Readers of my column will recall Nat, 11-year-old nephew of Times of London writer James Doran. We were asked, through James, to keep Nat in our thoughts and prayers as he battled Osteosarcoma, a particularly nasty cancer. Sadly, Nat didn't win the war. Below is the mail I received from James, posted with his permission. (Thanks to Hilary for sharpening and resizing the photos.)
I enjoyed reading your column about charity today. A lovely little vignette. But I write with sad news. Nat died a couple of months back. I have almost written to tell you a few times, but each time I procrastinated. It's a hard letter to write, I'm sure you understand.
Osteosarcoma is a tough one to beat. The doctors and the collective consciousness of Nat, the family, and the thousands of friends we all made through him, beat the cancer in his leg. It was too much for his little lungs though.
I wanted to thank you and your many readers who gave Nat encouragement and good wishes during his fight. You all taught him and me a very important lesson. Kindness and love are the most powerful forces in the universe. Only through them can life have meaning. Nat learned this important fact in his short life because of the kindness and love of so many people. Because of you, and the many others like you, he looked upon the world and everyone he encountered in it with equal amounts of both.
On behalf of Nat, thank you all for such a generous gift.
We held a wonderful service at the Demelza House Hospice, which is in a beautiful Kentish village called Sittingbourne. You can read about Demelza and make a donation here.
Teachers, school friends, hospital chums, aunts, uncles, mums and dads got up to speak. For a boy of 11 there were so many hilarious stories to tell. It was a joyous memorial.
I wrote a short eulogy and a poem, which I read with the help of my wife Alida – we got married just last month. If you would like to share them, and this letter, with your readers please feel free. I'm a reporter and no kind of poet, but thought it might give those who have read about Nat in your columns a glimpse of him they might otherwise not have seen.
I have also attached a couple of photos I took of Nat in his last weeks at home. His lovely red hair grew back all curly once he stopped the chemo. It was straight before! My favourite picture shows him doing what he liked to do best – simultaneously sorting his YuGiOh cards and playing Nintendo on the couch. The pics look very grainy because I have not yet mastered the use of my scanner. Feel free to post them too.
All the best Frank,
I was pushing Nat on the swings down at Rye one afternoon a few years ago and for some reason I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Grown ups can ask the most boring questions sometimes. He didn't think so, though, and replied in a flash: "A professor".
He was only three years old.
A year or so later Nat was in the back of the car as we drove up to Dad's in the Lake District and he proudly informed me that numbers not only go up for ever and ever from nought, but that they also go down for ever and ever from nought as well. Out of the blue. He had just discovered negative numbers all by himself at the age of 5.
So with that unique and often hilarious aspect of Nat's life in mind, I wrote a poem, which I will first explain.
In the Universe there are stars that burn with such intensity that they cannot be contained. An Indian mathematician and astrophysicist named Chandrasekhar worked out that when a star burned at a certain rate much greater than our Sun it would lose containment and fold in upon itself leaving behind a pinpoint of light so immensely bright that it seems to us on earth visible for eternity.
This poem is about that phenomenon, and it is dedicated to Nat, who, like Chandrasekhar was an inspired mathematician.
For us there should be always just one more turn around the floor.
If only you would fall back into these arms my love,
You wished to the stars.
For a moment as a lash touched your cheek,
A star pulsed its brightest
Last light that will be for eternity.
A life does not expand to fill the time it should be allowed.
Instead it folds back on itself, restricted from flight,
Like a paper crane.
It is not diminished by this lack,
But becomes a singular beauty
One that it and nothing else can become.
Physicists call this cruelty the Chandrasekhar limit.
When a star burns 1.4 times brighter than the sun,
It must find a new form
And we must look for its light
In the farthest reaches of the Universe.
Nat and his dad, Chris.
God bless Nat. There's no greater pain than losing a child. May Mom, Dad, family and friends find the strength and faith they need to bear this burden.