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December 25, 2014 / Billy Boyle

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This is Kate’s mother writing.

Off to Narnia. Kate died at home as she wanted, on 25th December at 6.29 a.m. Ten minutes before Oscar and Isaac asked ‘Is it morning?’ so just long enough for Billy to hold her hand and say goodbye before stocking-opening, which of course cannot be delayed.

Not properly making Christmas really didn’t matter to her. It was, after all, just another Thursday.

I’d like to say it was all peaceful. It was at the end, but not all the time. The thing is, they don’t tell you about dying. John Diamond, Philip Gould – Kate’s cancer canonthey stop writing when they can’t focus any more. So the unbroadcast pain, the indignities and the long hours of waiting are forgotten, like childbirth.

Kate’s last two weeks were characterised by the same qualities that marked her life. There was care for others: were we all OK, would we be OK, how could she make it OK for us? There was a decision not to complain. And there was a fierce need to control and order ( ‘What’s the plan? But what is the plan?’). So rather than sinking gently into the arms of diamorphine, she thoroughly disliked its parallel bonkers worldwhich variously involved Homeland, estate agents, buying three flats, little baby girls, and being Shakira (why?). Once when talking with us and her nurses, she said: ‘I’m finding it hard, not being able to connect to people. Like I’m having this conversation but not living it. Living and partly living.

Thank you all for the letters, films and memories you sent. They were moving and cheering. Here are just a few.

The first email ever sent by Kathleen Gross, Kate’s 100 year old Grandear, just as she typed it on her I-pad:

From: Kathleen Gross

Sent: 16 December 2014 12:15

Kate looking Through. Old. Photos of. When we. W ere young. quite

impressed ,,

it. Was. Lovely. To. Go. Shopping. With. You. And. Have. A good. Gossip.

Oh. Dear. My. Carer. Has. Just. Arrived. To. Lock. Me. In. For. The.

Night. ha ha

Sweet. Dreams. My. Lovely. One.


Here is a poem for dying by, sent to Kate by one of her oldest friends. It is called The Curtain, by Greta Stoddart

And lastly here is one that the Knights will like one day, when they have read Kates Late Fragments. It was sent by a fellow author.

Charlotte Brontë, reading her mother’s letters in 1850 (her mother had died in 1821) writes:

“A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and papers, telling me that they were mamma’s, and that I might read them. I did read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers were yellow with time, all having been written before I was born. It was strange now to peruse, for the first time, the records of a mind whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. They were written to papa before they were married. There is a rectitude, a refinement, a constancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them indescribable. I wish she had lived, and that I had known her.”

We are all so glad to have known her.

Kate’s book Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About This Magnificent Life) was published on the 5th of January. Click to order your copy today.

Help us remember Kate by making a donation to Street Child who are building a school in Sierra Leone, named after Kate, to help children get the education they deserve – learn more. 


Leave a Comment
  1. Marne Beukes / Dec 26 2014 3:25 pm

    I am, like everyone else, to hear about the passing of such a young and talented person. I never got to know Kate as well as I would have liked because she was on maternity leave when I was working at her organisation. Not knowing her better is something I regret because the warmth and admiration in my former colleagues’ voices when they spoke of Kate revealed what a wonderful person she was. Loosing a wife, daughter, mother and friend at such a young age is incredibly hard but her memory is something you all will cherish forever.

  2. Lisa Brown / Dec 26 2014 4:10 pm

    “…if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

    Jean, Tim and Jo, Billy and the Knights – We are so very sorry, but so very glad of Kate’s admirable life, love and work.

    All love, Lisa and Pete

  3. Alex MacNeil / Dec 26 2014 6:01 pm

    It’s about 20 years since I saw Kate. A bright, feisty, kick ass teenager in the youth theatre. I’ve been quietly reading her blog over the last few weeks and marvelling at the life of the “wild over achiever”. One of those people who promised so much….and delivered. What a loss. What a woman. Thoughts and love with her family and friends.

  4. Peter / Dec 26 2014 6:15 pm

    Kate was my hero. May she rest in peace. My deepest condolences to Billy, the boys and the whole family.

  5. danblogs994 / Dec 26 2014 6:24 pm

    My thoughts are with you at such a difficult time of year. I must confess I have only just discovered this blog in the last few minutes, but am currently picking my way through the previous posts and it is such a great loss of such a caring person…

    Take care x

  6. Tom / Dec 26 2014 6:59 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this bad news.

    I feel for the boys. My father died when I was 3 from leukaemia. I’m now 34. They will be fine. These writings will be a wonderful legacy for them. I honestly wish I had something like this. That sounds churlish, as my poor father had all sorts of things to worry about. But there it is.

