Chris Chesterton tells a great story in his book ‘77 Talks For 21st Century Kids‘. When Captain James Cook and his expeditionary force landed in Australia, they started to learn the Aborigine language. In particular, they asked the Aborigines what the strange jumping animals were. ‘Kangaroo,’ they replied. But ‘kangaroo’ wasn’t the name: it was their word for ‘don’t know’!

He links this with the story of the manna in the wilderness. When the people first see it, they wonder what it is. They call it ‘manna’, which is effectively Hebrew for ‘wotsit’. It’s another ‘don’t know’ moment. God has done something, but they are reduced to the language of ‘don’t know’ or ‘wotsit’.

I think we’ve just been through a ‘don’t know’ episode with God as a family. I’ve been blogging lately about my Mum. We now know that (a) she doesn’t have secondary cancers in her lung and (b) neither does she have lung cancer. But what does she have? We don’t know. The hospital, including the eminent consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, don’t know. One nurse said the lesion was probably just a ‘medical anomaly’.

So there was just a concern about a temperature Mum kept having since last Friday’s surgery. However, yesterday they put it down to haematoma near the site of the one drain that was still attached, and today she is being discharged. 

We had a problem about transport for the discharge, but again, God has been up to things. My Dad, at eighty-one, didn’t want to drive into central London to pick Mum up. (And if he did, we’d have vetoed it.) I couldn’t make it. All along, my brother-in-law was on standby to do so. However, he has been suffering from a chest infection. What to do?

Well … on Wednesday, two retired friends from my parents’ last church, Colin and Ella, turned up to visit. They said that if Mum were discharged any day between yesterday (Thursday) and tomorrow (Saturday), they would happily oblige. They live the wrong side of London for the hospital and for where my parents now live in Hampshire. But nothing is too much trouble for them. It is a lovely act of Christian kindness. Mum’s only disappointment is that they will chauffeur her home in their ‘ordinary’ car, a Skoda Octavia, rather than Colin’s beloved classic car, a gorgeous white 1960s Jaguar! But who’s complaining?

Yes, this has been our kangaroo experience as a family. We’re not claiming a miraculous healing, because there was never a firm diagnosis of cancer that has been rescinded. But God has been up to his ‘don’t know’ work, doing ‘wotsit’ ministry with us. It leaves God at the level of mystery, as One who – however truly he has revealed himself in the Gospel – is nevertheless above and beyond our puny human comprehension. And that is all the more reason for thanksgiving and praise.

UPDATE, 8:40 PM: Well, tonight it doesn’t seem quite so ‘wotsit’ or ‘don’t know’ as it seemed earlier! Mum has got home safely, but told us that the consultant said today he was terribly sorry, he’d forgotten to tell her the diagnosis! It’s TB. That sounds dreadful to some and of course it has been making a comeback in recent years. However, it seems Mum has probably had it in her system since her youth and the trauma of last December’s fall left her stressed and run down, thus vulnerable to a recurrence. And at least these days it is a treatable condition. So although we’re looking at another six months under a local consultant and her GP, we’re not shocked by the news.


  1. Thanks, Olive! Actually, I need to post an update: I’ve heard this evening that the consultant forgot to give Mum the diagnosis. It’s TB. While that sounds serious to some, we’re not worried. It was top of the list if it wasn’t cancer, and at least it’s treatable.


  2. ”The Consultant forgot to tell..’!!! I’m glad you’ve got the diagnosis at last because it’s much better than a mystery – and, as you say, it’s treatable. You will all still need our prayers.


  3. Thanks, Olive. Initial word is that Mum will be under the local consultant for six months. A nurse friend has told me this morning to expect a year.


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