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Dear Jane

10 February 2015

It feels weird after nearly 4 years to be writing something directly at you. I don't actually believe you are in any way around me, spiritually or otherwise but it seems easier to write it like this than as a 'normal' blog post.

This week I will finish my penultimate practice placement for university. Once again, being with the district nurses has made it clear that I want to work in the community. Once again, the bit I was most comfortable and confident with was when dealing with patients at the end of their lives, and offering comfort to their families. I really wish you could know in some way that the legacy of your death is that I am able to make things easier for other people. Yes, I know it sounds somewhat arrogant for me to say that but I am convinced that I really have something to offer to people and that I can play an active role in making the prospect of loss and the aftermath of that loss easier for people. Even if only a little bit. I feel no discomfort around death or dying. It feels as natural as life. Perhaps that is a weird legacy for you to have left and if you were in some way able to talk, you would probably tell me that you would rather be alive and not have a legacy at all! Fair point.

Your BSc graduation in 2005.
I need to apologise to you. When you were working on your undergraduate and then on your Masters and finally on your PhD, I nagged you relentlessly about doing work, sitting down and writing, not procrastinating so much and just bloody well get on with it. I now realise that all that time, you have been a saint for not exploding at me and starting a big row. I now realise I had NO IDEA what it is like to do a degree. It is HORRIBLE. For you to voluntarily choose to do 3, or at least try to get to 3, is incredible (or incredibly stupid :-).  It puts the work you did in perspective. Especially the work you did in trying to finish your PhD so you could, in your own words, "die as Doctor Daniel." Whenever I am moaning about how hard my tiny little undergraduate dissertation is, I think of how hard you worked. How you got through your exams knowing that 2 days later, you were going to have brain surgery. How you tried and tried to keep working, even when you must have known you were no longer able to string your thoughts together in to a coherent narrative about corporate social responsibility (btw, I am still not exactly sure what your PhD would have been about but I have given up trying to understand it!!!).

The next few weeks, I am back at university and they are teaching modules on End of Life care. I look forward to these modules. Because I know I will recognise most of the things we will talk about. I love that I still come across people who were involved in your care. They all remember you. They all remember what a great team we were. And they all love it when I tell them that our experience is being put to good use in the hope to help others. Most of the time, people who work in End of Life care don't know what happens to the family after the patient has died. All they see is the immediate grief. I love being able to tell them that their work has inspired me so much; that their compassion for you (and me) gave me the confidence and determination to do something I really should have done years ago; that their care made me realise it is never too late to start caring for people if you are certain you have something to give them.

It will be 4 years by the end of May. It seems appropriate that at the end of that month, all my assignments will have been submitted and I will hopefully be ready to start the final 3 months of my training. I will never be able to thank you for what you gave me by going through your journey with me. Obviously it is a journey I wish we hadn't made but hey, sometimes life gives us lemons. The difference is that you left me with a recipe for lemonade.

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