Saturday, 8 November 2008

Repent, The End Is Near


We went and saw the urologist again on Friday. He discussed options for further treatment. He outlined the probable side effects of radiotherapy and then said, "Most of these side effects will happen in about ten years, so, of course, they aren't going to be an issue for you. " It was double take, knock me down with a feather, go back a sentence or two if you don't mind time. He's a very frank, matter of fact sort of guy. He spends his days from morning til night dealing almost exclusively with men who have prostate cancer. He knows my profile. He knows the odds. He was telling me the truth as he saw it.

This was 8:30 in the morning, and I spent the rest of the day in a sobre sort of way. I did some internet research and was even more sobred. I emailed and texted my family and friends. And I got on, as best I could, with preparations for our parish fair and with the other things that would normally have happened on a Friday. Life was suddenly very rich and real and precious and I didn't want to miss a second of it. A couple of other encounters happened in the course of the day. I learned of a man about my age with five large tumours in his liver. This is normally a death sentence and an imminent one as well, but he's lived 2 years with it so far and is still going strong. He even took a 3 month voyage to the Pacific Islands on his yacht. Clemency met a woman who had a cancer of the cervix which had spread into her lymph system. Her prognosis was a 30% chance of surviving for 5 years - about the same odds the statistics give me - but 14 years later she's still here and seemingly untroubled by her cancer.

I'm aware that the number of funerals I lead often rises just after Christmas. People hang on to see their families one last time, and then let go. Our bodies and the course of our illnesses are much more intricately linked to our minds and wills than the statistics give credit for. I am aware that an authorative person giving me a timetable could, if I was not careful, become self fulfilling prophecy. I am grateful to the doctor for reminding me just how very serious the issues are and for making me aware of exactly what I am dealing with; but I have other plans. Here is another of life's paradoxes. It is important to realise the fragility of life and the imminence of death, but realising that I am only a heartbeat away from the end makes life more real and precious and makes me more determined to live it as completely as I can.

This Sunday I will preach about the ten bridesmaids and their lamps; a story which is told to enjoin watchfulness. As I was reminded by the death of Diane a few weeks ago, life is fragile and temporary for all of us. The parable says that none of us knows when we will be called to give an account of ourselves and it's probably not a bad idea to live in such a way that we won't be ashamed if today's the day. I'm suddenly very aware of that, and regretful of the huge acreages of time which I have frittered away over the past fifty six years . I want to waste as little as possible of what I have left , which may, of course, be quite a long long time yet. People beat the odds all the time and I think I am beginning to see how the dice can be weighted and the cards marked, just a little.

3 guys die and go to heaven. At the pearly gates St. Peter opens the lamb's book of life and gives a low whistle. "Wow! You guys have been really good. I mean, REALLY good," he says. "As a special reward I'm going to allow you to dictate what people will say at your funerals."
The first guy said, "At my funeral I want them to say 'He was a great husband and father'." And so it happened.
The second guy said "At my funeral I would like them to say 'He was kind to animals and everyone really liked him'." and so it happened.
The third guy said, "At my funeral I would like them to say, "Look! He just moved!'"

I'm with the third guy, all the way.

24 comments:

Katherine said...

Chuckling over the joke. Ignore that timetable, just get on and enjoy life. My Dad was given ten years, twelve years ago. He complained to me the other day that he can't run as fast up the hills on the orienteering courses... Hugs.

Tillerman said...

That was a laugh out loud joke and I did just that.

You have started in the way I know you will go on - with optimism, humour, intelligence, courage and a keen sense of reality.


Election Weekend Celebratory Joke:

Tragic Crash:
A busload of politicians were driving down a country road when the bus suddenly ran off the road and crashed into an old farmer's field. The old farmer heard the tragic crash so he rushed over to investigate. He then began digging a large grave to bury the politicians.

A few hours later, the local sheriff was driving past the farmer's field and noticed the bus wreck. He approached the old farmer and asked where all the politicians had gone. The old farmer explained that he'd gone ahead and buried all of them. "Were they ALL dead?" asked the puzzled sheriff. "Well, some of them said they weren't," said the old farmer, "but you know how them politicians lie."

Anonymous said...

tillerman: yes, they all lie - but they don't all stay lying (down). Some of them come back you know - zombie politicians, back from the dead. Fortunately, I've heard Hell (inc. - lark!) doesn't believe in life after death ... Helengrad yields to Helensville...

Kelvin: as ever, keeping you and your family in my prayers.

Tillerman said...

The words, Helen and Helensville have a certain interesting connecting factor - which is that both major parties have tried very hard to capture / retain the political middle ground, which means in many ways (not all) that it is business as usual.

