My book is dedicated to Daniel, my son, who died of cancer in October 2011, three days short of his 23rd birthday.
Daniel was a truly special person, with a wonderful warm, funny, determined personality. He inspired many through the way he dealt with his devastating illness. Sadly, he was never given the chance of developing a biography in the traditional sense. But his life was still rich and fulfilling beyond the dreams of many. He was talented in academic work, sport and music (he played the piano, clarinet and saxophone and could compose wonderful pieces). When he could no longer play competitively, he became a tennis umpire and line-judged at several Wimbledons from the age of 16. He studied Classics at Magdalen College Oxford and was awarded a scholarship. He was lucky to travel the world, usually in pursuit of some sporting event.
Some of the things Daniel came out with as a young child perfectly encapsulate his funny, mischievous, bright, competitive personality. You can read them here.
Daniel was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch, though sadly did not live long enough. How he would have loved the opportunity to shine in that wonderful sporting summer. His nomination, by his cousin Katie, read:
“I nominate my cousin Daniel, diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer at only 17. Now 22 he has overcome numerous obstacles and setbacks. Despite years of aggressive treatment and countless hospital procedures and admissions, Daniel has, remarkably, achieved: four As at A-level, an Oxford University scholarship (Classics) and grade 8 in piano, clarinet and saxophone. He has line-judged at three Wimbledon championships and umpired matches on chemotherapy, debated in a national competition and travelled globally watching sport (continuing to play whenever possible). Daniel's attitude and achievements are a beacon to other young cancer sufferers, encouraging them to fulfil their dreams. He inspired my family and me to cycle across England for children with cancer in the developing world, raising over £13,000. Daniel rarely complains and has retained his gentle, good-humoured, compassionate nature in the face of unimaginable adversity. A real symbol of hope and determination, he deserves this opportunity to shine”
But it was his personality which defined him. This is an extract from Daniel, My Son (with due allowance for the generosity people show when someone dies):
‘Given my own lack of objectivity, perhaps the best thing is to quote some of the things people said about him when he died …:
“Daniel was a witty, gifted, sweet and loyal friend … I do not have a single memory of Daniel without a smile … Daniel was an exceptional man. I can only ever remember him with a smile on his face … I played in Magdalen Swing Band with Dan, I only knew Dan through the band but I knew him as someone who was always friendly, cheerful, and a pleasure to talk to. I wish he was still here, because even though knowing him briefly I knew he made the world better … Daniel was a superb lad [one of his teachers] … He always knew how to make me laugh … The world has lost one of its brightest stars … I remember Daniel as a lovely boy of about ten. He was so sweet and such fun to be with … I knew Daniel as a line umpire – he was a pleasure to work with, delightful in every way … Amazingly talented person with a wonderful sense of humour, I’ll miss Daniel greatly … Daniel was a delightful pupil who had a great future in front of him … I wasn’t an especially close friend, but the time I spent with him was always cheerful and enjoyable. I never heard Dan complain about anything …”.
And some more:
“Daniel was simply the nicest person I knew, I will always remember him with a smile on his face, and a joke ready to deliver … Magdalen is very proud of Daniel. We will remember him as a very popular, cheerful and talented student. He packed so much into his time at College [the President of Magdalen] … He was a great friend … A lovely person I will never forget … Dan was a truly lovely guy, who never had a bad word for anyone. We had the honour and pleasure of playing with him in the Magdalen Swing Band, where his great talent was abundantly obvious … I knew Daniel only briefly through his occasional visits to Woking [Mencap] Club with David but he seemed a lovely guy, happy to join in with all our folks … I remember him as a clever, sincere little boy with a cheerful smile … I was one of his philosophy tutors. I always admired his courage and his cheerfulness. He was extremely able at philosophy, and I’m sure he could have done graduate work in it if he had wanted to – but then that was true of his other subjects as well …Daniel was always a source of humour, inspiration and fun. Forever at the centre of whatever we did whilst at Winston [his school until 16].
A true friend in every sense of the word … I will always remember his smiling face – forever positive and a pleasure to have met… Dan was a dear friend to me and will always be remembered for how much fun he was. He is a true inspiration to me … Such a happy chap and always polite … I have always thought that angels like Daniel are sent to teach the rest of us what is possible and just what we can overcome … I was bowled over when I met Daniel … The world is full of parents who believe their child to be something special. Unfortunately it is rarely true. However you clearly have a right to believe that … Daniel will always be remembered by us as a very good tennis official but more importantly, as a friendly, kind and courageous young man … I knew him only briefly but he made a great impression on me. A truly lovely human being … Thanks for being such fun. We loved having you in Naxos – keep winning at table tennis ... I will never forget his sense of humour, enthusiasm and table tennis serve”.
This from his friend Joe, born as it happens on the very same day:
“I considered Daniel one of my closest friends throughout those formative years of secondary school. Your [eulogy] encapsulated everything we remember: the formidable intelligence (especially as a peer!), the sporting and musical talent, but most of all that sense of humour (unforgettable, particularly if you were directly on the receiving end)!”.
And, finally, Tobias wrote from Berlin:
“I am sure that, if a place like Heaven exists, Daniel lives there! He has been such a loving, caring and good character, if he should not be there, [then] who?”’
For all his unassuming and modest nature, Daniel evidently left a real impression on those he came into contact with. That is his legacy. And of that I am so proud.
I can tell he was a lovely person and can understand how proud you are of him
– Chris D
Your book really brought him alive to me and I feel I know him so much more. He sounds AMAZING! So incredibly talented, kind, funny, gentle. I bet you and he had such interesting conversations
– Becky R
Incredible example of an individual having the courage and mental strength to enjoy life despite horrendous ongoing treatment. Torn between being gripped by the story, and not wanting to read on knowing how it ends
- Phil G