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.

One year fades into another

Man-Stop-Time-ClockPerhaps we’ve all had times in our lives when we would that the calendar could be paused and time’s inexorable march forward halted, or at least paused. It’s what I find myself thinking as 2015 comes to an end. While it remains 2015, I can still say, “I talked with Ben this year, I prayed with him, I walked with him, I laughed with him…I saw him and sat with him, heard his opinion this year”. But 2016 means it’ll be, “Last year Ben and I…”. That’s a more difficult one to swallow. It seems to emphasise his quiet fading into the past. His most recent photos will become those from last year, then another year, and still another. Today as I write, it’s a year to the day since Ben collapsed under a seizure while he and Dabi were out walking with us. It proved to be the start of the journey into the last phase of the illness from which he would never recover.

Gower

Rhossili Beach and the Wormshead, Gower Peninsula

While 2015 has seen both its profoundly painful times and far-reaching life changes, it’s also seen more than a few gifts from Father’s hand. Among them, a house of our own to live in, a permanent teaching post for Catherine and an awareness of an enormous amount of love and friendship we’re privileged to have surround us. And this last four weeks of December has been a month of precious times within our family circle. Christmas day was an unexpectedly happy and peaceful time as we celebrated in the morning with Joshua’s church family in Honiton, placed flowers on Ben’s grave before midday and then sat to eat and relax with each other – just Catherine, me, Simeon, Tom, Joshua and Lydia – laughing, sharing and reflecting, all the time of course conscious of a large gap. Tom had turned 21 just days before and eleven days before that, Catherine and I had celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. She and I were treated to a The Hill Church, Swanseaweekend away by both our church and the Hill Church in Swansea, spending two nights on the beautiful Gower Peninsula in Wales. We were then privileged to share our family story and testimony as Robin Vincent, pastor of the Hill Church, interviewed us for half an hour at their main service late on the Sunday afternoon. Sharing it once again made me realise afresh that often we can find and experience more of God’s grace and strength in the dark times, and that we can more profoundly grow in a real understanding of His character as we go through difficult seasons. As I particularly discovered in 2007/08 during an intensely dark and painful time in my life, one caused by my own failure, that rather than these times being occasions that might make us either wonder where God is, if He exists or why He permits suffering, they’re times He allows (or even sometimes causes if he’s disciplining us in His Fatherly love). They’re seasons that can offer profound opportunities to know Him more as our own bag of resources for coping is emptied and He’s all we have left. We discover further depths of His love, His forgiveness, His grace – in more ways than we could if the proverbial sun always shone. They’re times for which we can be thankful and ultimately embrace, if only in hindsight. Days after we came back from the Gower, I read these words in the Old Testament prophet Habakuk…

” Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights”

If a man or woman has really gotten to know Him, then even when our soul’s season feels to be winter, you and I can still trust Him by holding onto who we already know Him to be – and that He hasn’t withdrawn or deserted us. They can be times of invitation to come into a deeper experience of trust and fellowship with God, to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 

Surgery 2I’m going to hold onto that as the new year arrives and I face at least three hours of surgery under general anaesthetic on 5th January. The MRI scan results I wrote about in my last blog have led the specialists to recommend removal not only of the increasingly swollen lymph node under my arm, but also two growing and hardening melanoma ‘deposits’, one on my inner thigh and the other on my back. I’ll be in hospital for at least two nights, and then unable to drive for 4-6 weeks. Catherine is understandably anxious about it all as in so many ways she’s often more affected by all the potentials than I am. In myself, I’ll be glad for the surgery because of the discomfort I’ve been increasingly getting. It’s no fun waking up at night finding that the node under my arm has been pressing against nerves and left me with a dead arm. Post surgery, after a few weeks, I’ll be scanned again, at which point a decision will be made about any need for fresh immunotherapy. My ongoing and sometimes intense spells of tiredness make me aware of the ongoing effects of the disease.               

Year changingAs 2015 comes to an end perhaps I don’t wish for time to slow down after all as I remind myself that every hour is an hour closer to that breathtaking time the scriptures plainly promise when, for any of us who in this life have placed the weight of their life’s trust on Jesus Christ, we’ll see Him face to face and “all shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. There’ll also be lots of smiles of happy recognition and reunion as we see those others who we knew and loved who had also trusted Jesus the saviour in this life, but now there in the bible-promised new creation. Not among the clouds and harps of the caricature cartoons, but in the physical yet spiritual place that the Bible so clearly and repeatedly describes, heaven and earth recreated and combined – with resurrected and perfected bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body, living eternally. It’s a vision of God’s grand future for which I long, yearning for it most of all because of what John saw and recorded in Revelation when he said,

For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

ResolutionAs the calendar flicks over into 2016 and if you’re one for New Year resolutions, Old Testament prophet Jonah gives both an ancient warning and encouragement for 2016 when he says,

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs  (Jonah 2:6)

Whatever that idol might be – something material, some habit or lifestyle, our pride or ego, things which we so easily grasp hold of and pursue – they’re things that ultimately can cause us great harm and loss. Christ, once the baby of Bethlehem but who was to become the game-changer, the death-defeater, the life-giver through his death on the cross, offers us grace – simply meaning his undeserved favour. Rather than the utter horror of hell  – the place of God’s and therefore good’s absence, and the place that Jesus described more than he did heaven – it’s now eternal life offered through the blood-bought invitation to you and me to lay those idols down, to profoundly turn and trust, and take hold of the life in Christ. Held out to us is the promise of a place for each in the Kingdom to come, in the Father’s house, around His throne, within the beauty of Eden restored, utter contentment and sheer joy.

