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.

“We are family…”

the-waltonsI sometimes find myself quietly chuckling each time I start to write a fresh blog post, as, for some reason when I’m looking for a way into the first sentence, I easily hear the voice of John-Boy from my favourite childhood TV show, The Waltons. His gentle tone – in reality it was the show’s creator Earl Hamner – providing the opening narration to each episode depicting his memoirs of early family life, seems to have left an impression on me, giving me a sense of tone, pace and pitch as I start each time to write and describe life, not on Walton’s mountain, but in the familiar yet still strange land we as a family inhabit.

But this last ten days it’s been the Waltons come to life around here as my parents, Trish and Nick, my sisters Anna and Julia, and brother Hamish, then later joined by my brother-in-law Simon, have all arrived in from either Christchurch NZ, Melbourne or Vancouver. And that was preceded two weeks before by my other brother-in-law Kelvin coming for a few days from Melbourne to spend some time with me. At one point during last week, if you were here, you would have heard, “Good night, John-Boy”, “Good night, Mary-Ellen”…well, if you know the show, you’ll know the patter. 


We had a good time together, with Ma and Pa now staying on for a few weeks. But we all knew why we’d come together, even though we’d done it before shortly after my diagnosis two years ago when we thought I only had a very short time to go, not realising how amazing an effect the new immunotherapy drugs would have in that first year, to say nothing of the chorus of prayer.   

line-in-the-sandThis time however, we’ve all sensed that there’s been this fresh line in the sand drawn with not only my brain tumours, but also the increasing appearance of more and more small melanoma tumours just under my skin all over the front of my torso and the fresh increase of the tumour on my neck, all indicators of drug’s lessening effect. That, combined with a conversation Catherine had with a friend very experienced in palliative care, was sobering but really helpful. She indicated that while I seem relatively active and well, she has witnessed some like me suddenly decline rapidly within even a week.

So, rather than dancing round the ‘elephant in the room’ while we were all here in Exeter together, we gathered intentionally on Wednesday morning then again after our meal on Saturday evening to talk about what is going on for each of us as we confront and work through the strong possibility – as painful for us all as that is, including me for them – of my death in the next few months. It was a truly precious time of sharing and being together, enabling me also to say and share something of what I needed them all to know in the clearest terms – that if they were worried for me, they needn’t be as I was feeling so utterly peaceful for myself in the middle of it all, knowing that I have a Saviour who’s taken care of death, beaten it and that I was so aware of His hand on me, and so therefore on all of us, as we walk on. As well, my passion and love for all that the Bible describes of Heaven and my excitement in anticipating it, were as pronounced as ever.

Version 2

In Looe, Cornwall

So, these times of sharing and being together, along with some great days out – to Looe, to Bath and over to Moorlands College and Christchurch, Dorset – allowed Catherine and Lydia to have a good half term break, and allowed us all to create some precious memories together.

Catherine and I were also blessed to attend a weekend away near Daventry in mid-October with the amazing Care for the Family’s Bereaved Parents Support network. We approached the weekend not sure how it would feel as, to some extent, with the recent news on my cancer spread we realised that we’d subconsciously ‘parked’ our ongoing grief for Ben to one side as we were dealing with our latest news. But going along, helped us reconnect and, I suppose, reintegrate those things as we spent some time with other parents. Truth to tell, it was a weekend with painful depths to confront, but gave much at which to smile, and be both still and thankful.

baldy

My hair has been gone for over three weeks. I asked friends on Facebook to decide who I now most resembled – Spike Milligan’s ‘Bald Twit Lion”, Kojak, Sir Patrick Stewart or Walter White? The vote came back for Walter White (although, for those who know the series he’s from, I’m stating clearly I’m cooking nothing stronger than sushi in my kitchen)

