Thursday, May 5, 2011

The end of the gravel road

Our son Derek died in the evening of May 3, 2011. He had to deal with metastatic colon cancer for four and a half years. Our family is immensely saddened, and his death will leave a large void among us. He will be deeply missed by all of us.

Derek had an extremely unique intelligence, and a multitude of interests. All his friends, and we, could ask him almost any question and he would have an intelligent and easily understood answer. His blog is a testament to his extensive knowledge and eclectic thinking. Through his blog, he a affected a multitude of people, and many commented on how his posts had helped them deal with adversities of their own. He was a very knowledgeable technologist - he had extensive knowledge in computer and internet technology, photography, was a musician and composer, had a degree in marine biology, and a diploma in writing (both from UBC). Writing was his passion.

Both the Province and the Vancouver Sun published articles about him today. Here is what Pete McMartin of the Vancouver Sun had to say:

(click on the image)

No medical treatment, including several operations and many sometimes very debilitating chemotherapy treatments could stop this cancer. Throughout these years he maintained his interests and wrote about them in his blog. It never became a "cancer blog".

As his parents, we have lost our only child - a part of us died with him. We are lucky to have his wife and our two granddaughters living next to us. For us, Derek lives on in them.


  1. Karl and Hilkka, I am so very sorry for your incredible loss. My thoughts are with you both, as they are will Airdrie and the girls.

    My husband and I are both only children, and I can only imagine the depth of grief involved with losing an only child.

    Derek will always be remembered with much happiness, light, and laughter.

  2. He was so lucky to have parents like you, Karl. So very lucky. As you were to have him. xo

  3. Dearest Karl and Hilkka,

    No words can convey how sorry I am. I cherished my friendship with Derek, and as I mentioned on my own blog, he and Airdrie may well have saved my life. They both urged me to take care of myself, and I'm doing good on the promise I made Derek and Airdrie of taking care of myself. I learned from Derek a great deal on how to cope with adversity when I was at my lowest. My tribute is only a small way to show how much I will miss him. I don't think there's anything I can really do that will ease the pain you, Airdrie, your wife or your granddaughters are feeling but please, by all means, know that I am here for you all and that you have my love, my friendship and my eternal gratitude for having shared Derek with me and with the world.

    Yours sincerely,

  4. Thank you Karl. Derek was so so lucky to have you and Hilkka for parents. It's easy to see where he got his wonderful traits :) Our hearts ache for your loss of Derek; we hope that with time, things will get easier for you. We send you our love always and, if there is anything we can ever do to make things easier for you both, you only need ask. We love you both dearly. Terry&John xx

  5. Derek lives on too in the way his integrity, intelligence and generosity of spirit helped to shape this community. Thank you for sharing this post, and for sharing Derek with so many of us.

  6. I never knew Derek but have been so deeply moved by his blog in recent months and the tributes being paid since his passing. You must be extremely proud of him. My sincere condolences.

  7. I tried to post this comment on Derek's blog, but it seems that the comments dont't work any more. So I copy it here.

    Thank you Karl for finding the time to send us the newspapers' copies.


    Jean-Hugues is so much under shock that he can't even write. Of course we knew this would happen. We are educated, informed people, and we know that ineluctable things ineluctably happen. But still... the schock.

    Jean-Hugues got "into" this blog, he crossed the Atlantic and the continent to shake your hand, and all of the sudden, it became all so incredebly close, so incredebly real, so incredebly unfair...

    Now, it is all tears and sorrow. But you managed to have tears and sorrow overwhelmed by admiration. I think of Karl and Hillka, living the worst experience I can think of — losing your beloved child. I think of the girls, who had such a great father but will miss him so much in the years to come. I think of Airdie, turned into a widow, and even though I never spoke to her I feel I know some or her.

    But most of all, the word that comes to my mouth is a French word, and I do not know if it has an English equivalent. Cyrano de Bergerac, in Edmond Rostand's play, dies, and the last word he says is about what he will leave on this Earth. "Mon... panache".

  8. What beautiful words Karl. As you wrote Derek was an amazing intelligent young man and more. So versatile in all facets of his life. I too learned so much from him, he touched all our hearts as you have seen. As his parent I fully understand that a part of you has gone. But his legacy will never be forgotten as that will continue on through his children. You and Hilkka will certainly be a part of that as well. His written words will remain timeless for all to reflect on and continue to learn. He had such purpose in his life, and loved this world so much, he did so well.

    It is going to be a tremedous part of Airdrie's healing to have you both there as her support, I know Derek felt comfort in knowing that.

