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The lessons of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms … All those times he had thought that it was about to happen and escaped, he had never really thought of the thing itself: His will to live had always been so much stronger than his fear of death … It was over, he knew it, and all that was left was the thing itself: dying.

– “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

Unwittingly, I tried to escape the gravitas of oncology by retreating to the nostalgic comfort of Harry Potter. As a child, I found respite in Harry’s fictional world filled with magic spells and potions. In the middle of residency, my bookshelves bending with the weight of textbooks, medical journals and physician memoirs, I was ready for a feel-good book.

But, instead of escaping into fantasy, I picked up the final book in the series to discover that magic wasn’t a thing of fiction, but was readily found at work. Every day, I see people reckon with fear, death, and meaning. I’ve watched many patients steel themselves against both the unknown and the certainty of the end. It’s a type of bravery that moves me, and I wonder if I might be so courageous.

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