I’ve been so encouraged by a number of old friends who’ve travelled both from near and far away to see us in recent weeks. They’ve encouraged us and reminded us that we’ve been placed in an amazing family called the body of Christ. Each visit and times spent also with local friends have been heartening and uplifting. Two conversations rate particular mention, both with longstanding friends – Chris Edmondson and Jonny Elvin. Within both, we spoke about God’s grace. At times, to my natural mind, it seems so far fetched – so amazing – that Christ has done all we need as we face life and eternity. My head sometimes says, how so?  No good works to earn it? No ‘something else’ to top it up to be forgiven, to be in a right relationship with God ? No heavenly brownie points to gain to be safe and secure with God through life and beyond death? No, no, and no. It’s ‘simply’ repent and believe in Christ who died for you. As I spoke with both about it, I simply said, “Tell me it’s really true”. “It’s true”, both said. Amazing grace. It’s the one thing that truly breaks the old rule that says, “if somethings sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.  Not this one.

We’ve also had so much love and care from our local community group at Grace Church with meals, accommodation, lifts and other practical help, which has been immense. One night, the guys from my blokes group, seeing it was a full moon, decided to head up onto Dartmoor, to Hound Tor, where we stayed sheltering next to the Tor, in the dark for an hour or two, having a laugh, sharing communion in the moonlight, praying for each other, worshipping and taking in the vast landscape of Devon in front of us, lit by the moon above and the lights of the villages and towns in the distance.

But among all these activities, Simeon, still on crutches, sat and passed his car driving test. Crazy determination.

Well, as I face my next dose of pembrolizumab (aka Keytruda) this Friday, I’m conscious that the time may be closer when the drug may be withdrawn if it seems it’s still having no effect. In the meantime, I’m starting to feel the effects of some surface tumours, becoming quite sensitive and tender. I’m also finding I’m needing to marshal my speech occasionally  –  the free flow of words isn’t what it was. The decision about the drug won’t be until we get the result of my next scan due in a couple of weeks. Because of that possibility, I’ve felt that it’s been worth asking whether I should be applying to join in any available drug trials for new release medications. That’ll be a conversation taking place over the next week or so.

In the meantime, in my ongoing daily Bible reading, I found some fresh encouragement from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. I once heard a seasoned older preacher saying how important it was to make sure you knew at least something of the main message of each book in the Bible, even some of the more obscure ones, like Habakkuk. He said, “Wouldn’t it be awkward, if you were in heaven, and Habakkuk came up to you and asked, “So, how did you enjoy my book?” Wouldn’t it then be just so awkward having to spend eternity trying to avoid him?!

habakkukIt’s a short book written in the late 7th century BC mainly containing a conversation between God and the prophet Habakkuk regarding Habakkuk’s real disturbance about his nation, about all the unchecked violence, injustices and empty religion he was seeing – things that were happening which seemed so appalling. The conversation develops over the three chapters. And God lays out before Habakkuk what he’s planning on doing. Nothing ever catches Him out or is beyond his ability to sort.

But as this short, three chapter book comes to an end, Habakkuk simply says this –

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. (Habakkuk 3)

It’s really encouraged me, again. The preceding part of book is pretty stark – life will have hassle. Problems come, and problems can remain. The fig tree might not bud, money’s tight, health packs up, friends might let you or I down, dreams we’ve had may be lying in pieces at our feet – or at least they’ve never delivered what we hoped they would. The list can go on.

The world around us looks for ways of taking the problems away, but Father God so often allows that those problems stay and uses them to develop character in us and discover more gold in our relationship with Him. In fact, Jesus says,

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33).

That’s a promise we can bank on because He, the Sovereign God, is so much bigger than anything we face. If we can hold onto Christ despite what is happening, Habakkuk describes that we can even be joyful in the face of sufferings and problems…the one who can know an inner strength from God despite what’s happening. We can do it because we know that with Christ in us…the best is yet to come.   