The wild card is, as we all know, the international financial situation, which may 'Gang aft aglay' the well laid plans of any of the men, women or mice (rats?) that have been elected.

VenDr said...

I find the election oddly unmoving. John Key seems a nice enough bloke but he's not someone to set the pulses racing. He seems to me a manager rather than a leader, and we will inch imperceptibly to the right, but in real terms, apart from some tinkering with the resource management act and employment legislation, I doubt that anything much will change - nothing that most people will notice anyway. What does make me apprehensive though is the thought of Roger Douglas with his fingers in the financial pie once more. The courageous solutions of the 1980s for the problems of the 21st Century! They didn't work then, and they won't work now.

I've been thinking a bit about why Barack Obama inspires me and gives me hope but our local politicians do not - at least none of the ones in the major parties: none of them, not one, not even a little bit. A pack of uninspiring plodders the lot of them. I feel a blog post coming on.

Anonymous said...

"I've been thinking a bit about why Barack Obama inspires me and gives me hope but our local politicians do not..."

One Messiah The real One)is enough for me. I don't think America needs more abortion, or physician-unassisted infanticide.

VenDr said...

I've always been able to respect, admire even be inspired by people without confusing them with the Messiah. I respect admire and am inspired by Barack Obama, but I have only one Lord. I note the president elect's position on abortion is liberal, but it's not his domestic policy which concerns the vast majority of the world who are not Americans but for whom your elections have huge impact - "America sneezes and the world catches cold". We have had eight years of dangerous, unpredictable and downright foolish American foreign policy. We have had eight years of an American President widely and internationally regarded as a joke. We are all personally suffering the results of an American financial market ruined because of the overweening greed of a few wealthy people. We were faced with the prospect of a young woman who kills living things for the fun of it, who couldn't string a sentence together and who didn't know that Africa was a continent becoming the steward of the world's largest nuclear arsenal. Above all, we have all of us suffered the results of a mind bogglingly stupid war and weren't in the mood for another one. You'll have to forgive us - the peace loving citizens of the world - for a huge collective sigh of relief at Mr Obama's election, imperfect though he might be

Anonymous said...

You've had seven years without a repeat of 9/11 - bear that in mind today, with a new security alert about Al-Qaeda. However, I wasn't aware that George W. Bush was standing in this past election. Did you know that Biden, Pelosi, Reid etc voted for the Iraq War? Now there in power! The moral? As for Sarah Palin - no, not my choice for VP (I'd have had Pawlenty, with Huckabee at the top of the ticket, but I'd take McCain any day ahead of Obama, whom I frankly find more than a little sinister - look at today's news on Malley and Hamas, O's most recent broken promise) but you don't want to believe the MSM smears - remember the smears about her baby? As for the financial crisis, I suggest it's a teeeeeny bit more complicated than 'the overweening greed of a few wealthy people' - an investigation of ACORN and the boards of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (O's financial 'advisors!) reveals a great can of worms.

Anonymous said...

aargh! 'They're in power'.
(Mustn't throw grammar under the bus.)

VenDr said...

7 years without a repeat of 9/11? What planet are you from? 4,193 Americans dead and 30,774 Americans wounded;A well documented 90,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from violence and an estimated 1,284,000 Iraqi dead from all sources directly attributable to the American invasion is some sort of answer to the problem? To say nothing of the long term destabilisation of the whole Middle East? What have you achieved when your solution is many times worse than the original problem?

daniel said...

It must be remembered that Bush and his coalition have prevented all attempted invasions of earth by little green men from Mars for the last seven years as well. He's done such a good job on that one in fact there hasn't even been a need to issue an 'invasion alert'!

Brian R said...

Just catching up after my return home to Sydney. My prayers will continue for you. Enjoyed worshipping at your church and meeting you in real life. We obviously agree in politics, note how these right wingers are always anonymous. Was able to watch the US results on TV while it was snowing in Manapouri. Not so sure about the NZ elections. A year ago one of my reasons for moving to NZ was to flee John Howard. Hope the position does not reverse. Last Sunday went to the cathedral but a Remembrance day service (as on my visit in 2006) so have yet to experience Choral Eucharist in the Cathedral.
Best Wishes

Tillerman said...

I main thing that I take out of the election of Obama is that it could be evidence of a sea change in the consciousness of North Americans.

A black president in the 1960s would have been unthinkable for them, but this year it isn't, - something has changed - let us hope and pray that whatever has changed in their heads has also changed in their hearts.

Anonymous said...

