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.

Light Piercing the Silence

Clock busynessMy many weeks of silence since last I wrote have been for a number of reasons, but perhaps really only one. With the busyness of our house move eight weeks ago, taking my brother’s wedding in Kent and a holiday with our wider family from New Zealand and Australia, followed by clearing the Vicarage over these last few weeks and numerous associated trips to the charity shop warehouse and recycling centre, it’s been a non-stop season of change, with lots of joys and things to remember.

anguished prayerBut perhaps the real reason is that it’s been painful to stop. For each time I do, the reality of Ben’s death sits on me. Its noise means that there is no easy sitting in quiet without it drowning out what silence I have, making times of quiet – even to pray – feel impossible. Even as I write now, I find my jaw clamping and my eyes welling, and something deep down inside me crying out with an extended, “No! no!…this cannot be!” On 27th July it was his and Dabi’s second wedding anniversary and eight days ago, it was 100 days since his death and I know it’s high time to write again. I know that in writing, it’ll help me continue to process and own what’s going on inside and prayer will come more easily, allowing a river of healing to start to flow more and more as I keep saying, “Father, I don’t get all that’s happened and don’t understand ‘why?’ …but I trust You’.

We’re all as a family adjusting and supporting each other as we go; keeping Ben’s name as common currency around the house has been vital as have been the tears and the occasional meltdowns. There are those particularly tough moments such as our visits to his grave when we see the small plaque in the ground reading “Benjamin Clark…Died 28th April 2015…At Rest…Aged 23”, and we feel more speechless than before. How helpless did I feel when Simeon arrived at the house two weeks ago having laid some flowers at the grave, and looked at me through tear-stained eyes and said, “Dad, don’t you go too – I couldn’t stand it”. All we could do was hold each other through our tears.   

Friends helpingIt’s been such a gift to have so many friends around us – those who’ve helped us move, visited, those who’ve assembled furniture, stripped wallpaper and painted rooms for us, who’ve had us over for meals and prayed with us. Our family at Grace Church here in Exeter have been superb – to walk into the Sunday morning gatherings and hear from God’s unchanging Word and sing powerful hymns, many written hundreds of years ago and sung by the saints over the generations, expressing timeless, unchanging truths about our wonderful Saviour God. They’ve been a life line. So too have been times with the blokes from Grace Church in our community group as we meet regularly for breakfast to share and pray for each other. To have been able to cry with them has been releasing. It’s been a heartening reminder of what the body of Christ can do and be as it carries along one part of the body that’s hurting.        

Finally, after what was an inconclusive autopsy, we have had news from Ben’s neurologist as to the the likely cause of death. Having disseminated the histology results around the world, he asked us to meet him recently to tell us that the not-yet-proved, but likely cause of death is a new and rare virus known as Henipavirus. It is one which has, up until this point, only been found in north-eastern Australia, Malaysia, Madagascar and Ghana. It arises from the urine of a fruit bat infecting fruit which is then ingested, or can be picked up from horses which have been infected from the fruit bat. The fact that the incubation period is quite short indicates that because Ben hadn’t visited any of those places (with the exception of Malaysia many years ago), he most likely contracted it in Brazil, making him possibly the first case to be found there. Dr Harrower was clear with us that there is no known cure for it yet. Whilst it’s cold comfort to know this, we were strangely helped as it would have been harder to discover he’d died from something for which there was a cure. He also shared with us that, had he lived any longer, Ben would have deteriorated physically and become increasingly mentally impaired. Again we felt a sense of relief that he was spared this. But nonetheless, we process this information with a mixture of unreality and more than a few “Why?..Why Ben?…How?…?”

Next Friday, I have an appointment to register his death at the Civic Centre. The following day would have been his 24th birthday. We’re gathering with some family and friends for a picnic near Plymouth, his home for three years until 2013, to mark it. It was great to have been down in Plymouth two days ago in a recording studio as Ben’s oldest friend, Sam Chapple, recorded his own arrangement of Amazing Grace in tribute to Ben.    

Medical good newsIn terms of my own health, just yesterday, I had the good news from my oncologist that after a CT scan two weeks ago, my tumour has further reduced in size – not as much as last time, but it’s going in the right direction. And we must remember that this is a cancer which up until recently was  considered rampant and virtually unstoppable. Whether it’s principally the ipilimumab or the 10,001 people around the world joined in prayer for me, I’ll not know this side of the grave. But I’m content to thank Father for His work through any and all methods. We’ve all collectively breathed a sigh of relief – the days leading up to my results always cause some anxiety. Josh has described the feeling well in a song he’s just written and recorded, entitled Diagnose…to listen to it, click here. But to help enhance the good flavour of the day, Josh also found out yesterday that he passed his A Levels. This, on top of some great Uni results for Tom (who had to sit a late exam in Cardiff this week because of one he missed on the day of Ben’s burial), means we can all feel a good measure of thankfulness. 

