Claudia says...

    I saw that article before reading your post. What a heartbreakingly sweet turn of events for everyone. I read Nina’s & Paul’s books and am just so in awe of Lucy and John seem to be making a new life while never losing sight of their beloveds. What a story. Thanks for giving us your take on this as well!

  72. I loved reading this — I love how they explained how Paul and Nina will always be a part of their family even as they have a new love interest in their lives. But of course they would be — it makes perfect sense. Thanks to Lucy and everyone else involved for sharing.

  73. Liz says...

    I actually wept over this, thank your sister for sharing so much of her life- grief and joys- with all of us. XO

  74. Myra says...

    I wanted to comment yesterday but for some reason my phone wouldn’t let me. And all I really wanted to say was goosebumps! because that is what I got reading this.
    <3

  75. <3

    Just all the love for them, for this post, and for all of you. <3

  76. Kalli says...

    Thank you so much for sharing, Joanna (and Lucy). I think about Lucy all the time reading here and was hoping you’d give us an update soon! Love to all of you!

  77. I cried through this entire post and I haven’t stopped thinking about Lucy and John for the last two days. I’m so heartbroken and so happy for them! People are the most amazing thing there is.

  78. Rachel says...

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  79. Lauren Lyons says...

    Wow! What an incredible outcome to these two heartbreaking stories! Although, in reading this update, it really makes so much sense. Doesn’t it?

    **Additionally, I have both Paul + Nina’s books, + admit I’ve been afraid to read them. This will give me the courage.

  80. Thank you for sharing. I’m sure anyone who’s read the story is curious how Lucy is doing (me too!). I read the book before I knew she was your sister and am really at a loss for words at how beautiful the book was, and honestly the epilogue by your sister was the most interesting part to me. Kind of you to write and update and kind of her for letting you share her life with the world. I’m sure for those who have lost a spouse/partner can relate on a deep level. xo

  81. Such a beautiful twist to the two heartbreaking stories. Children are great judges of character and Toby’s comment about John looking comfortable and climbing right into his lap is a lovely endorsement. I wish all of them love and happiness. Thank you for sharing their stories of strength, perseverance, and over-all deep love.

  82. Kelly says...

    This is amazing! It feels wrong to say it’s a happy ending to two tragedies…but maybe more appropriate is that it’s a happy start to a new chapter…it feels peaceful and ‘right’…my heart is singing to hear this news!

  83. Bitsy says...

    Adding another voice in how wonderful this news is! After my dad’s death last year, I turned here for advice, comfort, and solidarity in coping with my grief. I was also fortunate enough to see your sister speak at my work and hear her thoughts/experiences on balancing grief with every day life. It was emotional but also hopeful. Hearing this great news and both John and Lucy’s reflections on still maintaining their lost partners in their lives is really just beautiful. Thank you, Joanna, family, and Cup of Jo team for sharing and just being there!

  84. Gale says...

    I read Nina’s book last summer and swallowed it whole. I’ve not read Paul’s book, but have read a couple of his essays and been aware of his story for a few years. All this to say, I could not be happier for two people I’ve never met than I am for these two. I wish for them a love story that grows very old with them.

  85. This post has brought me to tears! I am so happy and moved by both stories and am looking forward to reading When Breath Becomes Air. We were watching a recorded version of Jeopardy the other day when the book came up in a question, which my sister knew and said was one of the most beautifully written books she’s ever read (and she’s read nearly everything). It was such high praise that I added it to my library queue, then a few days later you posted this! It gives me such hope for loss. Thank you for sharing!

