you only die once

This article comes from Dying Matters, a UK  campaign to promote awareness of dying, death and bereavement. It promotes understanding of death as a natural part of the life cycle- not a subject to be avoided or ignored, not ‘awkward to mention’ or ‘best avoided’.  It encourages discussion and the development of death plans, so that people can explore how and where they want to die.
Kate Granger is a terminally ill young doctor, open and active on social media about her life, death, and treatment experiences. She is working to ensure that the health services remember that patients are people, not diseases, symptoms, or conditions.

You Only Die Once: Kate Granger’s story

Doctor and writer Kate Granger gave the second ever Dying Matters Annual Lecture on Monday evening to mark the beginning of Dying Matters Awareness week, which runs from 12-18 May.

Kate, a Specialist Registrar in Geriatric Medicine, has incurable cancer. After five gruelling rounds of chemotherapy following her diagnosis with a rare and aggressive form of sarcoma in July 2011, she made the decision to stop receiving treatment and concentrate on enjoying a good quality of life.

Since then, Kate has written two books, and blogs and tweets extensively about living with cancer and, in particular, her experiences as a patient. She has also launched the “hello my name is” campaign after becoming frustrated by the number of medical staff who failed to introduce themselves to her when she was receiving treatment.

The lecture ‘You Only Die Once: Kate Granger’s story’ took place at the Royal College of Physicians in London. As part of the event, Dying Matters commissioned a film of Kate and her husband, Chris.

Watch Kate and Chris’s film


You can follow us on Twitter at @Dyingmatters. You can also follow Kate at @GrangerKate.

'You Only Die Once: Kate Granger’s story' was produced by FlixFilms, who have made several films for the Dying Matters Coalition, including 'I Didn't Want That' and 'Dying to Know', both of which were selected for the Cannes Film Festival.
The Dying Matters Coalition would like to thank the Royal College of Physicians for their support and funding which has enabled the lecture to happen.
Millions leave it too late to discuss dying wishes
Dying Matters Awareness Week, get involved
Kate Granger's blog

what just happened? life.

Only last week, but how the world has changed. Only last Wednesday I spent some lovely hours with bloggy buddies Yvonne and Lesley. Yvonne was home from Arizona with her daughter, and took time out from family fun days to spend with two local women she’d never met. Three of us gathered round a table, strangers but not strangers, a model of the connecting power of blogging. Friends, who happened to be meeting in person for the first time.

Yvonne, Lesley, me
Yvonne, Lesley, me

Days later, Yvonne was widowed. Ken drifted off gently in his sleep. Well and good, a lovely way to go. Not so much for those left behind. Those still thousands of miles from the Arizona heat. Thousands of miles, and an eternity away from him.

Yvonne has written a remarkable post. You should read it. Hug your loved ones when you can. Send positive, supportive vibes out into the world.

Let’s appreciate our boring lives.

no reason in particular

There’s nothing special about today.

It’s a wet Friday.

I have a list of things to be doing.

Busy things.

Oh, very important things.

Boring things.

All the things.

Then I read Isobel’s beautiful post. As I reread it, I heard the song playing on the radio.

I had a little wallow, a wee drip and a sniffle. It happens when I least expect it. When I have other plans.

I thought about Herself, and the woman I spoke to last night whose husband was recently diagnosed with PSP. I thought about those more recently bereaved than I, and those dealing with the ongoing chaos and firefighting that accompanies a parent’s decline.

In my middle age, I want to still be able to do something with my late parents. I’d love to hold them, tease them, walk on the beach with them.

family, 1991

Instead, I miss them. I blog about them. I volunteer because of our experiences.

I’m a 47 year old woman, still holding hands with the grown ups.

our Billy

Andra’s recent titles have had me singing along…


Today we bury Billy. Eighty six years of a full, active, loved life. Nearly sixty of those years have been spent with Eileen. Now deceptively frail, she spent all those years by his side, and took up residence in an uncomfortable hospital chair for his last few days. She didn’t leave him, knowing that he was about to leave her. Strength, love and togetherness- that elusive something special that we hear about, that we all hope for: they had it in spades.

See that cherubic curly haired chap? That’s Billy in about 1929- can’t you tell he’s full of mischief? While his sisters are scared of the photographers toys, and his parents and elder brother are posing, Billy is enjoying the moment.


That’s the only picture of Billy with a full head of hair I’ve ever seen. By the time the family expanded and a picture of all the boys was taken, Billy (on the left) was his adult self.


Many years later, a crowd of happy brothers and sisters at a wedding (Herself on the right, Billy second from right at the back).


Billy was with both of his parents when they died. He lost a daughter, and six siblings. He raised seven children and had the love of many grandchildren. When he died, he was with Eileen, his children, some grandchildren and some of his brothers and sisters.

When we were little, we’d look forward to seeing Billy, the way people look forward to roller coasters or the dodgems. He’d come into the family home and chase all the nephews and nieces for kisses or tickles, for the sheer fun of us all squealing in delight. Last week at the hospital, we were queuing up to kiss him, and tease him that we were taking advantage now, getting our revenge in, 40 years later.

He’d find the fun anywhere and he knew everyone. Like so many of his siblings, he enjoyed a good arguement. Black was white, if he so decreed. When he and Nora (anxious with a bear in the top picture, on the left in the bottom one) got together to argue opposing positions, nobody else got a word in, and they had a great time.

Billy was the boss. Our patriarch. Gentle and determined. Modelling all that is good in people.

Bye, Billy.