    Now I have to wipe my tears as my own toddler is coming up the stairs to the sound of his mother saying “he’s done a big poo!!”

    I’m very grateful.


  7. Julie Killinger / Dec 26 2014 7:04 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to update us during this unbelievably difficult time for you and your family. Please accept my deepest condolences. I, like so many others, have been checking in several times a day as Christmas got closer, hoping and praying that Kate would get her wish to stay for just one more Christmas Day. Kate’s wonderful writing helped me focus on the truly important things, and find joy in them. This gift, along with all the others she has given to so many people, will not be forgotten. Having lost my own mother to cancer I know that death can be a blessing, although one that’s very hard to accept by those left behind, especially in the beginning. I know that as Kate’s children grow older they will learn how extraordinary their Mother is, and I hope that brings them peace. God bless you all. JK

  8. clarefhc / Dec 26 2014 7:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Love Swimming Blog.

  9. anna / Dec 26 2014 7:14 pm

    Wishing all the best strength and courage to Kate’s family this Christmas and for the future. In memory of Kate, a very special and inspiring, brave, resourceful, compassionate lady and mother. With love.

  10. lucybrooke2014 / Dec 26 2014 7:32 pm

    I wish your family peace and strength, not just for Christmas but forever. From what I have read, Kate has tried so hard to prepare for this, I admire her, and your, bravery so much. Tears are being shed for you here x a talent gone x

  11. Emily / Dec 26 2014 7:51 pm

    Much love to you all, I know you’ll miss her like a pain. Of all people, it hurts me that it was Kate who died this young. I didn’t know her really closely. But she inspired me. I loved working with her in the civil service. I loved being in her orbit. I loved the odd coffee and glass of wine we had. She made me a better me through her listening and encouragement. She was utterly, utterly brilliant at what she did. BIG love to you as you celebrate and remember her. You are clearly a loving, gorgeous family and I wish you all the strength, tears, poems, stories and giggles you need. Emily xx

  12. Jenny Lawes / Dec 26 2014 8:52 pm

    Sorry to hear of this..think I hoped she would have a last rare old time with her boys and family. Lovely to know though that she was at home. Although some people might wonder how future Christmas’s can possibly be celebrated with such an anniversary attached – maybe in time a glass will be raised in fond and happy memories to a mum who did her best…right to the end … RIP Kate and best wishes to Billy & his Knights xx

  13. Tony / Dec 26 2014 9:32 pm

    ‘Kate’s death at such a young age is utterly tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with Billy, the boys, Kate’s parents and her many friends.
    But the tragedy of her death only illuminates the magnificence of her life. Her work and her achievement will endure. She created and built AGI as an organisation that took a new and innovative approach to development and today is making change happen in many different African countries. She gave it an ethos and spirit that is a unique combination of public service and enterprise. She took the small band of staff at the beginning and helped put together the flourishing and strong team of professionals which represent AGI today.
    She was a fabulous colleague, a wonderful leader and a dear friend.
    Her illness saw her reach new heights as a writer and sage, giving everyone around her hope and purpose in their lives even as her own drew to a close.
    Kate was an inspiration when she was with us. She will remain an inspiration now and for the future. She was a life changer and a life giver. I feel privileged and proud to have worked with her and been part of her life

  14. John / Dec 26 2014 9:43 pm

    My wife died of colon cancer in her 40’s last summer leaving me and our two young children, so I am perhaps going through a similar situation. Kate sounds to have been a very inspiring woman, as was my wife. All I can say so far is that the pain has not gone any more than the memories, but the shock of losing her is dimming now. I am very sorry to read this story and wish Kate’s family all the very best.

  15. Candice / Dec 26 2014 9:46 pm

    Devastated for you all. Kate shines bright.

  16. zoe goodwin / Dec 26 2014 10:35 pm

    So sorry. Kate sounds so like me – a mum of 2 in her 30’s. Yesterday I lived the Christmas day Kate had hoped for in her last article with all the positives and negatives that come with being part of a loving young family. I took it for granted. But having read Kate’s article filled with hope that she would enjoy it just one more time and then her mum’s last post indicating that this was not to be has reduced me to tears. We take the most important things for granted – I will hug my 2 a little tighter tonight. Kate sounded a wonderful woman who enriched all your lives. Love to you all, particularly Billy, Oscar and Isaac. x x x

  17. Kate H / Dec 26 2014 10:50 pm

    Goodbye Kate. It was such a pleasure and privilege to have known you, one of the most remarkable women I have met. My thoughts are with your family at this sad and difficult time, may you cherish the memories of your time together xx

  18. Mairead Byrne / Dec 26 2014 10:55 pm

    Have followed her blog ,thought she mightbla

  19. lauraandjoshua / Dec 27 2014 2:09 am

    To all of Kate’s family,

    Such a distressing time for you all. I am so sorry. I cannot imagine how you are feeling.

