Good Luck John
I haven't used this site for a long time. But I haven't forgotten about you. I regularly think about Rhiannon and wonder how she is getting on with her mother in law, and wonder if Jenny has written any more chapters about her life. I wonder how Helen - so amazing all with her wonderful poetry, and adventures in Iceland is doing. And today, when I was watching the news, and they talked about somebody from up north who was writing a blog which had such a lot of followers – that it was like having a major newspaper article written trying to influence the voting public – and I thought about Jack - wondering if it was him.
I thought about you when I went to my local library and saw on the display a book which had my name in the back as a financial supporter. I read it again, and marvelled again at the quality writing that comes from this group of people.
So why write again now, you wonder? I have written stuff. I finished the book about my sister who died in the autumn and will be sending it to her kids for a surprise present on what would have been her 90th birthday in a few weeks time.
I wrote the summary of the first five years of my youngest grandson's life – not quite got up to that yet, but it occurred to me that I could die before he got to be five, and all that writing would have been wasted, so I published a book in anticipation, which I will update and republish after his birthday if I live long enough. (There is nothing wrong with me.)
I have updated my American family tree – because I was sent an email from a man in Wisconsin, who had read some of my books, and as he is about to take a group of like-gened people with him to Poland in September, he wanted to get to know more about me. One of my third or fourth
cousins who up till then hadn't read my work, will be going on the trip with him.
So why now? Well, I guess I finally I have something that I want to write about that I think you might like to read. Cancer has played a big part in my life over the years – taking my other sister, my husband and lots of my relatives and friends. Currently, it has again got its hold on a man who I don't know very well, but I have associated with for an hour each week over the last 12 years or so – our parish priest, John.
John is about 52, not very tall, but with his looks he is wasted on the priesthood as I am sure many women have said. He comes from a huge Irish family, and they were dirt poor – living literally in a house with a dirt floor, no inside toilet. I went to Rome on a week's holiday with 40 parishioners about 10 years ago now,, and including him and his parents in the bunch. They were lovely – very simple and kind and fun to spend time with. He told us that he decided to be a priest when he was in his early 20's, but it wasn't so easy. He had done badly in school – and he wasn't good enough to get into an Irish seminary. But in the end, the Nottingham diocese was so desperate for recruits that they were willing to overlook his scholastic lack of expertise, and help him along with his subjects to get up to the required standard. So he is now a priest in this diocese, not in Ireland where he wants to be.
But it is there he goes for his treatment, where he can be with his family. We have a fund called the Retired Priests fund, and it will be those retired and very elderly and disabled priests who will be doing his job for him while he is gone. He told us that the fund also paid for him to have new pajames for his trip to the hospital, and for his sick and elderly parents to go the 75 miles to visit him, and stay over night. The fund pays for him to have special medicine or treatments that aren't available free.
My husband died nearly 8 years ago now. I went to church to play the organ as I always do, on
the Sunday after his death, and as I played the tears ran down my face and made the keys wet and slippery. I hit lots of wrong notes, and twice attempted to play the wrong song completely. John told the congregation about my husband’s death so that they would excuse my sloppiness. A few days later he came to the funeral – only just at the end, because he had other things he had to be doing, and it was at a different church, as my husband was very definitely not a Catholic.
About four years ago, John told us on a Sunday that he had recently found out that he had bowel cancer, and was returning to Ireland for surgery and chemo. He was quite upbeat and positive about it, and didn't seem to doubt that he would survive and all would be well. He was gone from the parish
about nine months, and when he returned he said, “My consultant said that they have taken the cancer away, and it shows no sign of returning. He said that I would no doubt die sometime, but it
wouldn't be from cancer.” He laughed and the congregation joined him, but I remembered that my husband's consultant had said more or less the same thing.
Last June, John found out that his cancer had come back, and was still a leftover from the business on his bowel. In fact, the place the new growth was coming was on the bowel, but in such an awkward part of it, that they had to have a very special specialist to deal with it. And when he finally
was found and agreed to do it, the surgery involved removing ribs in order to be able to get at it. But he had the surgery and he had radiotherapy, and eventually he was well enough to come back to work in the parish again. He came back in mid February, just in time for Lent and Easter. But he told us that the consultant was not so flippant this time in his prognosis. There was still some cancer lurking, this time in the lungs. John had smoked heavily certainly for the first 10 years or so that he lived here – and no doubt for 30 or more years before that.
And now he is going to Ireland for a catscan. He flew off at 2 this afternoon, having finished the service at 15 to 12. He asked me to play the song that we usually have after communion, during communion itself to save time. No sermon, no chatting with the kids who were having their Sunday school session. No chatting with the parishioners at the door. But his voice was strained and rough. And it appeared from what he said that plans are in place for him to be replaced for the foreseeable future. So we think we know, what he didn't come out and say, that he might not be coming back.
I hope I am wrong, and he will be back, and somehow the nasty things lurking is his lungs will be miracled away. I suppose the reason I am writing this, is that I think the medical people might be following a policy where you tell your patients that they are cured, when the chances are they are
not. They think that the pleasure and hope will do you good. And maybe the couple of hope filled years that my husband had before he had his relapse were worth the lie. But he believed the lie so he wouldn't consider his symptoms as being indicative of something going wrong again.
Anyway, John, I wish you the best. I hope and pray that things will go well for you. I will miss you.