Our prayers and good wishes go out to author Phyllis Tickle who announced in an RNS story that she has Stage IV lung cancer that had already spread to her spine. She is best-known for a range of essays and books on faith and life, including “The Divine Hours,” “The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why,” and “The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church.”. Tickle was raised Presbyterian but became what she calls “the world’s worst, most devout evangelical Episcopalian.”
David Gibson writes in RNS:
On Jan. 2, the very day her husband, Sam, succumbed to a long and debilitating illness, Tickle found herself flat on her back with a high fever, “as sick as I’ve ever been” and racked by “the cough from hell.”
The fever eventually subsided, but the cough wouldn’t let go. When she finally visited the doctor last month, the diagnosis was quick, and grim: Stage IV lung cancer that had already spread to her spine. The doctors told her she has four months to live, maybe six.
“And then they added: ‘But you’re very healthy so it may take longer.’ Which I just loved!” she says with her characteristic sharp laugh.
Indeed, that’s the kind of irony that delights Tickle, even in sober moments like this, and it embodies the sort of dry humor and frank approach that leaven even her most poignant, personal reflections. It’s also central to the distinctive style, delivered in a rich Southern register, that has won her innumerable fans and friends who will be hard-hit by the news of her illness.
Tickle approaches this stage in her life through the eyes of faith.
In spite of this impressive literary lineage, however, it is the cancer that is shaping the last chapter of Tickle’s life.
And yet, she displays a remarkable equanimity in the face of this final, and most merciless, deadline.
“At 81 you figure you’re going to die of something, and sooner rather than later,” she says, sitting at her kitchen table for her first interview about her diagnosis. “I could almost embrace this, that, OK, now I know what it’s probably going to be, and probably how much time there is. So you can clean up some of the mess you’ve made and tie up some of the loose ends.”
“I am no more afraid of dying than I am of, I don’t know, drinking this coffee,” she continues, pointing to her mug. (It’s actually filled with Postum since she’s had to give up caffeine. She remains, thankful, though, that she can still drink a nightly whiskey. “Jack Daniels, of course!” she says, shocked at the suggestion that a Tennessee native would drink anything else.)
Posted by Andrew Gerns