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Thursday, August 11, 2022

What 'Terminal' Feels Like

One of the most frequently asked questions about terminal cancer is... what does it FEEL like, knowing that you're under a death sentence, date of execution unknown?

It was hard to answer until I had an epiphany while watching Pirates Of The Caribbean. No, the revelation did not involve rum. Unfortunately.

What It's Like is walking the plank, blindfolded. You can't stop, let alone go back, and you don't know if the very next step might be a really long one.

It's incumbent on a Christian to say, I'm falling into the arms of Jesus!, and while this is my secure belief, the truth is that we have to go through a one-way door to get there. We can believe what's behind the door, but we can't SEE it, and that's scary.

Normally, when at least reasonably healthy, we put it off, channeling Scarlett O'Hara... I'll think about that tomorrow.

But for me, and for many, many others, it's tomorrow.

(For the record, another common question is How Have You Lasted This Long...I don't know, but Olivia Newton John fought cancer for thirty years. Quite an inspiration.)

Each footfall's further in the dark,
over the vast abyss,
dominion of the hungry shark
(am I on his to-do list?).
I don't know where the plank will end,
and though I tread with care,
there's courage I just can't pretend
for when I step, and nothing's there,
and so I lift my shrouded eyes
unto the Lord who reigns above,
somewhere beyond the darkling skies,
that He might look down with love
that when that final step is taken,
I land in His palm, unforsaken.

The Five Minute Friday prompt this week is FORGET. Had something in mind, but I already forgot. My brain's like a shelf without a rear wall; put something on the front, something falls off the back.

Well, here goes.

It's easy to forget 'bout God
when things are going well,
but we remember (oh, how odd!)
when life goes straight to hell,
and we cry out, "Catch me, Lord!"
with all our strength and might
when we think we're spinning toward
an endless Stygian night.
I wouldn't blame ol' God at all
if He laughed and turned away,
but He will not let us fall
on this or any day,
so He lends faith we can borrow
'till He's ignored again tomorrow.

Four minutes. Does it show?

I couldn't find a musical accompaniment the fit with walking the plank, but here's Tightrope Walk, by The Damned, set to stunning scenes from 'The Walk', a film about Phillipe Petit's high-wire walk between the towers of the World Trade Centre.

Sylvia knows she's in God's hand, and that hand holds ICE CREAM!




  1. Andrew perfectly described the 20.5 year journey and used an exact music video from The Walk. What the tightrope Walker does over and over is exactly what I have witnessed. - Barbara

    1. Barb, dear, thank you so much for this affirmation, and for your patience and unselfish, Godly love.

      I'm truly blessed.

  2. ELIZABETH AINSWORTHAugust 11, 2022 at 8:59 PM

    Some really profound thoughts to describe the moment you find yourself in. Also what interesting experiences you must have had in Vietnam, I'm assuming that is your memoir?

    1. Elizabeth, thank you! I did have some interesting and rather fraught experiences in SEA, yes, but it was after the war, looking for that which had been left behind.

  3. Wow, Andrew, I don't have words. The description of what the moment you find yourself in feels like -- you are an amazing man of incredible faith and fortitude. A real inspiration. And that video clip from The Walk was harrowing to watch. I think I held my breath the whole time--especially when it looked as though the rope was about to break.

    1. Grams, I am so honoured by your affirmation!

      The Walk is really a terrific film, definitely worth seeing!

  4. Thanks for sharing what it's like for you, Andrew. I think a lot of us live in denial about the reality of death and avoid thinking about it. And I agree, even when we believe something strongly it is hard when we can't actually see it. I love your "forget" poem too, and I'm grateful that God never turns his back on us when we suddenly remember him after a period of forgetting.

    1. Lesley, I'm so glad that this spoke to you. My ministry, such as it is, offers what I hope is clarity in facing death, and even more, offers a certainty of hope that death is not the end.

  5. Thanks for explaining how "terminal cancer" feels. It is uncertain for you and many others with that diagnosis. I pray you live for as long as you'd like! I am sorry it's been such a "damned" journey. BUT GOD. He is with us always and never forgets his children. We are HIS. Jennifer, Graceglimers, FMF friend

    1. Jenn, yes! But God!

      These days are so hard physically, BUT GOD makes every moment... even the bad ones in the dunny... worthwhile.

  6. I hadn't thought of it like walking on a plank blindfolded - unsure when the next step will send us hurling forward to the unknown, but I appreciate that we land in the palm of His hand as the conclusion. It's interesting that when Jesus spoke in parables, He said, "It is like..." And when we want to share something deep, we say, "It is like..."

    1. Lisa, for a long time I tried to figure out how to describe what it's like, this journey, this ending.

      The author Stephen Coonts once described skydiving as leaping into the arms of Jesus. Skydiving is voluntary (well, usually), but cancer isn't; that's why walking the plank seemed apropos.

  7. Oh that is so true. we forget God when things go well, but as soon as they don't, it's "Oh God, help me!" He is patient with us, but we need to learn to never forget him, never get so distracted we stop praying, etc. God bless you.

    1. God bless YOU, Rishie! Your words are so true.

      We're praying for Bilbo's safe return!

  8. I so much appreciate this post as a wife of a man with terminal cancer. Praying for you, Andrew!

    1. Mary, prayers coming right back at you, from both of us!

  9. good metaphor..the walking of a plank blindfolded... you know it's coming, but the worry of when. Thanks, helps me understand better.

    1. Annette, for what it's worth, it took a long time for that metaphor to gel. I knew that there was an accessible way to describe the situation, but could not make sense of its outlines in the mist until now.

      Thanks so much for being here!

  10. I was thinking of ONJ and how inspirational she was - and then I thought of you! But I guess sometimes you don't want to be an inspirational - but just well! God bless you!

    1. Corinne, I am so honoured that you think of me as inspirational...thank you for this.

  11. Andrew, you really are an inspiration!
    Just stopped by from FMF #34

  12. Your thoughts are Accurately written…my dad walked that plank…suffering from cancer for years from his time in Vietnam. But when the time came, my mom said the room was filled with peace and when the hospice nurses arrived afterwards, they said they had never seen such a happy corpse.
    It was definitely like walking the plank, blindfolded…but when the time came, mom said it was like Jesus had come into the room and took dad by the hand and lead him away, and the peace was overwhelming.
    I am very very sorry you are suffering in this way, it breaks my heart. I am glad I found your blog and appreciate the thoughts you share…And admire your wife’s love and care for you.

    1. Jenny, we're honoured that you chose to share the story of your Dad's passing with us...and heartened by the sense of peace, and presence of Christ.