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The last post

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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.

Airdrie

Of course it includes my wife Airdrie (née Hislop). Both born in Metro Vancouver, we graduated from different high schools in 1986 and studied Biology at UBC, where we met in '88. At a summer job working as park naturalists that year, I flipped the canoe Air and I were paddling and we had to push it to shore.

We shared some classes, then lost touch. But a few years later, in 1994, I was still working on campus. Airdrie spotted my name and wrote me a letter—yes! paper!—and eventually (I was trying to be a full-time musician, so chaos was about) I wrote her back. From such seeds a garden blooms: it was March '94, and by August '95 we were married. I have never had second thoughts, because we have always been good together, through worse and bad and good and great.

However, I didn't think our time together would be so short: 23 years from our first meeting (at Kanaka Creek Regional Park, I'm pretty sure) until I died? Not enough. Not nearly enough.

What was at the end

I haven't gone to a better place, or a worse one. I haven't gone anyplace, because Derek doesn't exist anymore. As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn't make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.

So I was unafraid of death—of the moment itself—and of what came afterwards, which was (and is) nothing. As I did all along, I remained somewhat afraid of the process of dying, of increasing weakness and fatigue, of pain, of becoming less and less of myself as I got there. I was lucky that my mental faculties were mostly unaffected over the months and years before the end, and there was no sign of cancer in my brain—as far as I or anyone else knew.

As a kid, when I first learned enough subtraction, I figured out how old I would be in the momentous year 2000. The answer was 31, which seemed pretty old. Indeed, by the time I was 31 I was married and had two daughters, and I was working as a technical writer and web guy in the computer industry. Pretty grown up, I guess.

Yet there was much more to come. I had yet to start this blog, which recently turned 10 years old. I wasn't yet back playing drums with my band, nor was I a podcaster (since there was no podcasting, nor an iPod for that matter). In techie land, Google was fresh and new, Apple remained "beleaguered," Microsoft was large and in charge, and Facebook and Twitter were several years from existing at all. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were three years away from launch, while the Cassini-Huygens probe was not quite half-way to Saturn. The human genome hadn't quite been mapped yet.

The World Trade Center towers still stood in New York City. Jean Chrétien remained Prime Minister of Canada, Bill Clinton President of the U.S.A., and Tony Blair Prime Minister of the U.K.—while Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Kim Jong-Il, Ben Ali, and Moammar Qaddafi held power in Iraq, Egypt, North Korea, Tunisia, and Libya.

In my family in 2000, my cousin wouldn't have a baby for another four years. My other cousin was early in her relationship with the man who is now her husband. Sonia, with whom my mother had been lifelong friends (ever since they were both nine), was still alive. So was my Oma, my father's mom, who was then 90 years old. Neither my wife nor I had ever needed long-term hospitalization—not yet. Neither of our children was out of diapers, let alone taking photographs, writing stories, riding bikes and horses, posting on Facebook, or outgrowing her mother's shoe size. We didn't have a dog.

And I didn't have cancer. I had no idea I would get it, certainly not in the next decade, or that it would kill me.

Missing out

Why do I mention all this stuff? Because I've come to realize that, at any time, I can lament what I will never know, yet still not regret what got me where I am. I could have died in 2000 (at an "old" 31) and been happy with my life: my amazing wife, my great kids, a fun job, and hobbies I enjoyed. But I would have missed out on a lot of things.

And many things will now happen without me. As I wrote this, I hardly knew what most of them could even be. What will the world be like as soon as 2021, or as late as 2060, when I would have been 91, the age my Oma reached? What new will we know? How will countries and people have changed? How will we communicate and move around? Whom will we admire, or despise?

What will my wife Air be doing? My daughters Marina and Lolo? What will they have studied, how will they spend their time and earn a living? Will my kids have children of their own? Grandchildren? Will there be parts of their lives I'd find hard to comprehend right now?

What to know, now that I'm dead

There can't be answers today. While I was still alive writing this, I was sad to know I'll miss these things—not because I won't be able to witness them, but because Air, Marina, and Lauren won't have me there to support their efforts.

It turns out that no one can imagine what's really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can't expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won't. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That's neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that's what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.

I've also been lucky. I've never had to wonder where my next meal will come from. I've never feared that a foreign army will come in the night with machetes or machine guns to kill or injure my family. I've never had to run for my life (something I could never do now anyway). Sadly, these are things some people have to do every day right now.

A wondrous place

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.

