The Familiar Abyss

“What are you scared about the most?”

It was a question that cut to my core. Innocuous, it would seem, as something that we all ask of those that we know; but given the right context and timing, it cut to my core.

“So, what are you scared about the most?”

It’s a pretty normal question, a conversation starter, or a “getting–to-know-you” group question, but this time, because it was asked the evening after I had received the diagnosis of the presence of a moderately active cancer in my prostate, it was particularly pertinent. That I received this news two days after we commemorated the first anniversary of Ngaire’s passing wasn’t lost on me either.

After the initial blow subsided, the clouds cleared and I, again stood looking into this seemingly bottomless abyss of the unknown and unfriendly. It seemed strangely familiar and not quite as fearful as I remembered it. In fact, as I talked to a friend about it later in the day, it dawned on me that there was actually treasure to be found here. However, I will have to climb down into this hole; at some point, I will have to leap across the gap, and I will get to the other side.

There is a pretty good success rate with this type of cancer. For the sake of those who love me, I’ll do all I can to make sure that I’m in the positive percentage. Nonetheless, it is quite sobering knowing that I have “the worm” inside me: that which could end my life is resident within.

The reality that we tend to ignore rather well in our society, is that we are all terminal and, as C.S. Lewis said, “Death has a way of focussing one’s attention.”

So, what am I scared about most? Oddly enough, it’s not that I might die, or the numerous unpleasant procedures involved; it’s my mental health.

Since a couple of years before Ngaire died, I found myself gradually sliding from being my normally robust, buoyant self into being frequently depressed, anxious and fearful, particularly through the long hours of the night. To even contemplate the possibility of entering that darkness again, having been free of it for many months now, is more frightening than anything else.

As always, there is tremendous strength drawn from the love of my friends and my boys; I am grateful beyond words.

Well over a year ago, I committed to document Ngaire’s journey towards a lung transplant; within a few months she was gone, having never made it that far. The documented journey became the path of grief and so many aspects of relationship and love lost, all the way through into the open space.

So now it’s time to head off into the woods again – pop on the boots, tighten the belt and strike up the hiking song……whatever. I may not be the Happy Wanderer, but I hope to walk this path with a great degree of peace. Thank you to those who are walking with me.

Stay tuned for updates.

4 thoughts on “The Familiar Abyss

  1. Hi Matt, I am glad to have connected with you. I was told about your blog from a mutual friend. I didn’t get the news bout Ngaire passing for many months afterwards. I first met her in the early naughties when we were exhibiting at C3 Gallery. Then I’d see her from time to time at meetings and other C3 meetings. She was such a lovely and creative woman. It’s always great to have people of your own kind around and I am sorry to know I won’t be bumping into her anymore. My brother who was 41 suddenly passed away when he was running March 14th 2011 and left his wife and three little girls behind. So your grief journey resonates with me. I know I was able to tell Ngaire about his passing. In fact I saw her at a Hedi Baker conference the day of is funeral. She was very compassionate. You really need people like her in the world. The shock is horrendous and does things to your body you can’t see. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos about 6months after Alan died and so was my other brother. I really reckon the stress takes it’s toll and triggers these diseases. This could be the trigger for your cancer. It’s a bummer really. Anyway, I hope you get to read this. Bless you with supernatural healing brother!

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