Kelvin, I have to say that the comments of your urologist absolutely floor me.Although he is probably a fine man in his field he cannot possibly know enough to make such a statement.Every case is individual in symptom and reaction in my understanding.You may well have demanded absolute frankness from him but even so I think he overstepped his brief this time.May God's love carry you and those you love on this unwelcome journey, may life be sweet and mean even more to you.
Craig.

VenDr said...

Hi Craig. I do take the urologist's prognosis with a pinch of salt. He's talking statistics, albeit with a great deal of experience behind him, and we all know about statistics. What I am grateful to him for is a wake up call. Like many people I had a naive sort of idea about illness: you get sick, you go to the doctor, s/he gives you something to swallow or chops something off, and you go on as before. Not so. Or at least not in my case. I have an serious ongoing condition to manage, and manage it I will, hopefully for a very long time yet.

And yes, Tillerman, the shift in consciousness in one lifetime is astonishing. More astonishing to me is the miracle Mr. Obama performed in his acceptance speech. In 8 years George W Bush had severely compromised the reputation of the United States in the eyes of almost every New Zealander I spoke to. Perhaps Bush's greatest achievement internationally has been the establishment of France as the moral leader of the free world. I thought it would take years to undo the damage. Obama did it in 10 minutes flat - and he's not even president yet. I would expect that no matter what Americans thought of his domestic policies, they should be grateful to him for that.

Anonymous said...

Kelvin, I have no idea where you get your figures from - not even the highly partisan 'Iraqi Body Count' gives that absurd 1.284 million figure. Was it from 'Lancet' and its absurd epidemiological reports released just before the '04 and '06 elections? IBC cites 88-97,000, which means they don't know. Since the surge, things have been a good deal quieter; I think 50,000 may be nearer the mark.
But 1.3 million is about the number of Iraqis and Iranians who died in the Iran-Iraq War.
As for 'destabilisation in the Middle East' - I can't think of one dictator except Saddam who fell. They're all still in power - too much stability, maybe? Bush was too much of a Wilsonian idealist for me - he imagined Arab Muslims could be democrats.
Anyway, pay a visit to *relatively peaceful and propserous Kurdistan - not everything is the Sunni triangle of tribal Islamic politics.

Tillerman said...

"Repent, The End Is Near?" - bugger that, just go on having lots of fun, the sort that 'does no harm' (can't go wrong there),

- and keep on taking your great photos. I like this posts one very much - did you do some sort of 'sepia' magic with your triple nipple back shackle photoshoppe thingy?

- and while I am on photos, I really like one in an earlier post of yours - in a church, three people up by the stained glass window and (I think) 5 lights floating on a very black background - very cool.

Kathryn said...

Thinking of you and praying for you as always, Kelvin.
My sister has proved all the quoted statistics wrong (in her case). She is a 5 year survivor of pancreatic cancer and had a very radical surgical procedure (the Whipple). Her prognosis at the time was not good. She not only has survived, but seems to have taken on a whole new lease of life. She is now a 'Red Hatter' - and has a very active social life with these ladies. She and her husband take every opportunity to travel and have fun, and of course to spend time with family. They have also 'rescued' a greyhound who is now part of the family, and brings them a lot of joy.
I also agree with you re Obama - this could be the start of some major changes.

VenDr said...

I think you will find, anonymous that the 88-95,000 Iraqi deaths are those directly attributable to fighting. And no, the vagueness doesn't mean that they don't know, it means that the bottom possible range is 88,000 the maximum 95,000.About 90,000, as I said. Civilian death estimates vary widely, as you know. Official Iraqi government figures are 100,000 -150,000. The Lancet made an estimate based on a survey of Iraqi households, of 655,000 up until mid 2006. A survey by the UK Opinion Research Business agency in September 2007 put the figure at 1.2 million.

The New England Journal of medicine puts the civilian deaths by violence at 155,000. To these must be added those who have died as a result of disease and other causes directly attributable to the war. Save the Children Fund says the embargo before the war led to an increase of child mortality in Iraq of 150% which has not decreased and on its own accounts for 122,000 deaths.

Take the most conservative figures if you like. It is still an outrageously high price to pay, especially as the Iraqis had stuff all to do with 9/11.

Destablisation? Iraq was a non -country. A rough amalgam of disparate national entities cobbled together in the early years of the 20th Century to suit the purposes of the West. The only thing that held it together, latterly, was the brutality of Saddam Hussein.Take away the glue, nasty though it was, and the whole show falls to bits. What will happen when the Americans bow to the inevitable and pull out of the mess they have created in Iraq? They leave behind them a legacy of bitterness and hatred that will be turned against American interests for decades to come. Far from defeating Islamic fundamentalism they have given it a uniting cause and a fertile recruiting ground of embittered young people. Witness the failure to defeat, or even to permanently restrict the Taliban in Afghanistan. With chaos in post civil war Iraq what will happen to the already tenuous regime in Saudi Arabia? To Jordan, Syria and Lebanon? Like all wars this one offered nothing but the promise of more and greater trouble in the future.

