"Our soul must perform two duties. The one is that we must reverently wonder and be surprised. The other is that we must gently let go and let be." Julian of Norwich

...Cancer teaches both!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

John Tinker: Rest in Peace

I lost a dear friend, and fellow pilgrim on the cancer journey, last night.  John died peacefully at home, free of pain, and in the arms of his beloved partner, Adrian.  In his last few days he was remarkably free of the pain that had racked his body for the last several months.

John was a deep thinker, an avid reader, a gifted writer, an inspiring teacher, a good friend, a passionate gardener, and a fun and faithful partner.  Others could say more, but this much, at least, I know to be true.

John and I met in cyberspace through the American Cancer Society's online support network. John, his partner Adrian, and I made a quick connection and found that we were bound in part by the common cards this dread disease had dealt us.  John and I both had colon cancer that had spread to our sacrum, the lower vertebrae of the spine, the "Holy Bone".  A painful and deadly recurrence.

Our relationships grew to include personal e-mails between John, Adrian, my wife Pam, and myself.  In time I called John and we began to converse about symptoms and treatment options on the phone.  Finally, last April, Pam and I traveled to San Francisco, where we were met by a smiling John and Adrian at the airport (SFO), and where we enjoyed much of their company over a wonderful 5-day visit.  Highlights of our visit included a roadtrip to Point Reyes park and a pizza dinner at their beautifully restored home and garden.

In addition to sharing a common ailment, John and I shared much in common in our approach to living with cancer.  John engaged the experience of living with a life-threatening disease deeply.  (John engaged all of the experiences of life deeply!)   After much thought, wrestling, and a transformative hypnosis session, John came to the point of understanding that is best summed up in his own words...  "I cannot control the disease; I can control how I experience the disease."

John lived deeply and joyously through his life with cancer.  He focused on what was "life-giving", which for John was his relationship with Adrian, his garden, his writing, his friends, and "Hogarth", John and Adrian's lively boxer.  This is not to say that he did not have times of deep pain and suffering.  He most certainly did, both physically and psychologically.  Yet he was able to reflect on such periods, write of them, and ultimately transcend them.  Where some might become embittered and resentful, John remained gracious and loving. 

John shared some of his writing on the experience of living with cancer with me.  His writing of this experience was detailed in its descriptions, insightful in its analysis, and graceful in its conclusions.  I hope some of it finds its way to publication.  It is certainly most worthy of it.

The picture of John above is not complete.  It is cropped from a larger picture and a larger context...

... the context of love.  I have not known John, apart from Adrian.  Together they lived a rich life of creativity and love.  Their home and garden is a living expression of such creativity and love.

Robert Louis Stevenson said that... "Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well."   John was dealt a bad hand with a deadly cancer, but he played it graciously well.

God be with you John Tinker... until we meet again...

My deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to Adrian and to John's great circle of colleagues, family, and friends.

Peace and blessings...  Rob; in Vancouver

"Despite all of this, we focus on good things.   
As I write, Adrian and I are sipping champagne.  
 Hogarth is nestled up with us, and life is good."
John Tinker


Kathryn in MN said...

We've lost another wonderful person to the beast. I have been inspired by the grace, dignity and honesty John & Adrian shared with us all.

My condolences go out to you Rob, as well as to Adrian. We form bonds with those we've met in cyberspace fighting the same battles, and it is hard when we lose one of our tribe. But for you to have had the honor of meeting John in person and sharing so much with each other, I know this has to be much harder for you to say goodbye. I'm sorry for your loss of a good friend.

I am glad you did make the connection and spend time together, and hope that what you shared helps you in your battle as well.

May you find comfort knowing the end played out the way John & Adrian wanted - at home together and peaceful.

Love and hugs sent your way on this difficult day.

Cleo said...


Thank you for posting your blog about John. I am hungry for anything about him, now that he is gone. I can hardly believe it.

I knew John Tinker (and Adrian) through the colorectal cancer support group at UCSF. My partner--now husband--Dan and myself have attend twice a month and grew to appreciate John's attitude about cancer. He has been an inspiration to everyone in the group, to put it mildly.

I have posted my own blog entry about John:

best wishes,
Laurel Benjamin