The Death of a Man & the Hope of Mankind

March 2012By Terence J. Hughes

Terence J. Hughes is Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences and Climate Change at the University of Maine. He and his wife have taken two dozen sexually abused women into their home, all but four of whom were pregnant. He has been imprisoned in six states for peaceful sit-ins at America’s “abortion Auschwitzes.”

In March 2010 I experienced a dull ache in my midsection, loss of energy, and loss of appetite. It took a month to see my physician, a month to treat a deficiency of potassium, and a month to get a CAT scan when these treatments failed to relieve the symptoms. By then my weight had dropped from 265 to 220, a loss of both fat and muscle. The CAT scan revealed that I have pancreatic cancer. Two days later my wife, Bev, and I went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to see if it was operable. It was found to be inoperable and terminal.

Chemotherapy could prolong my life, so in early July I began a regimen consisting of intravenous treatments followed by two weeks on oral drugs, in a three-week cycle. Blood tests tracked the concentration of a protein produced by the cancer cells that measured the cells’ activity. This marker index went from 2,090 to 581 to 161 to 26 to 23 from July to December. During this period I gained ten pounds and the symptoms vanished, except for the persistent fatigue. But from December 2010 to September 2011 the index marker rose from 32 to 104 to 269 to 376 to 258 to 360 to 924 to 761. During these months the symptoms returned, along with a substantial loss of energy.

Cancer cells have great genetic diversity. There are always some cells that resist the drugs that kill other cancer cells, and kill healthy blood cells as a side effect. So the drug I was taking ended up killing me more than curing me. The cancer cells spread from my pancreas, enclosed my aorta, and then blocked flow of bile from my gall bladder. This produced a barely tolerable itch over my whole body.

During this period I reflected on the passion of Jesus Christ. His body was cut to ribbons during the scourging, and flies had to be swarming all over Him during the crucifixion — flies He could not shoo away because His hands were nailed to the cross. One name of Satan is Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies. So Jesus allowed these Satan-driven flies to feed on, copulate on, burrow into, and lay eggs on His bleeding body for hours. The itch must have been horrible. This has not been mentioned in descriptions of Christ’s passion, but I meditated on it during the weeks of this intolerable itch when I nearly scraped my back raw against a rough brick wall just to get some temporary relief.

A shunt was installed to allow bile from my liver to bypass the gall bladder, so over two or three weeks the itching subsided. I was then put on a new drug treatment that combined intravenous injections with a pump that fed drugs into a port on my chest for three days in a two-week rotation. The new drug destroyed my appetite and my weight loss began anew. The loss of energy continued unabated. That’s where I am now. The drug I’m taking leaves a permanent metallic taste in my mouth that overpowers everything I eat or drink and makes meals unpalatable. Dining has always been one of my great pleasures and Bev is a talented cook. That joy of life is now gone. I’m told the next stage will be intense pain that I will only be able to endure if I take drugs that turn me into a zombie. Nice to know.

All this just to stay alive a few months more? Being with Bev makes it worthwhile.

During the twenty-four months since cancer entered my life, I’ve gotten all my scientific work since retirement published: three papers in scientific journals, a book, a book chapter, a book review, an obituary, and an encyclopedia article. That was therapeutic since it took my mind off my vanishing prospects here on earth. More therapeutic has been reflecting on the joys that await me after having lived out my life as a practicing Roman Catholic.

After I die, my soul will be able to travel instantly to any place in the universe, from the interior of atoms to the outer limits of creation, and God will be with me, explaining how He put it all together and sustains it, until my scientific understanding is complete. Are there other dimensions of space and time? Other universes? Who inhabits them? Whatever the mind of man conceives, God conceives more, and can make it happen. God will introduce me to all the others who are in Heaven, both angels and saints, so I will be able to understand the angelic nature and be able to know personally all those who died in God’s embrace. I will be able to see my parents and ancestors going back to Adam and Eve, and learn from them the kind of lives they lived and how they got into Heaven. I will be able to help my own family and friends still here on earth also get into Heaven, by my prayers and supplications. I will have a much greater part in God’s plan of salvation than I ever had on earth.

Most rewarding of all, I will be able to see my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Mother in their glorified human bodies — forever young and forever beautiful, just as I will be when God gives me my glorified body in the General Resurrection. We will be able to walk together over the verdant fields of the New Earth that He promised would replace the earth we are passing through today. For Jesus and Mary, that New Earth must already exist since, with their glorified bodies, they now occupy specific places where their feet are on the ground, so to speak, places where “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,” and “the sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp” (Isa. 11:6,8).

