The Last Step

Today I made a phone call I had been procrastinating about for days, the one to the travel agent. There's no question that it had to be made, but to pick up the phone and ask for her to cancel our tickets was a final and complete admission that no, after all this planning and all this anticipation we were not going after all. Another little step. Another little loss.

I know about operations. I know what to expect: the kind people who will put me on one of those odd, movable beds, put a mask on my face and wake me 15 seconds later with a furnace burning in my belly and tubes sticking into my arms. I know about this and I'm apprehensive but not frightened. The real grief of illness is over an accumulation of small losses and some not so small: Travel of course; privacy; dignity;freedom of movement; physical fitness; the belief in the indestructibility of my body; My sense of infallibility. Some losses loom threateningly just over the horizon, too bewildering to contemplate in their entirety:continence; sexuality and therefore my identity; perhaps even life itself.

There are two things about this sense of loss that I have got to remind myself of: 1) that all these things which I may be about to lose have been given to me absolutely free and undeserved and I have had unrestricted , well almost, use of them for decade after decade after decade. 2) I am going to lose all of these things eventually anyway. Not one of them is going with me into eternity, no not one, not even a little bit. The grief is not so much the loss itself, as having a date set on the loss.

There is a last time for everything. There will be a last time I hear the double D concerto or see a sunrise or take a photograph. There will be last meetings, last views, last tastes. Just as there was a first kiss there will be a last one. We all know this to be true and pretend mightily that it isn't. Illness strips away that pretense. It sets a date. It reminds us that life is not an endless loop but a cord of finite length.

These little losses also bring a new question. All these things that I so valued and so dread the ending of - how much did I need them anyway? It's amazing how easily each of them slips away, and how easily the idea arrives of how I might get on without them. So I can't get to England? Kant changed the world but he never traveled more than 100km from his birthplace. For that matter, Jesus probably didn't either.

So I call Travel Partners and ask for Denise; kind, capable, knowledgeable Denise, and ask her to undo all that she has done on my behalf. Perhaps on another occasion I shall see Iona and Jerusalem, so it's not the end of hope but It's one small step towards removing the lovely illusion of my own infinitude - one small step towards the reality that is best revealed to us as death and resurrection.


Anonymous said…
.... you are such a wonderful man.
I am so so sorry.
Gods timing is a mystery.
Your objectivity in thinking and in particular your acceptance of all that is amazes me.
With Gods power and your strength of mind I pray you will be miraculously healed. gk
Anonymous said…
Kelvin, you express yourself so beautifully, and it seems you are leaning into the dark side of what's happening! Please don't do that, lest the universe hears and fufills what you project. And aren't
life and death really life and new life, in our Christian belief system?

Be not afraid, God will bear you up!
You must have faith!
VenDr said…
Thank you so much for your best wishes and prayers. I am trying to have faith, really I am! But please, cut me a little slack. I wrote this post on the day I had given up a long anticipated (ie ten years for me, 40 years for my wife)trip. You've got to allow me the luxury of some disappointment, even if I am a Christian. I wrote it on the eve of a full body bone scan to see if the cancer has spread. You've got to allow me the luxury of some fear, even if I am a Christian.

But there's also an issue of faith here. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil..." The psalmist didn't say there would be no valley. He didn't say there would be no evils, but rather that I wouldn't fear them. Overcoming fear doesn't mean pretending the evil doesn't exist or that I can avoid it by always looking on the bright side of life. It involves looking the evil squarely in the eye, realising my own fear and trusting God to get me through it. "Feel the fear and do it anyway." Ah, Mr. Nike, you sometimes pick great slogans.
The new life promised us in the resurrection of Jesus is certain - but it only comes after death: real death. For me, I am now facing that death in a dozen small ways. Most of the things I mentioned in the blog are not things I can avoid by positive thinking. The path to real, not pretended, new life for me will come as I squarely face the many small but significant deaths that lie ahead.
Thank you for the exhortation to have faith - that is trust. I am firmly convicted that the gift of faith will be given me over the next few months to face whatever is in store.
Anonymous said…
You take whatever slack you want Kelvin - I celebrate your right to do so! Your thoughts about surgery and endings and last things echo almost exactly my own on a similar occasion. I don't view it as leaning to a dark side at all- but simply a realistic and level headed recognition that stuff happens.
We take our chances and appreciate the beautiful and good things that come our way - and accept that all things - good or bad - come to an end at some point - ourselves included. Yes we can fight (if we have the energy to do so) where that is possible and appropriate - yes we can pray for a good outcome (whatever each one of us understands or wants that to be) from a particular situation. But that level headed acceptance, (and a rejection of the view that our own little lives are things that should be preserved and prolonged as the centre of the universe) - that takes real courage and clear-eyed honesty.
Anonymous said…
Kelvin, I'm so sorry. I am the 2nd anonymous of the ofending comment, and it clearly didn't come across the way I meant it. I guess I just wanted to say don't give up, it isn't over for you yet. I imagine that, like me, everyone who knows you is terrified for you, afraid of losing you, and all that was really showing was my fear of the same. Not fair of me to expect reassurance from you, was it? Please forgive me my stupidity, will you?

God bless you and keep you safe.
VenDr said…
Everything is fine. It wasn't an offensive comment - it was part of an ongoing discussion about hope and faith and I appreciate your encouragement to keep positive. I really value your contribution and hope you will make further ones - but even more, I really value your support and prayers
Anonymous said…
Kelvin, I would like to commend you on a very ascetically pleasing Blog Site, this includes the colours, the photos and the language that is used. I particularly like the name you have chosen 'Available Light' with its photographic and spiritual connotations, for you are surely using the available light both in your photography and in your spiritual quest. For me your current signature picture acts on me like a sort of Rorschach ink spot and I see a number of interesting symbolic ideas in the photograph.
The photographer has his feet firmly planted on dry land with the possibility of having his feet washed periodically by the ocean which is a great symbol of the unconscious. Floating on the horizon is a small island, a destination, an end to a quest which will be fully revealed when the road is followed that is defined by the towering rugged old wooden piles. The road seems a suggestion rather than a command as it doesn’t have the planking and full definition of a completed wharf. The road is paradoxical being both strongly and loosely defined – there is ample latitude to slip through the gaps and explore the vastness of the ocean. Paradoxically if the piles weren’t there, no matter where you stood on the shore you would still see the island, the end of the quest. Now where is the photographer? Well that’s another paradox because he’s both on the shore and on the way to the island, for you see he’s been voyaging out there towards that island for 56 years and he’s got a lot more years to go on this planet until he reaches it.

Kelvin I hope that you will post the date of your op on this Bog Site so that those who love you and cherish your friendship can pray for you on that day.

Kia Kaha
Anonymous said…
Kelvin, I'm not sure if you can check on how many people are checking your blog site, but I keep hearing of so many who are, and how they appreciate how well you write, even though you are facing so much. Thank you for keeping us in the loop. We have prayed, we are praying, and we will continue to pray for you and for Clemency and your family. May God hold you lovingly and closely. You seem to be so strong, even though you allow yourself to fear. Your realism is inspiring, especially as you share so much of yourself with us.
Anonymous said…

Mum told me about your blog site today and I have read through it although I am meant to be doing a myriad of other things - it is very thought provoking reading and will keep me thinking for a while yet. You and your family are all in my thoughts and prayers - for an outcome that is as God wills - we cannot chose. It is a year since you supported and upheld our family while we watched dad pass away - I know he is looking over you as well. Michelle Lawand (Nee Scott)