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I dimly remember my Yorkshire relatives discussing deaths and saying, “EE, yon lass were at death’s door for months before she went in.” Well, it seems I was at death’s door for a few days early this month. I don’t remember what it looked like and I didn’t knock. My wife, children, in-laws and the bishop were with me as I struggled in a haze of pain and pain killers. Then came the operation to clean out the pleural cavity between that balloon-like sack around the left lung and the lung itself. The balloon had become like a tire and had to be scraped. Oh yes, and I developed two formidable bed sores. That’s why I am sitting on this bloody special cushion as I type.

Twice in a year our Lord had delivered me from death’s door. My cancer is in full remission and, despite pleural pneumonia my lung is without permanent damage. I haven’t been this light weight since I was a teenager, and the face that looks back at me is gaunt, haggard and old. But exercise, Pat’s love and good food, rest and prayer will restore me over the next weeks. I hope to be able to celebrate on December 16th, and of course do the Christmas services. People from a couple of parishes are coming to look at me after Christmas. I can stay here at St. Thomas a Becket until the end of 2008 but if I need to carry on, at my age, the sooner I am called to a new parish the better. I can’t retire. I have not been in the pension fund long enough to receive a living wage.

I am struck once again by the knowledge that even at my most insensible moments the words of our liturgy, snatches of prayers and psalms were there to lift me up and those who brought me the Sacrament brought me Jesus and life and hope. I am so thankful to be an Anglican and to live in the company of its saints and sinners whose words and offerings, yes and I do believe presence in the Communion of Saints surrounded and defended me and brought me through. And what was my smelling my granddad’s pipe all about? It wasn’t my imagination. For two days, on and off, I smelt his pipe. Perhaps it was a dream but it was a wide awake dream.

I am humbled by the extraordinary phenomenon of hundreds of people all over the world, even those who have not always been kind to me, even those who have attacked me, who prayed for me and with me during the past month. Were they to be in one room we would have a riot on our hands. Yet they all claim the name Anglican even if they dispute with each other about status and reliability.

I can’t say enough about my wife’s self-sacrificing love and care for me or of our children’s calls and thoughts and my English cousins keeping in touch.

For how ever long I have to live and with all the strength I can employ I will magnify the Lord and make known His saving, forgiving, gentle love. A bishop friend told me that I had to live to remind everyone who will listen of the goodly heritage we enjoy as Anglican Christians. It’s a deal.