A life lived with terminal illness – and with hope

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending an extraordinary thanksgiving service for the life of an extraordinary man – although he would never have allowed anyone to call him that.

douglas-and-alison

Douglas Mark’s desire was that his thanksgiving service (which he planned himself) would be ‘a time infused with joy and thanksgiving’ and that is exactly what it was – just as his life had been.

Douglas had lived with cancer for 10 years and had been through more than 40 chemotherapy treatments, but he refused to say that he was ‘battling with cancer’ or ‘coping with cancer’. He ‘lived with cancer’, fully accepting that this was part of the journey which God had chosen for him. He demonstrated joy as he trusted God with every detail of his cancer.  One of his favourite sayings was this:

 Life is not waiting for the storm to pass – it is learning to dance in the rain.

 

Douglas trusted God and that was clear right till the end of his life. He believed that it is more important to trust God than to understand Him. I am sure that it was that unshakeable trust in God which gave him the joy which characterised his life as he lived with cancer.

At the seminar which he and his wife Alison gave at New Horizon this year – which they called ‘Living with terminal illness, and with Hope’ – he said this about joy:

Joy is a self-assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, a quiet confidence that ultimately everything will be alright and a determined choice to praise God in all things.

Douglas had chosen to praise God in all things. When asked how he was, he used to reply, ‘I’m thankful to be as well as I am’. His prayer was that he look for signs of God’s faithfulness every day.

Douglas and Alison were passionate about encouraging Christians to model to the world what it’s like to live with the hope of heaven in the face of death. They spoke in many churches and other places, encouraging Christians to live out their faith in this way.

Alison gave a very courageous tribute to Douglas yesterday, in which she said this:

Don’t allow what you don’t understand about God to destroy what you already know about Him.

As Douglas’s health declined in recent weeks, Alison refused to talk in despairing tones, choosing rather to say that Douglas was ‘edging gently home to heaven’. What a beautiful picture. And that is exactly what he did. There’s no doubt that he has heard his Lord and Saviour say ‘Well done’ as He welcomed him home.

He leaves a legacy: not just a life well-lived, but the challenge to us to live our lives well. For Douglas and Alison, that meant living their lives in the light of eternity and through the lens of eternity. It was that perspective which gave them the courage and faith to live with cancer and hope, at one and the same time.

To download a copy of the seminar which Douglas and Alison gave at New Horizon, go to http://newhorizon.org.uk/resources/mp3-downloads/

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2 thoughts on “A life lived with terminal illness – and with hope

  1. Hope os alive through your words.

    Living with HD (Huntington’s Disease) is hard. I know I’m only 23 years old, but the majority of my life consists of a battle between depression, anxiety, and reality.

    I knew that I was going to test positive. In some ways it was a relief because I had an explanation for my bouts of insanity. In more ways, it was a nightmare. A nightmare that lived and breathed through me and my family.

    My mother is my life, and watching her turn into someone I don’t know causes me to have a mental breakdown at least once a day…on top of an overload of classes at a university that curses me with a financial responsibility I don’t know I will be able to carry through.

    It’s hard to get out of bed. The worst kind of sickness is a disease that consumes your mind. So you might have regular mental illnesses, and then you have mental illnesses caused by HD, and then you have to carry the burden of being a caretaker, finishing school, and becoming sick yourself. Not to mention the fear of never finding a husband who wants to deal with your degradation; and even if you were to find someone, you would have to carry the guilt of handing him the responsibility of taking care of you.

    And what about kids? I’ll be 24 in two weeks, and I was always sure that I’d be married with kids by now. But to ensure that they are healthy costs more money than the debt I’ve surrendered to in exchange for an education. I’m only growing older.

    Time is my greatest enemy. You can’t fight him. There is no winning. And the worst part is, people attempt to provide comfort in the phrase, “It’s all in your head.”
    I can’t imagine feeling worse. I can’t imagine being taken care of. I had a dream that I was in the later stages, and it was horrible. I couldn’t even tell my dad “I love you.” I couldn’t stop moving. There was no rest. And I am petrified.

    The only comfort I find is in my HD community. I find solace in reading other people’s stories and knowing that I’m not alone. I love all of you more than you can imagine because we are the same. We understand each other, and empathy is HD’s greatest reward. It has given me a family.

    So please, share your story. It will give strength and hope to others who are suffering…people like me. I urge you to let your voice be heard. I’m tired of being silent, and I know you are too. Speak for those who are too afraid. We are a family.
    http://capturingthecorners.com/tell-your-story/

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