The literary web-world has been abuzz about the death of writer Derek K. Miller. Why? Miller was a formidable writer in general, there’s no doubt. But it was the work of his final days, and the unflinching way in which he documented them — leaving us to ponder our own — that has struck the loudest chord. If you value honest, fearless writing, you’ll want to know who Derek K. Miller was.
And Miller, it can be said, loved honestly, too. You’ve got to admire that, as well.
What really has people talking, and reading, is Miller’s last blog post, appropriately titled “The Last Post.” In it, Miller writes, as it were, from “beyond the grave,” providing a posthumous summary of how the cancer that took his life changed it, how he gained perspective on the people around him, and about the mysteries that will survive him: how will the lives of his wife and daughters go on now that his own no longer can?
Why am I talking about this here? No, Miller’s now-famous Last Post wasn’t a post about Buddhism, or about culture, or about meditation — but it was about life, and by extension, as the meditation teacher Larry Rosenberg puts it, “living in the light of death.” That’s by no means an exclusively Buddhist idea or ideal, of course. But it’s something that you’ll find Buddhism does, again and again, concern itself with. And Buddhism, it has been said by many teachers now, is really about appreciating your life.
In his Last Post, Miller shared an appreciation of his life whose eloquence and beauty makes me both smile and cry and feel a whole bunch of love every time I read a paragraph or two. It’s powerful writing if ever there was powerful writing, and so in that regard, I’m pleased to be able to point you to it.
But that is, of course, far more bitter than it is sweet; I’d rather have known about Derek before he’d gone. So if you hold a favorite fearless writing or teaching about death in your heart and mind, I hope you’ll share word of it in the comments here. When it comes to truly appreciating our lives, as Miller knew, every word helps.