138 Comments

I'm so sorry he's gone-- Much, much too soon. My thoughts are with his family today. May you find comfort in each other's love. Derek certainly left his mark on the world and will be remembered by so many...

I've been dreading this update, knowing it was coming soon. May you have strength and peace at this difficult time. I only knew Derek through this blog, but what a wonderful person I came to know.

Farewell my friend. I miss you already.

Still having a hard time processing what I just read. Lots of emotions. This is the first time I have been to this site. I wish it wasn't. Derek sounds like a truly amazing person, and I look forward to reading through his old posts.

I never knew Derek personally, only through his postings and the odd comment on Twitter. My thoughts are with his Wife, children and family. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will miss his updates and views on life, but at least the pain and suffering is over. I too am not a religious man and my view on the afterlife are pretty much the same as Derek's, but how nice it would be, to be wrong.

You are already missed.

My heart and thoughts goes out to your family during this tough time.

Goodbye Derek - you were the best of the best, and will be missed.

Farewell Derek

You are wrong about one thing, you do continue to exist in our hearts and minds.

My thoughts to Airdrie, your girls and others who feel the loss.

You know what I love about this post? It's tagged. Even at the end, he tagged his posts properly. It's good to know that even though he's gone, we should always be able to come back here and find all the posts appropriately organised. Which is great, because I really need some of the photography ones more than I should.

I'll miss this blog. I'll miss his photographs. I'll miss him around Flickr and Twitter. I hope he drank all his Diet Cherry Coke. Much love to those that have lost him in their physical lives, especially Airdrie, Marina and Lauren.

Thanks for everything Derek.

Rest in peace, Derek. You were loved by so many, because of all of the love you gave the world.

My condolences to Airdrie, Marina and Lauren.

xoxo

This is the end of Derek Miller.
He did a lot of good.
I will reflect on him.
I will not forget him.

We will never forget you, Derek. Thank you for being YOU, and for sharing that with us.

Good bye, Derek. I, too, miss you already. The world is smaller without you in it.

Thanks to Derek for so much inspiration: "The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out." Lots of love to Derek's family. xoxo

My heart is heavy with this news. Words seem ineffective to express the feelings. To Derek's family: I wish you peace.

Today was a sunny, warm, bright day in the lower mainland just like the light that shone through Derek.

My love and sympathy to his family. May your memories give you strength.

Thank you for the music you gave away to podcasters like me. And for the intelligence you brought to your blog. And the obvious love you engendered among so many people.

Condolences to your wife, your children, your parents and all of those who were close to you.

Just so sad. So terribly sad.

You will always remain a part of me, Derek. A compassionate, warm-hearted geeky part. I will never forget you.

Airdrie, Marina, and Lauren: Love to each of you. Know that SO many people are here to help and support you in any way you need.

There are two men in each one of us: the scientist, he who starts with a clear field and desires to rise to the knowledge of Nature through observations, experimentation and reasoning, and the man of sentiment, the man of belief, the man who mourns his dead friend, and who cannot, alas, prove that he will see them again, but who believes that he will, and lives in the hope - Louis Pasteur

My sincerest condolences Aidrie, Lauren, and Marina. And to Derek's parents and family. Derek was a true inspiration to me, and he will be dearly missed.

derek does still exsist in our hearts. the memories and stories. i am so sorry for your loss air. xox im sending lots of love and light to all of you today.

My condolences to Air and your family. Derek, if you're reading this, I hope you're not too shocked but pleasantly surprised! I followed your blog but never commented until now. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it...

So sad to read this. I hope you can all take comfort that people all over the world (I'm in the UK) will remember Derek through this blog.

Even in death, Derek will continue to inspire from what he wrote. Sending all my love, and much understanding. xo

Sending peace & healing thoughts to Derek's lovely family. He was a brave soul & will be greatly missed.

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to get to know Derek online and have lunch and pints with him during travels to Vancouver. I could have spent hours hanging out with him and in many ways I did through Inside Home Recording and his great music. In fact, Derek was one of the first Podcasters I followed when I joined the community in the Spring of 2005.

While we all knew this was coming, and Derek did such a great job preparing us and showing us strength and realism in the face of death, I'm still having a hard time processing the news.

I'll miss you, Derek. Thanks for everything you gave us. Thanks to Airdrie, Lauren and Marina for sharing Derek with us. Know that there are a lot of people who are thinking of you today, and we'll always be thinking about you.

