Ready to drop all that pessimism about the impact of the internet on relationships and communication?
Penmachine.com is the blog of Derek Miller, a canadian renaissance man of sorts that began blogging about his battle with colorectal cancer in 2007. In 2010, he discovered that the cancer was terminal and posted "I expect it will probably kill me sometime in 2011 or early 2012."
On Tuesday, he passed away from his illness, but was still able to communicate a final message from the grave. Entitled "The last post," Miller's touching goodbye begins "Here it is, I'm dead."
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.
Taking up the weighty task of delivering Miller's final message was Alistair Calder, his longtime friend. As quoted to CNN:
"I felt as though I was putting Derek's ... last moments on the web," Calder said. "It was really, really, really hard."
The prolific blogger had been at it for 10 years, according to his wife Airdrie. Miller's bio suggests a love for many different activities, as he worked as a park naturalist, an advertiser, software developer, writer, editor, and as a photographer among other things. When he found out about his cancer, he began documenting his deterioration on his blog.
His final message is part personal, and part general statement on death and the afterlife. He talks about his love for his wife and two daughters, and missing out on their lives to come:
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?
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.
A self proclaimed atheist on his Facebook page, Miller takes a rather scientific approach in dealing with the reality of his death, and how that allowed him to be unafraid of the moment of death itself:
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.
The final post caught the attention of the internet, as millions of people flocked to read the message "sent from the grave." The site shutdown due to heavy traffic. Here are some tweets from his friend Alistair, who took maintenance of the penmachine.com site after Miller's death.
For those who have asked: about 6000 requests per minute and greater than 8.5 million hits in a 24 hour period. Over 10 million hits total
@brigettemayer yes, because of the insanely high traffic load, I had to move it to a high availability server. Links will return soon
The last post currently has thousands of Facebooks likes and retweets. Derek's friend Alistair suggested that those affected by his story use the hashtag #welovederek when tweeting about him. People are obviously quite moved.
Sometimes the interwebs can be good - even great. For every few hundred cats with Hitler mustaches, there can be an example of how something so public can still feel so private. A person that was that happy to share his life with strangers saw no reason not to do the same with death. Now I need to head on over to failblog before I get too sappy on you guys.
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.