IMG_2097And so the journey continues for us all. Dabi remains at her parents home in Brazil slowly rebuilding, while we here in Exeter also watch our changed lives take shape in a new house that feels like home already. We’re very much loving living in St Thomas just a short walk from Exeter’s beautiful quayside and feel so grateful to so many, and ultimately Father God, for making it possible. We still pinch ourselves to think how it all came about. With the Vicarage now cleared and cleaned, all that remains to be done is to relocate a few plants from the Vicarage garden in September to go in our small – but bijou – new garden which is about to undergo a miniature ‘grand designs’ makeover.

As we walk into the future, I’m reminded from the scriptures of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan to turn his back on his Father and give up on His character and promises. Whilst I’m not necessarily being tempted with the same things, nonetheless there’s always the lure through all that’s happened, to listen to that other dark voice that says, “Give up. With all that you’ve been through, surely there’s nobody there to hear your prayers and help. It’s all wishful thinking”. But the eyes of faith see something else. They recognise the presence of Christ, the hand of God, working through and with our pain to bring us to a deeper experience of His goodness and amazing grace. The eyes of faith see that in the hour of Christ’s greatest agony on the cross when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” followed by the words on his dying breath, “It is finished” – that even then, when things seemed bleakest, darkest and out of control, God was doing His greatest work for us. I tell my soul in these moments that we live through, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” His past faithfulness gives me hope today. Like Christ in the wilderness, it’s a case of holding onto Father’s firm Word. It’s not a blind faith or a ‘religion’ – it’s a relationship and trust in Someone attested to by multiple eye witnesses who were prepared to put life and limb on the line because of what they’d seen and heard, carefully recorded (with now an almost embarrassing wealth of unchanged manuscript evidence to show the written record we have in scripture hasn’t been changed), and based on the fact of His resurrection from the dead. Because of the ultimate vindication that Jesus’ resurrection gave, it’s a blazing signpost saying here is One, unlike anyone else ever, that we should listen to above all others and build our lives around. And that, through thick and thin, He can be trusted. He’s my champion. My hero. Our champion, our hero.

Arohanui – big love – to you all.

A few practical matters….

For those who’d like our new address, please click here…it’ll generate an email you simply then need to send without adding further text (unless you want to!) On receipt of the email, I’ll reply with the details.

If you’re at St Mary’s, Upton, a Clark family contingent hope to be with you this Sunday evening! 

As well, if you’re reading this having linked into it through Ben’s Facebook page, and you want to keep up with this blog, as Ben’s page is about to be closed down, please subscribe directly to this blog by signing up in the box at the top right of this page.

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Comments on: "Light Piercing the Silence" (21)

  1. Jenjohnleach@yahoo.co.uk said:

    Hello Jeremy, This is Jennifer and John Leach ( nephew of the late David Leach). We have followed your blog for many months, through the unimaginable heartache that you have all been through. Just a few minutes ago we were remembering David who died a year ago tomorrow. As we were talking about him we heard the “ding ” of an email and there you were telling us your good news! Coincidence or divine intervention?! So pleased to hear that you are doing well With very best wishes John and Jennifer

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • So good to hear from you. It seems unbelievable that it’s a year since David went. I think of him regularly. Much love to you both.

      Like

  2. Christine Curd said:

    So glad to hear your tumour is going in the right direction. And I know exactly what you mean about the prayer issue. I couldn’t pray except to yell at God for several months after what happened in our family, but there are times when it is others who hold us, and I had a sense of a father holding tight to a desperate child. I still have a sense of unreality looking at Sam’s grave five years on. When it feels as if all guiding lights have disappeared, the masts are broken, the sails useless and the engine broken and the radio down, we have an anchor and it’s as strong as Gods love. Still horrible being in the storm though, very disorienting and I get sea sick! And I really realised how it is possible to enjoiy the green pastures whilst also being in the dark valley ….hmmm not too much of a preach I hope ,,,,enjoy the house and the area. Love to you all.