  86. Mairéad says...

    This is a lovely story. I hope they always bring light into each others lives. I do wonder though if this is difficult for you…
    We have just marked the fifth anniversary of my brother-in-law’s death (the day after Christmas). I think I would find it very hard to open myself up to a new partner if my sister had one. I still can’t even speak about Seán without starting to cry.
    As it is, my sister looked inwards – tightened her circle – became a small family of four rather than the previous five. While saying I would find it difficult, I still would love to think she would have company when the girls go off to university and her world gets smaller. It is lonely for her to be a single mother of 3 teenage girls and i imagine that will only get worse. I suppose I am just wondering how difficult it is to start linking your sister’s name to another, who is not the person that you too loved? How it is to sit and chat with her and her new partner, who is not the person that you too loved? I think it must be hard despite how happy you may feel for her.

  87. Heather says...

    Woah!!! Amazing!!! News of the year!! Maybe 2017 wasn’t the worst year ever??

    I met Lucy at one of her readings and she was so warm and lovely. I am grateful to her and John for being willing to share this personal news with so many people. There are probably a million+ people out there right now rooting for them, but my heart goes out to them for the pressure that this can also put on their relationship to work in the long term, as if they not only have to worry about whether the two of them are happy together, and whether their children are happy together, but how total strangers might feel if this does or doesn’t work out in the long run. Whatever makes you happy, Lucy and John. We all just want for you and your kids to find happiness.

  88. Our full hearts are all with Lucy, John, Freddy, Benny and Cady — and Paul and Nina <3 What a beautiful story and update. Thank you for sharing your sister's beautiful update with us. I feel like we know here, and we think of your family (and your sister) and wish all the good things.

  89. Stacie says...

    Wow. The line from Nina’s book is so heartbreaking. What a beautiful story.

  90. Gosia says...

    This story is out of this World. God’s finger in it. Paul and Nina in the mix, laughing out loud from above.
    It’s amazing, wonderful, magic.
    Made me think life is beautiful and rewarding at times . This time. Let it last.
    Here’s to Lucy, John, Paul,Nina and their kids. Let the story unwrap in a beautiful way.

    Thanks for this moving story and sharing it.

  91. Glorimar says...

    I love this :)

  92. JennP says...

    Reading their love story brings joy into my heart. Thank you, Lucy and John, for sharing.

  93. Ana (Portugal) says...

    Thank you for such a personal update. And for all the other commenters personal stories. Here’s to a new year, filled with hope.

  94. Emma says...

    I have followed Lucy’s story through your blog and was so glad to hear this lovely news. Sending all the happiness in the world to Lucy, John and their children — they deserve it!

  95. Stacey says...

    This is simple amazing. So incredibly happy for them both. Looking forward to more updates!

  96. R says...

    I am so happy for them!!! Also, John needs to share his scrambled egg secret 😄

    • John Duberstein says...

      It’s based loosely on Julia Child. Start with butter and medium heat. Don’t mix the eggs too much, add some grated cheese to eggs (because everything is better with cheese), cook over a relatively low-med heat, once they start to congeal lower the heat and add some whole milk or cream, and then let them come together, helping with a wooden spoon or spatula, to desired level of moisture, don’t over cook! I try not to dry any part of the eggs as I’m cooking. Salt and pepper.

      It takes longer but it’s SO GOOD.

      But my kids also just told me that Joanna made “awesome eggs” and she cooked them for kid DINNER, which won her major points for unconventional and irreverent cooking. So I may not be the top egg dog.

  97. Such an amazing and beautiful real life story. I wish them all a blessed life forever.💕

  98. NM says...

    Lucy and John are truly uniquely positioned to help each other cope after their tragic losses. It is marvelous that fate brought them together as the loneliness of a widow/widower is soul-crushing. But does anyone else wonder whether it is possible to have more than one great love in a lifetime? Is this dependent on the person? No such thing as “one great love”? What do others think?

    • Sadie says...

      I think love is so individual– so much made up of the people who are in it– that you can have more than one great love. One person doesn’t replace the other. It’s more like, you can have a favourite movie and have a favourite meal. There’s no comparing them, but they are both amazing.

    • Kate says...

      Check out Patton Oswalt’s Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross. That and his comedy special really dig in to this topic.