Advertisements

Comments on: "“We are family…”" (52)

  1. Jenny Loveless said:

    You are such an inspiration to everyone. God bless you . X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Cain said:

    Dear Joshua. I am a Reader in a church in Swindon, formerly from Devon where I was also Chair of the Board of Finance for Exeter Diocese (until 2014), which is how I first became aware of your father’s blog. I have followed the blog since then and have been holding you all in my prayers (as I am sure many, many others have). I just wanted to say how much I appreciated your words of reflection and encouragement, for the very real faith that obviously underpins them and the explanation of the way in which the Bible (in this case, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome) speaks into our lives today. I have a situation here into which your words can offer hope and I thank you. I believe that God works through us just as much in times of trial and suffering as he does in times of joy. He is, after all, the light that can overcome all darkness. David Cain

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this blog. I’ve been concerned because we haven’t heard from you in a little while -it’s so good to know you’ve been enjoying precious time with your family. We appreciate you using your energy and time to continue teaching everyone about God’s truths. By the way, Jeremy without hair is really quite gorgeous!

    Like

  4. Chris Saunders said:

    Again thanks for your inspiration honesty and strength. We continue to pray for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tricia and John said:

    Dear Jeremy and Catherine,
    Looking forward tremendously to seeing you later today and enjoying a few precious hours with you. Thank you for a really inspirational insight into your life, and what it means to know the love and grace of Jesus.
    We’ll be on our way shortly!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Karen Silcox said:

    Thank you for sharing. It is a blessing. Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lorraine Williams said:

    Hi Jeremy
    You’ve only gone and done it again ! Giving glory to God in the midst of your suffering. What a battle head and brave heart you are

    God Bless you from your sister scouse
    Lorraine

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a clear message in here for me today Jem. Thanks mate. (Reaches for bible to read…). Big hugs, big loves, big prayers for you all xox

    Like

  9. Kate Reed said:

    Thanks yet again Jeremy.I thought your next blog was due as you kept coming into my mind!! God is good! Will keep praying. To God be the glory your story has encouraged so many.

    Like

  10. Chris Tucker said:

    Hi Jeremy – always humbling, always encouraging, always inspirational, and still greatly missed here!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Janet cowell said:

    Thanks Jeremy for update. Told Chris Philips about you and she said she had been in touch with you . You were so kind when her husband Terry was ill. Blessings to you all. Jan. X

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Brilliantly God-centred as ever. Btw, I know you won’t have arranged it, but to have an advert for a hairdryer at the end of your blog (c/o Amazon deal of the day)? Priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      LOL… how wonderful is that! Thanks again for Tuesday. It was a real treat to sit and talk. #balm.

      Like

  13. Steven Marshall said:

    Love and prayers from Steven and Diana. Wonderful that your family is there.
    I’m encouraged by your faith.

    Like

  14. Matt Lowe said:

    Dear Jeremy,

    Reading this breaks my heart you are so brave, continually in my thoughts and in my prayers…

    Keep strong savour ever moment, especially with your family if you need anything just ask

    Like

  15. Jeremy

    I don’t know what to say. You are amazing. I am crying and pleading God to heal you. However, only God knows exactly what He has planned for you. You are always an inspiration.
    Paul & Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Knowing we have friends like you walking with us and praying like this is so fantastic. Thanks both. J

      Like

  16. Yvonne Howarth said:

    Ah Jeremy, can’t say I liked this latest blog entry, in fact I most definitely didn’t. Thanking God for you and your wonderful family. Thankful that we have a God to trust in with all our heart, so we dont lean on our own understanding, that in all ways we will acknowledge him and he will show us the way. Jeremy you are a good and faithful servant, thank you for still building us up.
    Hope I remember that verse in case I bump into Habakuk one day, that made me smile.
    Will be thinking about you on Friday.
    Our God is a great big God and he thankfully has you and yours in his hand.
    It’s late now so all that’s left to be said is……. goodnight John boy!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you Jeremy for once again making the time and summoning the effort to write. Once again honest, vulnerable and yet full of faith and hope. Inspiring faith in all who read it. Thank you
    Blessings from California.
    Much love Guy &Tania

