As you turn the pages of Kate Gross’s heart-stopping, hankie-soaking, true, sad and funny memoir, Late Fragments, you begin to see an hourglass timer in your head, the sands slipping quickly and inevitably through the narrow channel.
Kate’s time was running out as she wrote – she had advanced colon cancer at the age of 34 – but she was determined to get her thoughts about life, love and the universe down on paper before she left the stage. She was writing primarily for her twin five-year-old boys, but it’s a story that we can all benefit from, because much as we might manage to ignore it, the sands of time are always running for us, too.
This is not a book about being ill. It’s not even, really, a book about death.
It’s a book that, in every page, lives and breathes the wise old lesson we often learn too late – that dying teaches us how to live. It does that not with soulful platitudes, but with blunt honesty laced with a wicked sense of humour. I imagine, if you knew Kate, that it would sound exactly like her.
Kate died on Christmas morning last year, but her words are still with us. And if you choose to read them now – to stick with the scary thought of being in her shoes – you might find you learn some useful life lessons while you’ve still got your life before you.
As well as living on in the memories of her family, friends and the people whose lives she changed through her work, Kate has left a gift for anyone who chooses to pick up this book. It is the gift of wonder, if only we can find it, and the reminder that no matter what happens to you, ‘you are the captain of your soul’. It’s you who gets to choose how you react to whatever happens to you in life.
So, first, read her wise words. Then go give your life meaning – your way.
Late Fragments (William Collins, £14.99) is out now