Verna said...

Whether 50,000 or 1.3 million have died so far as a result of American intervention in Iraq is not really the issue - 9/11 gave Bush the emotional patriotism needed from the American public to go for broke in Iraq and the cost is still too great whatever the mortality figures really are. Having just read David Ray Griffin's book "The New Pearl Harbour" [published by Olive Branch Press] I have serious doubts about just who did what re 9/11 and many unanswered questions which raise some very unpalatable scenarios around that horrific event - but I am now even more sure that there is no justification for the sort of military intervention which has gone on too long with way too many unnecessary casualties. I can't do anything about that, but I can and will continue to pray - for peace in our world, and for God's healing power to be made manifest in Kelvin and those other people I know who are facing the same sort of health issues. May God uphold you and your family at all times.

Anonymous said...

Kelvin, Saddam was playing a waiting game with the West, and was gaming crooks like Kofi Annan and Chirac and a host of Europols with his 'oil for food' scam - there was no doubt that given any chance, he would have developed nuclear weapons, even if that took 10 years, and he would have socked it ot the Zionist entity - as he was so minded back in 1981 until the Israelis took out Osirak. He did attack Israel in 1991 with Scuds, you may recall...
The US's error lay first with W's dad in not overthrowing Saddam in 1991, and then with Rumsfeld, in executing a brilliant victory and then botching it by letting the Iraqi army melt away with its weapons, and by not sealing the border with Iran, allowing Ahmadinejad's surrogates an open field of play, as they've had with Hizbollah in Lebanon.
New Zealand's lucky in some ways - too small and too far away to figure much on the geopolitical map. But the world is shrinking.
The Lancet figures are still a crock. Saddam played all that propaganda stuff about suffering Iraqi babies for 10 years and had lots of leftish sympathizers in the West (Gorgeous George Galloway and others on his payroll), ignoring that sanctions existed precisely because of Saddam's obstructionism and cat and mouse game with the UN, which was designed to confuse the West and frighten Iran.

VenDr said...

Well, that's a nice development of the old argument. We've moved from "he has weapons of mass destruction" to "if he is given ten years he might be able to develop weapons of mass destruction.I just know he jolly well wants to." In some ways your version is more useful - it dispenses with all that messy need for evidence.

Yes George W's dad missed the opportunity to move on Baghdad but what would that have achieved? - the same result that his son got, only ten years earlier. Despite what the new right thinkers fantasised, it was never but NEVER going to be possible to establish a Western style democracy in Iraq - or anywhere else in the Middle East - by force of arms.

The child mortality figures are pretty well attested. Remember that before the Americans began fiddling about with it Iraq was the most secular and most westernised of the Islamic states. It had a modern health system complete with bureaucrats who kept meticulous figures. Now I know the Iraqi doctors were a bit slack in not keeping the kids alive even when deprived of equipment and drugs but the rates of infant mortality did rise, and getting the numbers of dead babies is just a matter of simple arithmetic. Yes, it is Saddam's fault ultimately, he should have been more helpful in revealing the whereabouts of his imaginary weapons. And yes, it is most unsporting of the liberals to go using the figures.

Tim Mathis said...

Hey Kelvin,

Thought number 1: Your blog is a real gift.

Thought number 2: Amazing how quickly almost everything - no matter how unrelated - leads to a heated discussion on American politics these days :)

Peace,
Tim

Anonymous said...

"We've moved from "he has weapons of mass destruction" to "if he is given ten years he might be able to develop weapons of mass destruction.I just know he jolly well wants to." In some ways your version is more useful - it dispenses with all that messy need for evidence."

FWIW (nothing, actually), I was pretty doubtful if Saddam had WMD, although Powell and Blair seemed to think so - it was Saddam's deceptive cat and mouse game with the nuclear inspectors which, among other things, served to stoke doubt over whether he was abiding by the 1991 agreement. Saddam kept up the pretense to the end - why, I don't know - Arab pride? bluff against the Zionists? He could have thrown the doors open to all and shown he was kosher (unfortunate word there!). The infant mortality rates during his regime were entirely due to the UN sanctions against him which the Oil for Food (= money for Annan scam) was meant to alleviate.
But anyone who thinks Saddam and beloved sons Qusay and Uday wouldn't have been back on the case once the world (i.e. US politicians) had tired of keeping watch is living in cloud cuckoo land.