    This truly has been the worst year, I don't know how it's going to get any better, but we forge on because that's what we have to do.

    I cannot say anymore, it is as it is .....Who would have known, who would have known.......

    Take care both of you, be good to yourselves, you've earned some peace and healing.

    Much love, Barbra

  9. Hello. I started reading Derek's blog some time ago. I was very impressed with how he was handling what was to come.

    Please accept my condolences on your loss.

    Brantford, Ontario

  10. Very touching words. I am so sorry for your loss. Your son will always be an inspiration to our family and to so many others.

  11. My condolences to you and the rest of Derek's family. Clearly he intentionally lived a wonderful life.

    Mary, Indiana

  12. Mr. Miller:

    I hope you will pardon my intrusion, as I did not know your son; I am merely one of the thousands of people who was touched by Derek's unflinching honesty about his illness and death.

    I discovered Derek's blog shortly after my mother's death from pancreatic cancer; Derek had just been diagnosed. Over the years, his writing has helped me mourn my mother.

    In fact, Derek's directness and candour reminded me of her. Like Derek, she tried not to let the cancer take over her life; she remained interested in current affairs, knitting and all sorts of topics until almost the very end. Like Derek, she didn't fear death, but she did fear the process a bit. Like Derek, she didn't believe in God or an afterlife - she called herself a secular humanist. And like Derek, she died peacefully at home, surrounded by family.

    Through Derek's blog, I developed a new appreciation for the grace and humour with which my mother faced cancer, and I will always be grateful for that.

    As it happens, through Derek's blog, I also discovered yours - and learned of your love of astronomy. I've often shared your posts with my father, who has rekindled his love of astronomy since my mother died. Being able to share this with him, even in a small way, has strengthened our relationship.

    I never communicated with Derek, other than leaving a couple of comments on his blog. In recent weeks, I'd thought about reaching out to him to let him know he'd made a difference in my life, but I think I was trying too hard to find the perfect words. A writer myself (in corporate communications), I was intimidated by Derek-the-Writer's talent. How stupid is that? I never sent that message, and I regret it.

    I remember a post Derek wrote shortly after confirming that he had stopped treatment. He was pleased about the spike in comments and traffic to his blog in the wake of that news. He acknowledged that he liked to have an audience for his voice.

    And so I am doing my part to share his story - not that he has needed my help. I think he would be amazed, delighted and humbled by just how many people are discovering his voice - I read a piece on the Daily Mail (UK) today. I am so glad that others can benefit from his courage and grace.

    From all accounts, Derek the person was even more amazing than Derek the writer. My deepest condolences to you and your family on this unthinkable loss.

  13. God bless you Derek, may you rest in peace. You were a very courageous person.

  14. Bless you and your family. The world is a better place because of your son. Peace be with you.

  15. This is a beautiful tribute to your son. I am so truly sorry for your loss. I wish you and your whole family comfort and healing. I read Derek's blog for years although I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person.

    Take good care. And know that there are tons of people around the web just like me who are remembering Derek and wishing your family well.

  16. I am so sorry for your loss- I was an avid reader of your son's blog- i will miss it greatly- when derek wrote about the gravel road only a few short weeks ago i thought he would be driving alittle bit longer! sending your family my thoughts tonight

  17. May God be with you and help you cope up with the loss. My prayers are with you...
    My Travelogue

  18. I am sorry for your loss, Derek touched the lives of many worldwide and made a difference in the world. I grateful I had the opportunity to at least be part of his life even though it was just through his blog. You had an amazing son, may you find peace in knowing his legacy lives on!

  19. Derek's Last Post has hit a raw nerve and touched many around the blogsophere and world:



    to mention just a few.

    I know you are proud of your son. He was quite something. Be well. Kate

  20. My sincerest condolences. I just came to your son's blog for the first time, and it's a beautiful testament to a life full of love. You did well and raised a wonderful person that left his mark on people you'll never meet all over the world.

  21. Peace to you in your grief.

  22. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your amazing son. I have never met him but was moved on a daily basis by the brilliance with which he conveyed his thoughts via his blogs. The world lost a bright light the night he died...but his energy and spirit will live on in his children.
    Thinking of you and your family and sending thoughts for peace and healing from Maryland, USA. Best,

  23. I am so sorry for your loss.
    I lost my sister at age 42 to colon cancer. Her battle was so similar, heartbreaking.
    I wish you and your family all the best.

  24. I am so so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son. I lost my Dad 2 years ago to colon and stomach cancer, and it was so very difficult to watch. But, I am glad the world was graced with Derek.... he will forever live on...

