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.

Head and heart

rainbow-in-the-rain-2From time to time, some people coming within our family circle find our use of graveyard or black humour quite bizarre, before they key into it and understand that it’s been an essential part of walking through these last two years; that facing all that’s happened with confidence, punctuated with agony, but facing it with Christ means that the very worse that life throws at any of us, is far in excess trumped by Him. So when one of our children, commenting on the blue disability parking badge, bus pass, motability and various government helps that have been offered, said, “Dad, having cancer’s great…you should have got it years ago!”, we all smiled.

Or when a friend asked me for some advice on some matter a couple of weeks ago, and I replied, straight faced, “Sorry, but I’m only dealing in end of life advice at the moment”, he looked perplexed, then after a moment smiled, “Oh, you and your humour!”  We laughed. 

knowing-godBut I’m so aware that it’s with a real degree of equanimity and peace that I continue to face it all. And as I quiz myself and ask ‘why?’, my only answer is that it’s almost entirely due to Christ and the effect of knowing Him. There was one point in His ministry where He’d just given some very hard teaching which made many among the much wider group of disciples and followers (apparently numbering into the hundreds) grumble and which even offended them. It’s described how many of them simply turned away and stopped following.

But that’s Jesus. He doesn’t shrink back from saying things we need to hear, from speaking truth to us, about both us and Himself that might offend us; he even at times brings things into our lives that might be uncomfortable, even painful. It’s all for our ultimate best, comfort, growth…and His glory. So easily though we want to domesticate and tame Him and turn Him into some kind of equivalent to a polite English gentleman and in doing so, create God in our own image.

But on that day when so many turned away from following, Jesus turned to the disciples and said,

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6)

I suppose that’s where I’ve found myself too over these times, and afresh in the face of the news about my brain tumours, the increase in signs of disease around my body and the time frames my oncologist has given. The thought that there are now these tumours apparently multiplying in my body’s control centre is something that I always thought would be a source of huge anxiety and fear. But it’s strangely not been – more like reflection, calm and peace. I guess it’s because I know nowhere – no, more than that – I know No-One else to whom I can go except the same Jesus who asked the disciples that question that day. I don’t feel myself to be inspirational – only just “one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread”. Like Simon Peter, there’s no one else I know to whom I can go. It all feels to me like a ‘no brainer’…here’s God come down, long predicted from 1000s of years before that He would come, born in human form, who walked our walk, who stood nails-and-thornsin our shoes, who took my place of punishment for all my muck and sin that separates me from knowing God and, in love for me and us, died in our place – a great exchange, God’s life for mine, for ours – died, dead. And then to prove He’s conquered it and sin’s consequence, rose again from beyond death to prove it and to ever live and reign, inviting us to hitch our wagon to His, to bind ourselves to Him through repentance and faith, to truly know Him then as we experience His Spirit come live in us, giving us a new life and way…and into eternity. Unique. No one else like Him. As Peter said,

“To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

So it’s peace and joy for the believer. I can just nod my head in agreement with St Paul in the New Testament and say with him,

“To live is Christ, and to die is gain”  Philippians 1:21

valley-of-shadowBut as many will know, reading my writing over these two years, the rub comes though when I, as ever, see and think about Catherine, Simeon, Tom, Joshua, Lydia, Ma and Pa, my sisters, brother and ….well, the list ripples out to precious other family and friends. The timing jars with my human sensibilities. We cry together, we talk, we share pain. But I’ve also found myself getting to the point regularly where I’ve said to myself, to Catherine and each of the children, that if Jesus is good and great enough to have beaten death and is strong enough to carry me safely over the threshold into the wonderfully described eternity that the Bible details, then He’s good, great and strong enough to carry them. To carry them through the dark valley of Psalm 23 we’re all anticipating…but also back out again, implied in the use of the word ‘through’, into the light. It doesn’t mean they’ll be smiling and happy within a short time…they are going to need more love, practical care, nurture and support than I can imagine (and I mention it here deliberately)…it’ll be a major rebuilding, which even now I pray into, often with moist eyes. That it’s such a regular part of Catherine and my pillow talk, I can’t tell you. Agony and anguish seeking to lay its head down each night onto peace.

munch-mask

(Click to enlarge) I’ve mentioned the humour. We had some fun with my now discarded radiotherapy mask, thinking there was a certain resemblance to Edvard Munch’s painting ‘The Scream’, don’t you think?  And then I found it dressed up in the hall.

