On the strength of a Catholic Herald review my wife, Jo, recently bought With the End in Mind by the hospice doctor Kathryn Mannix. Having now read it myself, I can attest that this is a book deserving the highest praise. With a wisdom born of 30 years of clinical practice, Dr Mannix helps to demistify a subject that is increasingly taboo – how people die.

Jo actually bought the book for a friend, whose husband is seriously ill with cancer. Sadly, we now have need of it ourselves. For my wife’s cancer has returned and her oncologist has issued those two terrible words: terminal prognosis.

Like many mothers, she is grateful for the time she has had since first being diagnosed with breast cancer. That was more than five years ago. Then, our youngest child had yet to start school. Now all six of them are – we hope – less vulnerable to the enormous and life-shattering shock of losing their mother.

As the late AA Gill said after he was diagnosed with “the full English”, it is actually a great privilege to have time to prepare for Last Things. Pity more those who fall foul of the loose ends and unsaid goodbyes of a fatal motorway crash.


Jo has never spent more time texting, nor wasted more time trying to text. This is because the chemotherapy has all but destroyed her finger-prints and makes it difficult to use the touch screens of modern smartphones. Apple take note.

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