  99. Eva says...

    Different, but similar. It gives me a lot of hope to read this, since right now I’m at a point in my grief where it seems like it’s been both too soon and too long simultaneously. My father died young and unexpectedly around Labor Day, and it makes me hopeful that sometime my family will be able to create new paths while still keeping him with us all the time. As the Hebrew saying goes, may their memories be a blessing in our lives.

    • I’m sorry about your father. You will find your new normal, and though not the same – hopefully find ways to bring them with you into your life through memories and stories. My brother died at 24, and our family got through it and sometimes we laugh or cry depending on a mood. The rawness of grief fades, and it will get easier <3

  100. This makes me so so happy for Lucy and John! I had heard of him before this came about but I can’t think of anything more lovely to read today. I saw the article and never imagined it was Lucy! My love and happiness to all <3

  101. Meg says...

    Thank you for the update! I read something about Paul and it hit me wondering about your sister.

    So happy for her.

    What a nice piece about grieving & falling in Love.

  102. Mary Jo Haverland says...

    This makes me so happy to read this! That Lucy has found someone to understand and share her life is amazing. I watched you two grow up and always admired how strong you both were (are), you knew what you wanted to do with your lives and you have done it! Thank you for this story, Paul’s book was amazing and now I will read Nina’s story. And I will share this story with my friends who also know you both.

  103. trisha tuazon says...

    A match made in heaven!

  104. Adilah says...

    Paul’s book broke my heart. I loved reading this. So so happy for your sister. xx

  105. Dennie Raviv says...

    I usually don’t comment on blogs but felt I wanted to contribute to this moving story about your sister. About 20 years ago I became friendly with a neighbor, in her 30’s who had kidney cancer. We met over our laundry lines (I live in Israel where it is sunny and yes we actually hang laundry) and our kids played together. I am a nurse and able to initiate empathetic but realistic therapeutic conversations. Similar to what Nina said, she related that she could
    deal with the fact that That she was dying, but how can you ever deal with the fact that you are leaving a 4 year old who won’t remember you. That thought has stayed with me always.
    So happy for your sister.

    played together

  106. Pip says...

    Cried the first time and am crying at this news. How life can change. After what I think many people can agree has been a pretty crappy couple of years for various reasons this is something we can all get behind! I recently got a t shirt for the same sex marriage vote here in Australia that says Love is Love – well there is the love for loved ones no longer here, love for a new person in our lives, love for a sister from a sister and love from this entire Cup of Jo community who remain one of the loveliest groups of people online with grace, kindness and respect. Love for you Jo (and team) you make these things happen.

    • Libbynan says...

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Love is love…it is infinite….we all can have all that we need and still find more. It is neither lost nor found…it just is. So happy for Lucy and John.

  107. Elizabeth says...

    As someone who is married to a wonderful widower, I was so moved by ‘When breath becomes air.’ Your sisters journey is similar to my Husbands. She is articulate, forward looking and resilient. I didn’t doubt she would find love again, but what an extraordinary pairing. Two people who have been to the edge of the abyss, and have chosen, regardless, to carry on and find the love and and happiness their spouses wished for them. Love doesn’t die when someone dies, But speaking from experience that love can live side by side with a new love. I wish John and Lucy and their kids every happiness.

  108. Laura C. says...

    “Thank you so much, as always, for following this story”.
    No, thank YOU for sharing. I think I am starting to go through a new beginning of my life (as I turned forty yesterday) and this post about Lucy gives me hope. It gives me a sort of slight smile that becomes wider while I write this. I have a good feeling about this. Love for all of you, Joanna.

  109. Alex says...

    This is wonderful news, not only that they have found love but that they have each found someone who can get as close as possible to understanding and respecting their loss. I loved Paul’s book and when I read Nina’s I thought they would have been great friends. Now, in a way, they are. x

  110. Daniela says...

    This makes me so happy!! I was so affected by her and Paul’s story, and actually used to volunteer for the neurosurgery department at Stanford but believe it was before he started there. So since it’s my favorite blogger’s twin sister and someone from where I used to spend a lot of time, it really devastated me when he passed away. I am so glad she found someone amazing to spend time with.