    Like

  3. Jane & Ivan said:

    Hi Jeremy – I have just been reading your blog out loud to Ivan sat in our conservatory. ‘Powerful stuff!’ he said… your words are indeed…. honest… raw … real… and wonderful too, for you can see the beauty of God’s love and tenderness throughout. We’re thanking God for your good news and praying for continued healing. It was good to get news, so thank you for the update. You and all the family continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. love Jane

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jane & Ivan. As I’m trying to tell it how it is, I hope it can bring some measure of encouragement, no matter what each of our different circumstances are. I trust you’re both settling well into your new home. J x

      Like

  4. What, Jeremy???…Clarks coming to St M on Sunday evening. ??

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jeremy. I simply want to say thanks for everything you write. You are an inspiration to us all. Martin

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Martin. I don’t so much feel like an inspiration – just one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. Much love to you and Ruth.

      Like

  6. annika phillips said:

    Hello Jeremy, we continue to follow your updates, and I felt it time to comment. I can’t help but feel a tiny portion of what you are feeling as I read this, bittersweet times. Whilst it is indeed just jaw dropping that the tumor continues to shrink, to read your thoughts regarding Ben, is truly emotional. I feel for you both, as parents. It is warming to see the support you have around, if we can ever be of assistance. Please do ask. We would only be too happy. Sending much love from our family, to yours. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yvonne Howarth said:

    Thank you Jeremy, I’ve missed your blogs. This one made
    me tearful, as I read about Ben. Hope you liked the photo I sent, it was a lovely class outing to Erddig Farm. His little freckled face with his deep, gentle trusting eyes are a comfort as I think of them alive again.
    I see were Simeon comes from as I’ve prayed that loosing you now would be to much for your file to cope with, thank goodness for the everlasting arms.
    When will we get to hear Sam’s tribute to Ben, will it be available to buy?
    We shouldn’t be surprised by your results should we, it’s what we have all been praying for, must keep the prayers going up though so the blessings will keep coming down.
    I have been in touch with Dabi, my heart goes out to her.
    Looking forward to a hug or two on Sunday evening.
    Much love to you all and continued prayer. Yvonne. X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Yvonne. The photo you sent is wonderful. We have it set among our family photos in the hallway. I hope that a copy of Sam’s tribute track will be available sometime soon. We very much hope to see you at StM!

      Like

  8. Hi Jeremy and Catherine. Thank you for your heart-warming words. We continue our prayers for you (and rather glad you have broken your ‘silence’!)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gill and Tony Wills said:

    Thank you Jeremy – we have just lost a dear friend who was a committed Christian, but our sadness was to be abroad so not able to attend her funeral. Your words have helped so much, and she, like us , would have been overjoyed to hear of your latest results. She was never going to give up and always said the power of prayer confounded the oncologist who would have ceased treatment 2yrs ago. Our love to and your family, and thank you for writing again, from Gill & Tony (Ann & Roger’s friends from Bedford)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sue Hutchings said:

    Dear Jeremy and family,

    You don’t know me. I go to the River church in Exeter and live in the St. Thomas area, and have been praying for you all very much every day, with heartfelt prayers and tears, for all you have been through in your loss, grief and pain. I feel led to write to you, as I wanted you to know that my son, Dan, who is 23, went to school with Ben (we used to live in Copplestone near Crediton)..They were quite friendly. Daniel has been very far from the Lord for sometime which saddens me deeply. I had been praying for him to return to the Lord and to church. Ben’s Home Calling affected Daniel profoundly, and as a result of which he rang me up in tears when he heard about Ben and told me he was going to come back to church, and told me he loved Jesus. As a mum myself I share with you the loss of a son, I cannot even begin to comprehend what you are going through, but my prayer for you is that Dan coming back to the Lord after sooo long away will be a small comfort to you all. My Grandma lost her eldest son years ago and I remember her grief and pain. Only Jesus Himself can come along beside you all and heal such pain and loss….

    What a HOPE we have, that you know for total certainty where Ben is and that you will see him again… Christ appeared to me in 2004 when I was going through a very dark time in my life, He is so real and full of the deepest compassion for you …. One day you will understand why this happened and why you have had to go through so much. In the meantime He is walking alongside you every minute of every day… Your newsletters and your incredible faith are a huge inspiration to all of us, like you will never know. If there is anything at all I can ever do please do not hesitate to let me know. I live in Manor Road , St. Thomas.

    Please be assured of my prayers for you that Jesus will sustain you, up-hold you and give you all the strength and peace you need.

    Yours in Christ.

    Sue Hutchings.

    Liked by 1 person

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