Rest in Peace.

In death, you have taught me much. My sincerest condolences to your family.

Derek, I didn't see you often, but I counted you as a good friend. You were a brilliant mind. You always had a fresh view on things. I will miss not seeing you. Love to Air and the kids. Rest in Peace.

My heart goes out to you and the girls and my thoughts are with you Air. Derek will always be remembered.

Derek, thank you for your existence. Wait for us, we will see you later.

My condolences to the Miller family, stay strong.

Sniffle. An amazing light has gone out.

Thank you, Derek, for leaving us your words. Thank you for surviving so long, fighting so hard, and proving life is worth every bit of struggle we can put into it. Thank you for being you.

To Derek's family, my deepest and sincere condolences.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us Derek. It makes this beautiful BC day so sad, but also so precious.

I never met Derek in person, but I've listened to him for years over the Internet. He let us in on so much of his real life that I felt like I knew him, and I always could relate to him. I watched his health decline (or listened, as it were) and was always amazed by the strength with which he faced it, even though I could feel the emotions.

The world is a poorer place without him, and hopefully many will be inspired by his life. My thoughts are for Air and his daughters.

Simon

Goodbye. I wish I could have met you in person.

thank you Derek, i had never met someone as selfless as you. much much love to you Air and the girls.

I was busy feeling sorry for myself after a rough night last night with my son when I read this post. I didn't even know you and at least for today you made me a better mother. Thank you and thank you for sharing.

Thank you. I only came to know about your story about a week ago, and have been moved to tears by your post this morning. It made me think of a quote I have up on my wall:

"To me, there are three things we should all do every day. Number 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that's a full day, that's a heck of a day."
---Jim Valvano, as his body was being ravaged by cancer

Derek, thank you for sharing all of these with us.

Your family is lucky to have been with you for these years of life, past the ripe old age of 31.

Derek, what can I say that hasn't already been said about you. You were such a true friend to me over the years. We shared so many great times together as Excursionists, roommates, band mates, colleagues at work, and friends. You were a big part of a transformative period in my life that shaped who I am today.

You always accepted me for who I was, flaws and all - coming to my aid whenever I called on you. You were the most honest person I have ever known, and capable beyond belief. I consider myself fortunate to have known you and honoured to hear you call me a friend.

The last years have been a struggle for you, but through it all you maintained your distinctive personality that I shall never forget.

I love you and will forever miss you, my dear friend.

A man I never met, and yet through his writings I feel like I have lost a dear friend, someone who has made me a better man, husband and father. You will be missed, but more importantly, you will have made your little corner of the world a better place.

This story is eerily similar to my brothers. He passed away two weeks ago of stage four colorectal cancer, he leaves behind his highschool sweetheart and 2 wonderful kids. I'm hoping more people donate to cancer research to fight this terrible disease. My sympathy goes out to Derek's family.

Derek, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with the world. Thank you, also, for reminding me that I don't just want to *survive* my life, I want to *live* it. Perhaps the fact that today is a glorious sunny day in Vancouver is the Universe's way of reminding us to seize opportunity to bask in each others' warmth and comfort for all the time we have available.

My today's beautiful sunshine flood into your house and warm Airdrie and your daughters.

Derek, you did it all just right. You lived the way most of us only wish we could. And yes, I am writing this as if you are reading it, which betrays my own beliefs, I realize.

One day I too will shuffle off this mortal coil, and when I do I hope I have left my family half of the reasons to be proud of me that you have left yours with.

Farewell Derek.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to 'know' you through your amazing music, podcast, and blog. I really wish we could have met in person though.

Much love to your family and friends.

Thank you for being great!

Today was the first time I happened upon this blog. I am always inspired by the courage and conviction of those who take the time to share their thoughts in the written word. Although saddened that Derek will no longer be able to share his ideas and views on the world, I know that this blog will enlighten me. I look forward to learning about the author and truly hope that his loved ones find solice as time passes.

Pete

There are no words to express exactly how I'm feeling today.

You are loved and will be sorely missed and cherished forever. You are truly an inspiration to many.

My heart is with your family today, as they attempt to process this incredible loss.

When we met you 5 years ago you were a podcasting and blogging icon to us, and nothing has changed (except we added on a few titles in the department of parent, and partner as we got to know you). Still in awe of all that you accomplished, with laughs and smiles, and the love you had for your family. You will be missed.

Thank you for letting us all be part of your final days Derek, we'll miss you :( :(

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