  25. Dear Mr. Miller,

    Sending you and your family my most sincere condolences on the loss of your amazing, intelligent, honest, generous, funloving son. Although I never met him in person, I was among the fortunate whose lives have been touched by Derek.

    Derek's comments on my blog and Derek's own blog helped me through my own cancer treatment last year and the strength, honesty and generosity of Derek and your whole family continues to help me every day as I look to the uncertain future that follows diagnosis and treatment.

    Huge numbers of us are mourning your loss. Derek and your family have been in our hearts and thoughts for years and at this very sad time you Derek's smiling face is literally superimposed onto every scene of my life.

    Wishing you healing, happiness and many, many years of good health,
    Andrea Ross
    Ottawa, ON

  26. My deepest condolences to you, your family and friends of your son. It is heart breaking to see someone so young loose his life to this terrible disease.
    Mani J. [Los Angeles, CA]

  27. I am so sorry for your loss. Although I've never met Derek, I feel as though I knew him. I've followed his blog since 2007. I enjoyed his intelligence, questioning attitude, sense of humor, candidness, and love for life. The world was a better place because he was here.

    My thoughts are with your family.

  28. I'm so deeply saddened to hear of your loss. I didn't know Derek, nor did I know of his blog until I saw an article on Yahoo about the attention it was getting.

    I read his last post, and I broke down and cried when I was done. I found it so incredibly touching. He was obviously a highly intelligent person and a very skilled writer. You should be proud of him.

    I recently lost my Grandmother (on April 5th) to colon cancer as well. It was, and still is, but to a lesser extent, a tough time for me. I hope that my condolences can help you through this painful period of mourning.

    Remember the love you shared, and the many memories that you'll have to cherish of him. So long as he is remembered, he'll never be truly gone. I plan to start reading through his many blog posts; I hope it will give me an insight into his life, and maybe I'll be privileged enough to feel as connected to him as his many regular readers have expressed.

    Hugs from James in Nova Scotia!

  29. I am so very sorry for your loss.
    Derek's writing, especially his last writings, touched me deeply. I admire the love your family has for each other and know that Derek will continue to inform and inspire new readers to his blog. My sincere sympathy for everything you are going through.

  30. Seems no one has written any comments to your post. Well I would love to offer my sympathies to you and your family. I didn't know your son and honestly found out of his existence through the internet, he seemed like a great lovable person. I wish you the best in life...

    Mama to a beautiful baby girl. (Ottawa)

  31. My sincerest condolences on the loss of your son. His last post was quite an experience to read, something I need to. He was no doubt a very intelligent man with multitude of talents. I think his upbringing and his wonderful parents share a testament to those life skills. when you understand and accept your child for who they are, it is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive. I wish your family much peace and strength in your time of sadness and mourning.

  32. My mother always says that the love a parent has for a child is unbelievably big. Because of that, I can't even imagine what to say in order to try to comfort you and your beautiful family. On the other hand, I can asure you that Derek was, in fact, someone special. Yesterday, he was news in a Brazilian newspaper. Only someone briliant can make their story travel so far, without any kind of self promotion. You all should be extremely proud. Some nice thoughts from Brazil.

  33. Hello Karl,

    I came to know about you, Derek, and your family today through news. At first, I was just sadden by the tragic news, but when I clicked on Derek’s weblog link, and read the first post, I knew I had to pause my hectic work schedule and spend time to read the posts. Even the very short time I spent reading the posts, helped me widen my horizon, and for that I am grateful to Derek.

    I want to congratulate you and your wife for raising such an intelligent, vibrant, lovely, and caring boy. I did not know Derek in person, but his posts are true reflection of his unique personality. The site is a testimony to the kind of life he lived, and what a beautiful one it was. I think you were truly fortunate and blessed to have a son like Derek in your life. You can be proud of him forever, and be assure that he will be with you, and his legacy will live for ever.

    Like you, I only have one child (my son), and I simply cannot imagine even the thought of loosing him. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for you and your family and the pain you all feel. My sincerest condolence to you, Hilkka, Airdrie, Marina, Lauren, and all your family and friends. I hope that the memories you built with Derek will help you to soldier on through this difficult time.

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. May GOD bless and protect you and your family during this time and always.

    A mother from Ottawa

  34. Dear Karl,

    Our hearts go out to you and Hilkka and our deepest sympathies that your son's long journey has come to an end. As you say, he will live on in those he loved.

    For all the order and logic in the Universe, the randomness of cancer continues. We hope you can find solace in the stars.

    Pomponia and Bob

  35. Very sorry for your loss.

  36. I am sorry for your loss and appreciated your son and his passion for life.