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Good to hear from you guys. Hope it’s going even better than you expected and you’re seeing some unexpected doors opening. Missing you both here. J

      Like

  18. Nic the Vic said:

    Love you old friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My dear Jeremy. I will remind you in glory of the wonderful job you did with your blogs. I find ‘eternity’ hard to imagine, but it is real.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      I so agree that it’s hard to get our heads around, but thankfully we’ve had just enough described to give us that sweet foretaste. As for conversations in glory, won’t we marvel at all the amazing ways, both the apparently trivial and tragic, the miraculous and the banal, that God used to draw us to Him? And the conversations will last into eternity, there in the presence of Jesus, wounds still in His hands, feet and side. I’m looking forward to that chat there, Dick!

      Like

  20. Tanya Marlow said:

    I really loved hearing your John-boy voice today. I’m learning so much from you – about how to prepare for death (so counter-cultural), how to live with heartbreak and hope together.

    – It is true. –

    And your Jesus-following inspires my Jesus-following. It helps. Thank you for sharing the gospel and your life with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Tanya…I hope you know how much you have inspired people over the years. Thanks for the encouragement you give me through your words and life. J

      Like

  21. Dear Jeremy, your blog is a powerful and beautiful testament of the Lord Jesus in your life. I Love your honesty and encouragement even in the midst of suffering. So please you have had some special times with the wider family over the last week or so. See you very soon. Much love and prayers xx

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Bob Barnes said:

    Hey Jeremy and Catherine
    You 2 are so encouraging. I put aside all sorts of other things when I see a blog or post from you. You’re so life givin even in the face of death.
    MAKE SURE YOU COLLATE THESE POSTS OF YOURS INTO A BOOK! PLEASE.
    Remember how much a blessing CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed has been. Your writing is right up there. THANK you so much!
    And yes Jesus gift is indeed the exception that proves the rule.
    Grace and peace to you all

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Thanks for your encouragement Bob. There have been a few people who’ve made the same suggestion as you…as it’s an ongoing story, it’s maybe something for the future, and won’t be forgotten. But C S Lewis…my pea brain vs his huge intellect – no comparison! Thanks for it though.

      Like

  23. Sue and Stuart Thomson said:

    Jeremy, in spite of the heartbreak we applaud your inspirational and courageous writing and thank you for ministering to us so beautifully. We were so blessed by the time we spent with you and Catherine at ‘The Church House” and we often think of that beautiful evening. We haven’t given up yet – still praying for you daily. Love to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeremy Clark said:

      Great to hear from you…indeed it was a really good evening we all had after all those years. Thanks for walking with us and keeping us covered. J

      Like

  24. Mary & Peter said:

    thinking and praying for you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. David Williams, Upton said:

    What more can I say, Jeremy, when I read through so many comments of joy and sadness wafted spontaneously through cyber space already? In our own family we are going through testing times helping an older generation with advancing weakness and the future of the world at large seems bleaker by the day. All you and others have written above brings us strength and hope. Thank you all so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Chris Goswami said:

    Thanks again for an encouraging message Jeremy and a pertinent reminder of things that matter – and things that don’t – although I have to say I am now quite worried about someday bumping into Amos and Haggai ……

    Like

  27. Hi Jeremy

    Catherine’s cousin (Ann and William Brennan’s daughter) here. We haven’t spoken in years and you may well not remember me! I only recently saw your blog as my father reads it (when he can work his email account…!). I just wanted to say how impressed I am with your blog and the strength you’ve shown in the face of the toughest of times. And you write in such an honest and clear-headed way.

    I’m wary of showering you with platitudes but I’m so very sorry to hear what you and you family have been through over the last few years. You seem to have a wonderful set of friends and family around you which is great to see.

    Harriet (Brennan)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: