B.C. cancer blogger's final words go viral

A British Columbia blogger's last words — published after he lost a four-year battle with cancer —continue to stir emotions among millions around the world.

Last post gets 8M hits

A blogger's final words

12 years ago
Duration 5:47
Derek Miller's last message was posted after he died, by his friend, Alistair Calder

A British Columbia blogger's last words — published after he lost a four-year battle with cancer —continue to stir emotions among millions around the world.

Derek Miller's "Last Post" was published on his blog by a friend on May 4, a day after the 41-year-old father of two died from complications of colorectal cancer in Burnaby, B.C. 

Since then, the poignant post has received more than eight million hits while it continues to be linked on other blogs, re-tweeted and posted on Facebook.

Digital legacy tricky

As Derek Miller's family and friends continue to deal with an outpouring of empathy, largely from complete strangers, the speed at which "The Last Post" went viral and the depth of reaction it generated has many contemplating the idea of leaving a digital legacy.

At least one social media expert says a number of individuals are looking to leave something behind once they've passed, but warns that a digital legacy, like any other, needs to be protected.

The Internet "is an open medium, a medium that encourages participation and with that comes the good and the bad," said Greg Elmer, a media studies professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

The director of the Infoscape Lab, a centre studying social media, said there is considerable discussion on how people can protect their online personas after they've died, although standardized procedures haven't been established yet.

"I think increasingly you're going to have individuals be quite concerned about the digital legacies of what they've posted on the web," he said. "It's a very personal matter and increasingly people are looking for support and ideas and mechanisms to be able to maintain their voices after they have passed away."

"Here it is. I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog," Miller wrote in his final message, which talks of his love for his family, his sadness at not being able to support them in the future and his lack of regrets with the life he lived.

"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," he wrote. 

"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."

The posthumous post reads like a love letter to his wife towards the end.

"Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection," he wrote. "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."

The words make Airdrie Miller blush when she thinks of the millions who have now read them, but they also offer solace of sorts.

"It's such a distressing time, but there is comfort knowing I can go anytime, day or night, and read his words, look at his photos and have a little bit of him back," the 42-year-old teacher told The Canadian Press. "This is going to be his legacy."

Derek Miller attracted many online followers as he blogged over more than 10 years. The writer and editor with a degree in marine biology was also a musician, photographer and computer geek -- all interests reflected in his posts.

He also blogged about the realities of life with cancer with quirky, yet moving honesty. Talk of his obsession with Diet Cherry Coke and the joy of Easter celebrations is sandwiched between open discussion of his need for adult diapers, the loss of his voice and the realization that death is looming.

Miller started writing his final message in January and made revisions to it up until two days before he died. None of his loved ones read it until it was posted online after his death. Once his final message was publicly available though, the deluge of online traffic caused his site to crash several times as it received more than 6,000 requests per minute.

"It's pretty overwhelming," said Airdrie Miller. "He would love this. He's a bit of a ham and he would love the attention."

Alistair Calder, the friend who encouraged Derek Miller to first start his blog and also published his final post, agreed. "I didn't foresee the traffic and I didn't think Derek anticipated it either," said the 43-year-old. "If he was here, he would think it's the coolest thing in the world."

Calder was emotional as he described having to take the day off from work last week when Miller's blog crashed from too many visitors trying to access it. The website developer said the site had to change servers four times until one powerful enough to support the millions of hits was found.

Calder, who knew Miller for 27 years, said his friend did all he could to prepare his loved ones for the day when he would go. "He didn't just lay down and die, he made sure everything was going to be ready."