  111. Nigerian Girl says...

    This is so touching and heartwarming. Out of darkness comes light. I’m so happy that Lucy and John found love again, and with each other at that. This is serendipity. Real love. Life is good. My heart is full. I wish them many wonderful years ahead. When Breath Becomes Air is a phenomenal book. I can’t wait to read The Bright Hour as well.

  112. Beth says...

    So, I have to share my story, if you will.

    My mom died 11 years ago unexpectedly, and we were devastated. My mom had been sick with cancer, but she actually died of heart failure from all the chemo she’d had over the years.

    Anyhow, she always talked about how my dad should marry her best friend (a widow), and get on with life after she was gone. Well, long story short (the long story involving a secret engagement to a woman we all despised), my dad didn’t marry my mom’s best friend, but a friend of the family who had been divorced and raised three kids (that I used to babysit!) on her own. She came back into our lives via her own dad (friend of my dad’s) and we immediately saw the happiness blossom. It was a relief to us to see dad not grieving, and to know it was someone we knew and trusted. Once they were engaged (~3 months after the first “date”), my now-stepmom reached out to me, my sister, and my brother independently and sent us a card and necklace to say that she loved our mom so much, treasures her memory, and wants us to feel free to talk about her anytime we wanted. It meant so much to have her acknowledge the role our mom had played, and her respect for our feelings.

    They were married 3 months after they got engaged, almost exactly 2 years after my mom died. Just before the ceremony, my dad took us aside and said “you know this is still my second choice, that I’d have mom back in a heartbeat”. We understood, and it was all we needed to know that everything was going to be okay.

    9 years on and we now have a “Brady-bunch” blended family with 6 adult kids, their spouses, 10 grandkids and lots of fun times. It’s still not how we ever envisioned our family or life, but it works. And the best part is we know that my dad and stepmom are so happy.

    I think kids – of any age – have an amazing ability to perceive their parent’s feelings. They know when we are sad or happy, and in cases where there might be a “Plan B” that makes us happy, they’re all in. Congratulations to the adults and the kids!

    • Stacey says...

      Oh my goodness!
      “you know this is still my second choice, that I’d have mom back in a heartbeat”
      This. Right here. What a compassionate, thoughtful, kind and most loving thing for your dad to say. It brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing this!

  113. Grace says...

    I love this so much, this post had me in tears, and I made sure to read slowly, digesting each word carefully because this story means so much to me, even as a total stranger! Have been following your blog for over a decade now, read Paul’s book, and just incredibly happy right now.

  114. Raleigh B. says...

    My heart. <3 So deeply happy for Lucy and John. I ache knowing they lost their first loves, and ache with the happy gratitude knowing they are together. Nina and Paul's writing influenced my life in different ways over the past few years, and it's so wonderful to know that the two halves of their hearts are together. Much love.

  115. Kristin says...

    This story warms my heart! My mom died a month ago and while I am experiencing my own grief, my heart just breaks when I think about my dad going on without her – they were married 53 years. It’s wonderful to see the hope and joy in the midst of the grief, that love and sadness do not need to be mutually exclusive.

    • Laura C. says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristin. Sending you a hug.

    • sasha says...

      I’m so sorry Kristin. Love to you and your dad.

  116. Cate says...

    Earlier this year I heard Lucy on White Coat Black Art and her story has stuck with me (I was delivering mail with tears streaming down my cheeks…she’s so amazing!!). I’m so glad I came across your Instagram post and read this update. I’m thrilled for both of them!!

  117. Reem says...

    Oh, I had to grab a tissue. Thank you for sharing this beautiful bit of news. The world is a wonder, isn’t it? God bless them.