Many have compared death and its afterlife to winter when all the trees are barren followed by spring when they blossom with new life. For me, the best comparison is to life just before and after birth. Life in the womb before birth is cramped, no more somersaults of a few months earlier, only waiting in darkness for something unknown. Then, after birth, with a slap on the rump, the baby sees light for the first time. Fiat lux — “Let there be light” — God said at the dawn of creation. Then the baby’s eyes begin to focus on his mother who gave him life, then on his father, and maybe on brothers and sisters. Every day brings more marvels. A spacious home replaces the cramped womb, outside is sunshine, streets teeming with people, soaring cathedrals, songbirds, white clouds, blue skies, golden beaches, seas sparkling in sunlight, flowers in profusion, green pastures dotted with sheep and cattle, verdant fields ripening for the harvest, and eventually a career where all these marvels can be explored, and usually a family of one’s own. Who would want to return to the womb? Multiply these marvels by infinity in Heaven, and who would want to return to this earth? That’s the way I’m looking at it. Bev will be with me in Heaven for eternity.

We are all created in the image and likeness of God. That means that we all have the same three spiritual attributes that constitute the Holy Trinity. These attributes are intellect, will, and empathy. Intellect resides primarily in the Father. The perfect definition of Father is “He who loves His Son.” The perfect definition of Son is “He who obeys His Father out of love for Him.” That perfect exchange causes empathy to ascend to love, personified in the Holy Spirit. In Gethsemane the human nature of Christ expressed its will by asking the Father to take the chalice of the passion from Him, but His divine nature accepted the chalice out of love. Christ subordinated His human will to the will of His Father out of obedience to Him and love for us. And we are saved by His Precious Blood.

Though we all share these same three spiritual attributes, to remain in the “image of God” we must keep them in the divine order. Paul tells us in Ephesians, “Wives, obey your husbands,” and “husbands, love your wives,” even dying for them, so their obedience is earned because they know that their husbands want only good for them. This is our analogy to the relationship of the Son to the Father, and the human result is children, the “holy spirits” who personify our love. In this way, the human family mirrors the Blessed Trinity.

Evil results when that Trinitarian order is subverted, notably when our will overrides our intellect. Then empathy becomes not love but enmity. In the extreme, enmity becomes hate. Hitler’s will trumped his intellect and caused his hatred to extend over his own German people when they were no longer winning his wars. Are we so different? We are warring against our next generation by preventing children from being born. This is the subversion of the human trinity on a massive scale.

So you see, I’m not dying alone: Christendom in Europe, and in the nations derived from Europe, is dying with me. Why? Because we have allowed our will to trump our intellect. Raising children requires sacrifices of time, energy, and money. We think that by evading these sacrifices we can attain the good life, la dolce vita, here on earth. The will to immediate pleasure has led us to reject giving birth to a new generation that will replace ours. We have chosen extinction over the joys of parenthood; we have refused to exercise God’s greatest gift to us, sharing in His creation, a gift He even denies His angels. This rebellion within Christendom is now spreading over all mankind, and it is anyone’s guess whether the lands once the cradle of Christendom will be inherited by others who will obey God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.

But there is yet hope for Christendom: With Jesus there is always hope. We have our Lord’s promise that He will prevail, and I know He will. Today it appears that Western civilization is dying just as I am. But I know that resurrection awaits our Lord’s faithful. We need only return to Him, and a resurrection of Christendom is entirely possible.

My tumor is, in a sense, my friend. It will die with me, but in dying it opens the portal of eternal life with my Creator, my Savior, my Lover, the portal to that “un­discover’d country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” There, for all eternity, I will sing with Stuart Hine, who wrote:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing;
sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
how great Thou art.
How great Thou art!

Back to March 2012 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Thank-you so very much for sharing your life and hope! May our Lord bless you! May He give you His peace!
We are truly living in the time of the decline of the West. These times are very disconcerting and disappointing. There is also grounds for hope and joy. Thanks again for sharing your view.
Posted by: tomsblk@aol.com
March 11, 2012 06:45 AM EDT
Thank you for reminding me of some things that I had forgotten; That Heaven is infinitely more beautiful than I can ever imagine, and that to be in eternal communion with God our Creator is greater even than the beauty of Heaven. I wish you a most speedy voyage and blissful arrival to your Heavenly Home. May our Lord bless you and your family forever. Posted by: lyricmac
March 16, 2012 11:41 PM EDT
Terence, while I will certainly miss you even if I didn't get a chance to meet you in this pilgrim life in the Church Militant, and conscious of the natural and unavoidable grief your family will go through during the interment, I'd like to express my admiration for your tacit courage in facing the reality of this life and your fidelity to our Holy Mother Church, and your heroism in experiencing imprisonment and other activities doing God's will.

So, like the Good Thief who stole salvation much sooner than even the Apostles, let me make a sublime request and prayer to you: "Remember me and family when you come into our Lord's Kingdom."

May you be one of our nearest intercessor, both in comfort [that we may not fall in to presumptuousness and forgetfulness] and distress [when our faith shall be tested for God's glory].

Know that I shall keep you and your family in my prayers, until you have no need of it, and we need you more.

Posted by: humblesoldier2
March 26, 2012 07:51 PM EDT
Add a comment