Jeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they taJeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be with his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they take this painful and unexpected journey.

Joys, journeys and struggles

manor mealAs I approach Christmas next week and look back on these last 2½ months since my diagnosis, we’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and care amongst family, friends and people we’ve never met. It’s been truly humbling. In these last few weeks, we have had some beautiful times as a family. My parents, Trish and Nick, sisters Anna and Julia and brother Hamish have been with us from New Zealand, Australia and London. We were able to share a family celebration marking Ma & Pa’s momentous fifty years of marriage in a special evening event at Rockbeare Manor, a gracious and historic local house owned by our dear friend, Gerard. During the evening, we presented Ma and Pa with title deeds to small plots of land, part of a conservation project, in the Scottish Highlands, thus creating them both as Lord Nicholas & Lady Patricia….time to doff your caps! In these last ten days, Catherine and I have celebrated our Silver Anniversary – twenty five years since our twenty three-year-old selves both said “I will” to each other. Like all marriages, we’ve had our good times and tough times – times when we’ve had to remind ourselves that we said “I will” not “I feel”. In a world which is characterised by the easy ‘if it feels good, do it…and if it doesn’t, throw it away’, I’ve found something different. I’ve experienced that marriage (which in the Bible is used regularly as an analogy and example of Christ’s relationship with us)  is a means of His grace and is a relationship that teaches me so much about His Jem & Cathcommitment to us – one who always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. A covenant that endures all things through thick and thin. While I can be insufferable at times, HE endlessly forgives me one more time than I will ever fall. HE never stops loving me. And I’m called into this relationship with Him, which is not about me, but about another. His best is my goal. As I think about my precious wife, the forgiveness and commitment she has demonstrated over the years, but also the agony, care and love she has shown in these last few weeks since my diagnosis, more than ever makes me see Jesus through her and I realise what a beautiful gem I chose. I’m indeed blessed.

In these last two weeks, we’ve also faced the trial of our son Ben’s illness in Brazil, a relapse and deterioration of a condition with which he was diagnosed in July. As I write, he and his wife Dabi are en route back to the UK with Dabi’s  father accompanying them for extra aid, and due to arrive tomorrow. Ben has thankfully made some good improvement, but there are continuing concerns for his health and the accuracy of the diagnosis. Again, we’ve been grateful for the prayers of many.      

As I face my third session of immunotherapy treatment at the end of this week, I’m feeling very well. After both initial treatments, I’ve had an hour or two of nausea and sickness, but nothing more. Small pea-sized lumps (whether tumours I don’t yet know) have started to appear in my right leg – the area considered to be the primary melanoma site – which may just be a predicted initial reaction to the drug. But other than that, I’m as well as I ever was. The long term journey however continues to take us down paths of light and dark. The family and I remain continually conscious of the realities and possibilities of what we’re facing. Whether it’s with Catherine, the children, or with my parents, with Anna, Julia and Hamish, we’ve all talked about the hard possibility of me not being here. Tears, of course, easily flow and we can hardly consider the sheer veil of sadness it would bring. It breaks my heart to think I could be ‘responsible’ for such pain. Even now as I write, I have to pause to simply sit with my feelings – there’s no quick or easy place to go with them, except to ask Jesus once again for his rod and staff to comfort and help, now and in the future. Psalm 13 has been offered as help and as a great example of what can be called the ‘hinge turning’ – when we express the depth of our anxiety and even anger to God, somehow He makes it so that trust is discovered or renewed.

But within the realm of what could be, I continue to lay myself open to the possibility of being physically healed. After a series of what seemed to be ‘heavenly hints’, I had a special time with my parents visiting the Christian Healing Mission (formerly the London Healing Mission) last week. While I was a theological student in Auckland back in 1992-1994, the then-warden of CHM spoke to our student body and impressed me with this gospel-focussed ministry. A few weeks ago then, Alison, a friend of my mother, emailed me saying that she had visited LHM/CHM from NZ in the late 1980s with a serious medical condition and had experienced a significant healing. Laying on of handsShe’d gone, she wrote, encouraged to do so by a special old mutual friend of ours, (the now late) Margaret Wiggins. Margaret, with her husband, Bishop Max, had lovingly discipled me as a new Christian in Christchurch in the mid-1980s. As I read Alison’s email, it was almost as if Margaret’s encouragement was there once again saying, ‘So, Jeremy, we pray on…and why don’t you go to the LHM too?’. And so with all these ‘hints’, we went. In a very calm environment, and within the context of a healing service with worship and gospel teaching, I received prayer with the laying on of hands and was anointed with oil. Nothing spectacular, just placing the whole situation before Christ once again with my dear parents on either side, both of whom then were also able to receive prayer.

