Being the pragmatic sort, writer Derek K. Miller asked that his last story be published on his blog when he died. It was. On Wednesday, after a four-year battle with cancer, the 41-year-old husband and father's self-penned obituary, titled "The last post," made its appearance and went viral:
Here it is. I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote — the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.
If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.
That includes my family and friends, and my parents Hilkka and Juergen Karl. My daughters Lauren, age 11, and Marina, who's 13, have known as much as we could tell them since I first found I had cancer. It's become part of their lives, alas.
Miller, of Burnaby, British Columbia, wasn't one to mince words. Those who battle diseases like cancer usually don't, quickly losing any euphemisms about the impact of the illness once it takes hold and starts to ravage the body, and sometimes the mind.
In Miller's case, his mind — and his writing — stayed quite clear until the end.
His father told The Province newspaper in Vancouver, in a story published Thursday, that his son was "proud of his blog and now it is his legacy. It connects him to the world, and to his family, forever. We were there for him, but Derek was comfortable sharing his thoughts with a worldwide community."
Visits to Miller's blog, ThePenMachine, Twitter and Flickr "were so heavy that, despite his planning, those Internet sites kept crashing," noted the newspaper.
On Easter Day, April 24, Miller's father, who has his own blog, PenMachineDad, wrote that the family had Easter dinner together, one that was:
...bitter-sweet; it likely was Derek's last family dinner. He managed to stay for around two hours, then he had to go and rest. Fortunately, he can still enjoy the taste of food. I think that he inherited his wide-ranging tastes from his mother ... This was not a maudlin occasion. Lively conversation is always part of our family get-togethers and this one was no different in that regard. Although Derek's voice has still not come back, he can "rasp" clearly enough to make his points. His mind is as incisive as ever.
A few days later, Derek Miller wrote, "I can speak, but in a squeaky way," his next-to-last blog post.
"Today my voice returned, after more than two months ... My stupendously difficult climb from car to main floor in our house today tells me I won't be leaving in anything but a stretcher from now on — it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm now officially housebound, and even floor-bound."
In his online bio, Miller talked about the magazines and newspapers he'd written for, and said he started his website in 2000. The last entry in his bio is this: "Late in 2010, I discovered that my cancer is terminal. I expect it will probably kill me sometime in 2011 or early 2012."
But it is not the last entry about his life. That comes in his final posting, and in his words to his wife, Airdrie, and to his daughters:
The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.
What is true is that I loved them. Lauren and Marina, as you mature and become yourselves over the years, know that I loved you and did my best to be a good father.
Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection. I don't know what we'd have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.
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