    I am sad that I only discovered this amazing blog after Kate passed away.

    I didn’t know Kate but her writing is so wonderful. I have now read all of the blog posts. What an incredible woman. And what an incredible family you all are.

    I hope you were able to enjoy at least some moments of Christmas Day as a family with happy memories of Kate to accompany you and perhaps give you strength.

    If there is anything that people can do from afar to help your family in such difficult times then please let us know. Perhaps the donations to a trust for trips for the Knights as Kate mentioned?

    My thoughts are with you all.

    “Let fate do her worst; there are relics of joy,
    Bright dreams of the past, which she cannot destroy;
    And which come in the night-time of sorrow and care,
    To bring back the features that joy used to wear.
    Long, long be my heart with such memories filled,
    Like the vase in which roses have once been distilled;
    You may break, you may ruin the vase, if you will,
    But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.”

    Sweet Remembrance by Thomas Moore

    Sending you love and strength.


  20. Daemon / Dec 27 2014 3:41 am

    What a remarkable woman. What a loss for those who live her.
    One could and may well in the future be able to live for centuries, but to live fully and truly is a decision made with no reference to life span. Something enduring and deeply sweet is in her words. A sweet nostalgia for life. A glimpse of the real.
    People who have really lived never really ‘die’.

  21. PaddyK / Dec 27 2014 5:33 am

    RIP to a remarkable woman,condolences and sympathy to her family and friends

  22. Rachel / Dec 27 2014 10:24 am

    Goodbye Kate. You enriched our lives with your energy, kindness and determination. It was a privilege to meet you and to read your phenomenal blog. Thank you.

  23. Tata Ali / Dec 27 2014 3:17 pm

    Kate was, is and always will be a bright comet, leaving a shining trail across the heavens that will go on and on, for all of us. May she rest in peace now, and may her closest family find solace and strength in the dark days ahead. With our deepest sympathy, avec nos sincères condoléances, et toutes nos pensées qui s’evolent vers Billy, Isaac et Osca, Jean et Tim, de toute ta famille en France/Suisse, sous la neige. Trevor, Alison, Patrick, Katharine, Henry, John, Paul, Anna, Marc et Ruth.

  24. Elizabeth / Dec 27 2014 5:35 pm

    Dear Family of Kate ….keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. I have known Kate since 2007 and supported her career development. She was one of the most capable people I have met. God bless her. Elizabeth

  25. Victoria / Dec 27 2014 9:20 pm

    I discovered Kate’s blog through a friend of a friend. I’m very sorry for your loss, it’s unimaginable for me, it’s so huge. I am mum to a delightful toddler, and Kate’s writing, and thoughts of her, have stayed with me these last weeks. She has helped me stay true to what is most important. Thank you, Kate, for giving even when you were dying.

  26. Mothergeek / Dec 27 2014 11:02 pm

    Sobbing as I read this. Thinking of you all. Sleep well, Kate! X

  27. lolshelley / Dec 27 2014 11:26 pm

    My deepest condolences to you all. Holding you all in my heart at this very sad time. May your wonderful memories help you through the dark days.x

  28. Trish / Dec 28 2014 8:50 am

    So beautifully written. xx

  29. Suzanne Meek Geere / Dec 28 2014 12:29 pm

    Kate was the brightest of the bright, the most gilded of youth, my thoughts are with you her family.

  30. Nicola / Dec 28 2014 2:44 pm

    Goodnight Kate. She was a true inspiration to all and her legacy lives on. Thinking of you all. xx

  31. primrose / Dec 28 2014 4:23 pm

    Sending you all sincere condolences. Kate’s writing has been such a support in my own life over the last year. It has been a privilege to read her words.

  32. MeRaw / Dec 28 2014 7:31 pm

    Sleep peacefully. xx

  33. Cathy / Dec 28 2014 8:42 pm

    Goodbye Kate, and love to Billy, Oscar, Isaac and her whole family. I only met her a very few times, and had no idea at all about the amazing things she accomplished, yet often thought of her – she was a sunny soul. Thinking of you all xxx

  34. Jon / Dec 29 2014 11:20 am

    Like a number of others, I only recently discovered the story of Kate and the blog. I have been reading her truly moving, honest, funny, inspiring words and feel humbled by the life-affirming spirit that shines through. My thoughts are with you all at this difficult time.