Whilst I struggle enormously with what my illness might do to my beautiful family, I continue to remain peaceful and not fearful for myself. I know that God can heal, but I know that He might choose to work differently. Healing comes in many guises. Physical healing is one kind, emotional another, but strange as it might seem, death, for the Christian believer, is the ultimate healing. My former training vicar and now dear friend, Rob Shimwell, came to stay for 24 hours earlier this month and brought me so much encouragement. He had previously written with words from G.B. Caird’s Bible commentary on the Book of Revelation –   

“The idea that life on earth is so infinitely precious that the death which robs us of it must be the ultimate tragedy is precisely the idolatry that John (in Revelation) is trying to combat.”

Rob then wrote –

Dennis Lennon, quoting this, continues: Our name written in the book of life is what determines our eternal destiny (Rev 21:2) and anything that awakens us to that reality is a mercy, even if a severe mercy.

That’s truly been my experience. It’s had me at times savouring the thought of being face to face with the one who redeemed me, feeling excited about being in the place He has prepared in the Ftapestryather’s house for all who know and love Him. The only thing I struggle with is the timing. That’s the bitter-sweet rub. Why now, Lord? The children, Catherine, my parents, siblings? But then, I don’t see what Father sees – I only view the ‘life tapestry’ from the rear where it’s largely a jumble of threads. Dark threads seemingly horribly cutting across gold ones and where there seems to be no pattern, no picture, where little makes sense.  Father however, at work on the other side, is weaving the most amazing picture full of purpose, goodness and love. He’s weaving away with his ever good purposes.

It was the apostle Paul who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit –

‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit’  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

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Comments on: "Joys, journeys and struggles" (10)

  1. Thanks for sharing Jeremy and know you are in our thoughts and prayers

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  2. Ruth Prince said:

    Your words are so moving. I love the fact that you have recently shared such special celebrations with your closest family.

    If you can accept death as His ultimate healing,that makes its acceptance so simple or does it? We are humans and the thought of separation from our loved ones is unthinkable,is it not? Perhaps it takes time to understand that there is a huge difference between a human terminal diagnosis ie an end to a life we are loving and His promise of eternal life which promises peace and joy beyond our understanding.

    Love Ruth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments & questions, Ruth. There’s a real conundrum there for the Christian, because plainly if we love Christ, the thought of being with him is wonderful. But we love our nearest and dearest and any separation – most of all death – is painful. Within me there’s a gentle acceptance of what might be, but at the same time, as I think of my family, there’s a ‘no, not just now’. It was St Paul’s great dilemma too, and more than ever I understand it.
      As we think of any future parting through death, I think part of the ‘secret’ is found in Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 where he’s talking about Christians facing the death of Christian loved ones, and he says, “We grieve, but not as those without hope’. It’s hard, it’s wrenching. We grieve, but as ones who know there’s a morning coming when ‘all shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’. The fact that ultimately for the Christian, death can do us no more a threat than can a shadow, and it brings us all together one day in His new heaven and new earth, helps us to face death and for those left behind, rebuild our lives with hope…hope in him who said “I am the resurrection and the life’

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  3. Jenny loveless said:

    You are such an inspiration to me. I really struggle with my faith since my husband died very suddenly 2years ago of pancreatic cancer.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brenda Lockett said:

    Inspiring as always Jeremy so good to see you in church this evening at our carol service. The Salvation Army band was great! I hope you all have a lovely Christmas together.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Jeremy, as always you have so much to teach us through your own journey. Thank you. I am praying for all of you knowing you are in the best possible hands.
    Have some wonderful time together at Christmas as the whole family is reunited.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Caroline Colin said:

    Dear Jeremy
    Len and I, and especially Lloyd, continue to pray for you and yours. The peace that passes understanding is pouring through all the blogs and your grace to all of us in sharing your innermost thoughts is a humbling blessing. I deeply desire to visit with you, whenever that is convenient, and would be so grateful if you could be in touch and we could arrange a visit. Len and I travel to Holland on Sunday to spend Christmas with Bronwyn, her husband Antoine and their 4 month old son, Thijs (pronounced Tice) and we return on New Year’s Day. Our love to you and yours this Christmas time. Cas

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  7. Audrey Falloon said:

    Dear Jeremy , Catherine and family, I have been so encouraged by your very honest accounts of your “joys, Journeys and struggles”. I feel quite inadequate to be of any encouragement to you in return. Fortunately I don’t have to, as I can leave that to our loving Lord who knows exactly your needs, and how to meet them. I remember, Jeremy how touched I was when you prayed for me over the phone when my Brian died, and so I pray for you all continually. May you have a most loving and joyful Christmas together. I am looking forward to Malcolm and Sue and family coming up from Dunedin on Christmas Eve. Emmanuel. Love and Blessings, Audrey

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chris Saunders said:

    Jeremy thank you for your honesty and encouragement you convey in your writing. It is a blessings reading this. I was also encountered the LHM at St. Johns – Andy Arbuthnot led a service at one of the churches and preached. The point that stuck in my mind was his saying that there were things in the Bible he didn’t understand but God always revealed to him everything he needed to know.
    Bless you and the family as Christmas the celebration of our Saviour’s birth approaches.
    Chris S (PN)

    Liked by 1 person

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