Last week’s five sessions of daily radiotherapy have brought that part of my treatment to a close. It was good going into it having had some re-assuring prayer times with both the guys from Grace Church one evening in the context of a living room communion and then a number of city church leaders who gathered in our garden with some anointing oil to again ‘lay on hands’ and pray for the effects of what could potentially do some damage. But arriving for my first session last Monday and then for the next four days, being screwed fast to the table, held down by my specially moulded head mask under the machine, was a strangely relaxing experience as the amazing machine using what is now a hundred year old X-ray technology (but a hundred times the strength and powered by the latest technology) passed around my head, irradiating my brain on both sides. The only sensations were bright lights coming at me (“Stay away from the bright lights”, good friend, Marc, commented later!) and then purple ones into my peripheral vision. It turns out that the purple is more likely to have been the effect of the X-ray on my optic nerve. It’s a strange thing to know that it’s acted inside my brain, but I felt nothing and still don’t, apart from a slightly red face and warm head. The fuller effect is expected to visit in the next few days and weeks as possible hair loss, discomfort, memory loss and difficulty concentrating. We now wait to see if the intended effect of it all – ‘re-setting’ the brain’s gatekeeping ability to keep the admittedly increasingly ineffective pembrolizumab/keytruda drug out –  will work. My routine drug infusion continues every three weeks until it may get to the point where it’s plainly doing nothing. That decision and moment be a line in the sand, a bump in the road, we’re having to talk about, not knowing how that will feel. In the meantime, as James Grier arrived at the hospital for my last infusion ten days ago, I laid my hand on the drug line as James, Tim and I prayed that, if Father would cause it, it would prove to be an effective dose. 

img_4106Meanwhile, so many have been regularly asking about Simeon and his broken pelvis after his motorbike accident. He’s doing pretty well, but remaining off his feet for eight weeks, getting bored and feeling cooped up in his – thankfully – single level, ground floor flat, with his motorbikes temptingly visible outside his window but frustratingly unable to be ridden. To help, hilariously he’s managed to buy a cheap mobility scooter to get down to the shops. He thinks it’s pretty fun and it’s given him some freedom…even though it’s something of a comedown from a fast 636cc Kawasaki road bike.

Such a gift it was to spend wonderful time with long term precious friends as Robyn & Peter Thew from NZ, Jo McNamara, Ben’s godmother from Australia came Version 2and then Rob and Di Shimwell – Rob, a former colleague – over a meal and evening. As wonderfully encouraging too and a proud time it was to watch Tom complete in the Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday and then to help deliver Joshua over to Moorlands College near Christchurch in Dorset yesterday to start his degree in applied theology. Catherine, Lydia, Joshua and I had a special time of prayer on our bed the night before he left and committed him to the Lord as he steps into his next chapter of his life. Tim and Kathryn, staying here with us from NZ for the last four weeks, serving and assisting us so quietly and carefully, leave us this weekend and will be so missed. It’s been a gift having them share our home and journey.    

My prayer for so many people I try to lift before Father each day has been shaped by words I read again recently from Paul in Ephesians, chapter one, that God would,

“…give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better” 

Seems a good way to pray for myself, for us, for others. 