  35. tric / Dec 29 2014 12:27 pm

    I am so very sorry for your loss. My close friend lost her young boy of 13 to leukemia last year and I remember in those first few months after he was gone she was desperate to know how she would survive and if she would be able to ‘live’ on. She took great comfort from others in the same situation who were doing okay.
    One of those people said to her, ‘You may not realise it but after the initial shock you do begin to heal. Every day a fraction more, so small you cannot feel it, but one day down the road you can look back and you suddenly realise how far you have come. Even the bad days help get you to that day’.
    Again I am so very sorry for all you have lost. I hope her children help you though. My friend lives by the mantra, ‘Just get through today, because we can always get through today’. Thinking of you all your Kate was an amazing person, who will live in your hearts forever. I’m sure with all her planning she has figured out a way to remain near you.

  36. Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE / Dec 30 2014 3:17 am

    The pain will lessen but the importance will not; she will leave a huge empty space for you all. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Grief Encounter

  37. Pauline B / Jan 1 2015 11:27 am

    Hi, this is a truly moving story. Thinking of Kate’s family at this difficult time. I’m raising money for cancer research this month by supporting their dry athlete cause.

  38. jsurycz / Jan 2 2015 3:14 pm

    I have just discovered Kate’s blog and I am mesmerized by her writing and her story. What an amazing, brave woman. She is a true inspiration. I wish you and your family all of the very very best. Lots and lots of love to you all. Love Julie

  39. Laura C / Jan 3 2015 3:21 pm

    What beautiful mothers you both are, and were.

  40. Helen C / Jan 3 2015 4:56 pm

    I have just read the article in the Times Magazine and sought out her blog. Just wanted to say that I am thinking of you all especially Billy and the boys xx

  41. Diane Firth / Jan 5 2015 12:08 pm

    What a lovely lady. I also read a piece about her in the Times and was so moved by it and by her. She was also obviously loved by a lot of people outside her very loving family.

  42. Margaret / Jan 5 2015 1:43 pm

    I am so very sorry. My sincerest condolences to you all. She was an inspiration.

  43. Maureen Lyons / Jan 8 2015 3:54 am

    If, at the end of our days, we have made the world a better place, we will have truly lived. Kate truly lived and inspired we who are still trying to make a difference. I am a better person for having read Kate’s blogs, and will live my life differently.

  44. Claire Dale / Jan 8 2015 11:58 pm

    I want Kate’s family to know how much her book (which arrived yesterday) is helping me deal with losing my 63 year old mum to cancer on New Years Eve. I am 37 with three children and can relate so much to her beautifully written experiences. I am making notes in the book like I did at university in 1996 and am rejoicing in nurturing my long forgotten ‘hinterland’ like she advices. Words are also my solace. I had been following Kate and felt such sorrow for you all when I read of her death. I will be quoting Kate when I speak at mum’s memorial next week. What a wonderful girl she was to help someone like me whilst leaving such a great gift to her boys. I will read on through my own tears of loss and shout ‘thank you kate!’ into this cold and blustery winter night.

  45. Aunty Em / Jan 20 2015 3:17 pm

    I only read Kate’s story last night and am so sorry she has passed away. I hope her book is eventually published in the U.S. so I can read it. Currently the only copy on amazon is $77.00!

  46. ILM / Jan 23 2015 9:44 pm

    Although I did not know Kate or her family, her words on ‘Private Passions’ I listened to on a podcast just now inspired me to stop, think, take note of my ‘hinterland’ and play my eldest daughter to sleep with ‘Our Lord and Father’ on the piano. Thank you for sharing her.

  47. gilliangarner / Feb 15 2015 6:43 pm

    Have just read Kate’s book Late Fragments. My father died when I was the same age as the Knights. Oh how I wish I had a precious book like theirs. Kind thoughts.

  48. binjameen / Feb 15 2015 9:02 pm

    To Jean, I only just heard this terrible, awful, sad news.Grief often waxes and wanes at times we don’t choose, and it’s different for everyone. My niece Desreen, another young mother was killed suddenly and our family are often brought to a juddering halt when something happens to bring her to mind. Your family might find Desreens husband’s blog of help. It’s is at
    I hope to meet up with deb and Jess soon up north, it would be great if you could join us.

  49. Ennea Kimber / Feb 20 2015 7:33 pm

    I have just finished Kate’s book. She wrote beautifully and seemed an amazing woman. I’m so sorry for the loss of her, for her family and the world. I found Late Fragments really comforting as I lost both of my parents to cancer. I was an orphan by 11 and I never truly got to say goodbye. Her words I could put into my parents mouths. No longer blame myself for there last moment. Kate has helped me come to terms with their deaths and also helped me to live in the present rather than agonising over the future and possible further loss. Thank you Kate for helping me when no one else could. You have touched my heart and made everyday easier. I know you were worried about how your family would cope and all I can say, is I am a better person for my suffering. I have been shaped and I have grown stronger. The darkest experiences create the most beautiful existence’s. Thank you Kate.


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