Circular letter: From all sides He surrounds me!

Tomorrow morning I will go to the University Hospital in Zurich for about three weeks in an isolated single room. What thoughts I had in the last couple of days and what lays ahead you find in my new post.

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Dear family and friends,

Today a friend asked me how long it has been now since the cancer came to light. Exactly four months ago (on April 17, 2021), the 12-week chemotherapy, the first phase of treatment, began at the Winterthur Clinic and was completed on July 9. Sometimes it seems so unreal to me what all has happened during these weeks. I never got bored, because on the one hand there were always unpleasant surprises and pains that I had never experienced before. But I was all the more happy about every nice and positive surprise – especially about visits, phone calls, letters, flower greetings and more. Last week friends sent a lovingly arranged “care package”. And yesterday I received another beautiful song, sung and played by my large family. The lyrics by Hedwig van Reedern are as relevant today as they were 120 years ago when she wrote them. It always speaks to me very much, because it expresses so much confidence, and we need that especially at this time:

Even if I do not know the way, you know it well; that makes the soul quiet and peaceful.
Is it in vain that I toil anxiously, that my heart beats fearfully – be it late, be it early.

You know the way for me, you know the time, your plan is ready and lies prepared.
I praise you for the power of your love, I praise the grace that brought me salvation.

You know from where the wind blows so heavily, and you command it, never come too late.
Therefore, I wait still, your word is without deceit; you know the way for me – that is sufficient.

Tomorrow morning I will go to the University Hospital in Zurich for about three weeks in an isolated single room. There I will receive the high-dose chemotherapy on the same day; two days later I will receive my own stem cells by infusion. Then I must wait and pray that I will be protected from infections and that my blood production and immune system will rebuild as quickly as possible. Sometimes I am afraid or wonder how I will cope with the lonely night hours and the side effects that are very likely to occur.

That’s why I’m happy about various Bible verses that you have sent or assured me in the past days and encouraged me with them. Here are some of them:

„In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.“ (Psalm 138:3)

„Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Our God is the God of salvation; and to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.“ (Ps. 68:19-20)

They are now ubiquitous: the transparent Plexiglas partitions. They separate customers and counter clerks, patients and caregivers; many nursing staff wear a transparent face helmet in addition to a mouth guard and goggles. What has become more of a symbol of rampant distance and loneliness in today’s world has a completely different depth in the words of a Psalm poet:

„But You, O LORD, are a shield for (lit. around) me.“ (Psalm 3:3)

Just the last verse with the picture of the 360 degree shield reminded me of another song where the refrain goes as follows:

„From all sides you surround me, O Lord!
You are beyond comprehension, to you be praise, glory and honor!“

I assume that this has been written with Psalm 139:5 in mind:

„You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.“

Our son Felix reminded us yesterday that the Apostle John, at the beginning of the Revelation (chapter 1, 12-18), sees Christ in His greatness and power as Judge, Lord and King; among other things, it says that He had “in his right hand seven stars”. The same right hand that guides stars in their courses, which are distant from each other by light years, this hand Christ lays benevolently and caringly on the Apostle, when he “falls down at his feet as dead” in view of the frightening figure. And He says to him: “Don’t be afraid!”

His hand will now be with Dietlind and with me. We take this firmly for us, together with His promises in the chapter in which the Lord Jesus introduces himself as the Good Shepherd:

„My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” (Gospel of John 10,27-30)

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for Dietlind and me in the coming weeks!

Love and greetings

PS: In preparation for the inevitable consequences of chemo, Dietlind has already given me a rather short hairstyle:

How glad was I when my iPhone still recognized my face!

I can still be reached by phone or email. Whoever wants to visit me should contact me or – actually better – Dietlind beforehand.