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Comments on: "Head and heart" (30)

  1. Thank you Jeremy. Every time I read your blog I do feel I know God much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bishop Bob Evens said:

    Thank you for teaching me more of what it means to be a Disciple of Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tricia and John said:

    Jeremy,
    Another amazing insight into your illness and also your perception of the temporal nature of it, and also of our whole life on earth. Thank you. Please know that we will continue to support you and Catherine for as long as we can, and we hope to come down and see you in a few weeks time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Karen Silcox said:

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Judith Hunter said:

    Beautiful eloquent writing as ever. There can’t be a more real insight into cancer, life, death written! Thank you for that. The peace you are feeling, as you rest in His presence, transcends through your words!
    The hymn ‘God is working his purpose out’ has come to mind as I’m writing this.
    God bless you all and may you continue to draw comfort from Him.
    Love
    Judith x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter Benge said:

    Please stop making me tear up!

    xxx Helen

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christina said:

    Jeremy . My sister Margaret died this morning after a fierce battle to stay, and then I read your blog, I feel the comfort from it just like you did when Terry died all those years ago.you are surrounded by love what a blessing.Christina

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rev Simeon Damdar said:

    You were strong and very dedicated and active. “Where is James?.( Answer in Loud Voice)… After Hebrews.”
    Now, not at the Base, nor in or on the Pulpit. W E A K, But in the Lord…STRONG. “When I am weak, then I am strong.”…reaching and touching many lives and strengthening them in the Faith….something which could or may not be achieved if you were in the Pulpit.
    Though with much tears you have brought your family nearer to the Lord, and many others, as they read your BLOG.
    We pray for the healing also of Simeon.
    Shalom and Blessings to you and the Family. Have to find appropriate time to ring.
    Simeon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Thanks, dear Simeon. I hope you remain well. I always remember you saying when asked how you were, “Fine, well, thriving thankyou…it’s just my body that’s not so good”. Great answer. I often quote it still!

      Like

  9. Judy West said:

    You have been and will continue to be constantly in our prayers. The strength that comes through the words you write touches us deeply as you face each challenge with God at your side. Thinking of you
    Judy and John

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Chris Saunders said:

    Hi Jeremy you’re writing is so inspirational. Continuing to pray for you. we have moved to Paraparauu Beach from PN – closer to the kids in Wellington and Naenae.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Inspiring as always… And great to bump into you and your friends yesterday! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Liz and Ron Hay said:

    We continue to follow your blog with wonder and with deep concern as you tell of your journey, and that of your family’s too, with such a blend of deep faith and everyday human thoughts and feelings. Delighted to read of the ‘black humour’ – so necessary. When my father was dying, he and my brother shared that same humour – it helped enormously. Praying on – from the other side of the world, while you are sleeping…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Ron & Liz, your words reminded me of the hymn verse…
      “The sun that bids us rest is waking
      Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
      And hour by hour fresh lips are making
      Thy wondrous doings heard on high”
      ….always so aware of the ongoing prayer support from the homeland! Thankyou.

      Like

  13. Diane Fraser said:

    I feel all your blogs should be put into book form to share in a wider format the reality of life in Christ.
    The faith, strength and hope that you share has been and is a blessed encouaregment to all who read -not ‘sugar coated’ or ‘wearing blinkers’ but open and real.
    You share the trials and struggles but also remind us of the abiding love, peace, grace and hope that Father God has for us. You are an inspiration to us all as God continues to minister to you and through you. We continue to lift you and yours up into His love and care, praying for His strength and healing power to be at work in you and through you. X

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Harry Williamson said:

    Hi Jeremy, Harry from Blackpool here. It was so good to meet you recently and to get to know you. I must admit your opening line ‘Hi my name is Jeremy and I have terminal cancer’ threw me a bit! However, as we got to know each other over the weekend that fact seemed to take a back seat, not that it was trivialised it was just there were other things we talked about as we got to know each other. I found you an inspirational person and enjoyed the time that my wife Angela and I spent with both you and Catherine hearing about your children, especially Ben. I have started reading your blog, clearly I have a lot of catching up to do, it reads exactly as you are, if that makes sense! Love to you and Catherine from sunny Blackpool. Harry & Angela xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Thanks Harry and Angela. It was so good to meet you both too and be a part of such an encouraging weekend spent with you and the others as we all shared about losing a child. Thanks for your caring leadership of the group and your listening. Keep in touch. J

      Like

  15. Chris Goswami said:

    Just found your blog Jeremy (via Premier). Its a great read, and a wonderful “doubt dispeller”. Bless you as you continue in your journey

    Liked by 1 person

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