I’m so up for that.

I resolve therefore in 2016 to continue to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Following can be tough. It can be inconvenient. It raises questions. It causes others to ‘tut’, to even dislike us. It can be painful. Just look at those faithful Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian Christians refusing to disown Jesus before numerous ISIS jihadi executioners. But somehow, they knew it was worth it. Because He’s worth it, and with Him, the best is yet to come.

I wish you a great Christmas season and a happy New Year 2016, discovering more of the wonder of God and what He’s ultimately got planned. 

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Comments on: "One year fades into another" (18)

  1. Great post Jeremy, thanks! Hopefully see you soon, but if not, I’ll be thinking and praying for you for the 5th. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As usual you leave me wanting more Jeremy , more of your wisdom and encouragement. I too have a mini, no micro mini procedure early Jan, on the 6th I have my other cataract sorted, so I will have extra time to pray for you and yours especially dear Catherine.
    My new phrase that I love and used on face book, over the festive season and now hangs as a plaque by our kitchen table is ‘Eat, drink and be thankfull’. So often we, meaning particularly me, are not thankful, for food on our plates, homes, warmth, friends, etc, etc and in particular for our faith. I find myself checking what I’m saying and thankfulness doesn’t come into my mind or on my lips enough, so I’m going to be trying to do more of that as we roll into 2016. Even thankful that I’m getting old, my biggest worry!!
    I have had painful rejection on speaking out about my faith on face book, it caused me to be uncomfortable about writing about my faith on there so stopped!! I’m praying for encouragement to Stand up, stand up for Jesus, to be a soldier of the cross, to lift high his royal banner and know ill not suffer really!!!! Painful as it is, we do need to profess our faith firmly resolved in the knowledge that he’s got us and that’s all that really matters.
    Think I’m rambling on a bit now so better close, but remember how loved you are as you face surgery again, remember we all do love and feel for you and I for one give thanks for you and this extension on your life that God has given, how exciting that he’s not done with you yet!! Yes there it is again, I’m definitely thankful that we get to hear more of your blog ministry!! 😆
    Much, much love and blessings on you and yours, as we enter 2016 and raise our glasses to those we said goodbye to in the last year. See you soon Ben!!
    Yvonne. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Yvonne. As ever, your a delight and encouragement reminding me of those times when all our children were small together when we first arrived in the UK.

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  3. gwen adshead said:

    Dear Jeremy
    Through your Christmas card and letter to my mother, I have now had a chance to read your blog and start following it. I found it moving beyond words; yet also a comfort and an inspiration. I share your faith that God does not leave us at these times of suffering, and that we can grow to know Him better; still, some earthly part of me could wish that you and your family had been spared this loss and pain last year. Still some other words of Julian’s come to mind: He did not say, “you will not be distressed”. He did not say, “You will not be tempest tossed”. He did say, “You will not be overcome”.

    Thank you so much for your blog and your witness, through which the Father’s love shines through. With all those who read your blog, I will be praying for you and the success of your surgery.

    With love and prayers
    Gwen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gwen, it’s so good to read your words – thanks for writing so thoughtfully and encouragingly. Your family have been a precious part of my life – your mother, a crucial part in my time at Elstree and meeting Catherine. As I write, I’m sitting opposite the piano in my study here in Exeter on which my grandmother taught your sister, Laura in Christchurch many years ago. Much love to you all!

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  4. What an honour to have you visit the Hill Swansea. Really appreciate your honesty and encouragement. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your words. Your family are incredible in their faith

    Liked by 1 person

  6. John & Val said:

    GOD BLESS YOU ALL

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jennie Archer said:

    Thank you yet again Jeremy for your profound and inspirational words. Mike and I have no idea what 2016 will bring but in truth no one actually knows what lies ahead of them do they?. All I know is we can trust God. He will be with us all the way and I’m sure that’s what has strengthened and supported me up to now. We have just been ‘getting on’ with life and have been so blessed along the way by family and friends.
    Praying for you and the family as you face surgery God bless you all
    Jennie

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kate Woolven said:

    Jeremy, thank you so much for your encouragement and wisdom. Your blog is an inspiration which I have appreciated reading over the last year or so (longer I think), bless you and Catherine and the family. I will be praying for you for 5th.
    with love
    Kate

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kate. We must all catch up soon. In the meantime, thanks for your and Jonathan’s support and prayer. It means much. J

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  9. Lisa Smith-Paterson said:

    my thoughts and prayers are with you all today xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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