White to Black (Update 10)

I acknowledge that the last post in this series may have been a bit bleak for some readers, nevertheless the progress of my illness has accelerated in the past two weeks and now I am in a fairly desperate situation – -read on then for more bleakness- – perhaps this blog could be renamed ‘the Road’ (not my wife’s favorite film, BTW).

Though I had very much wanted to avoid it, I have had to go to hospital twice in the past 10 days; once in an ambulance, and once where I was admitted as a patient to my local hospital now nicknamed (by me) “Guantanamo”. I have been experiencing some strange symptoms in recent weeks, however these are now explained; unfortunately the explanation does not provide anything in the way of comfort — facts have that annoying habit at times, do they not?

One of the strange cognitive symptoms is that I have lost the ability to do the New York Times crossword. Now, I know I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy here because many people cannot do it at all; however, my ability has certainly dropped off. At one point in the last few months, I had done 78 consecutive puzzles without looking up answers or hints; however, now my best streak now is just 2 consecutive puzzles.

I have recently discovered that I can no longer sign my name or write in my usual handwriting. This is not due to problems recognizing how to write my name; rather, it is due to my inability to produce the fine motor skills involved in signing my name. It is rather distressing to lose this ability all of a sudden.

At the beginning of this week, I had an episode where I consumed a cough medication (Robitussin DM) that didn’t agree with me. I ended up running into the bathroom and throwing it up and having a bout of diarrhea. While I was sitting there, I started asking my wife why my head hurt. (Referring to a cancerous growth on my head that I’ve been receiving treatment for over the past month.) For a moment, I didn’t seem to recall that I had cancer on my head or that I’d received any treatment — all I knew is that it hurt. I also didn’t know why I was in the bathroom just after going in there. My wife found this conversation distressing, so she called our doctor at Dana Farber and he insisted we call 911. So, the ambulance came, they took me out on a stretcher to our local hospital. While I was in the ambulance, they hooked me up to an EKG. The EKG showed that during the ambulance ride, I had a “V-Tach” episode. Normally my heart is an extremely reliable ticker — 65 beats per minute pretty much all of the time. However, during the V-Tach episode, my heart raced up and down, climbing as high as 125 beats per minute, I think.

The doctor in the emergency room was concerned about this and the confusion that my wife described, so they did a CT scan of my head. The scan result showed that I had 2 large lesions (tumors) on my brain, which had heretofore not been known about. So now I have cancer in my brain as well. While I’m fond, generally, of collecting the whole set, this is not one of the things that I wanted to have. In the past several months, while other parts of my body were failing me, at least my brain was working well. It did provide, however, an explanation for the weird cognitive issues I’ve been having. Not just cognitive issues — I had also been experiencing strange tongue-swelling episodes and numerous ocular migraines. At this point, the emergency room doctor wanted to send me by ambulance into Boston to Brigham & Women’s Hospital. I was hardly enthused with the prospect of being admitted. I hate hospitals. And I hate having roommates, because I always seem to get stuck with very disruptive people in my room. The stay at the hospital the week before included a roommate who had the TV blaring Loony Tunes all night at high volume and then threatened to punch the nurses in the morning.

Once I heard about the brain tumors, I decided that I wanted no further interventions in my cancer journey. I want no more blood draws. I don’t want my vital signs taken any more. I want no more scans. I want no more stays in hospitals. I don’t want to meet any new doctors, and I don’t want to put my family through further anguish and inconvenience. So I have decided to end my treatment and start hospice at home. This was not a spur of the moment decision, but rather one in which my hand felt forced by circumstances. The medical providers have pretty much run out of treatment options, and I am not interested in the ones left, especially because the medical team says they likely won’t do much. I have already been thinking quite a lot about how much longer I wanted to continue treatment, given that it has left me debilitated and wracked with pain on most days with no real prospect for improvement.

Once I decided that I wanted to shift to hospice, and since it’s possible that not every reader will know what that means, perhaps I should explain it… Hospice is an organized medical procedure where I’m kept out of severe distress and pain as I die. It’s essentially managed death when there’s little to no possibility of improvement or cure for a terminal patient’s condition. once I decided that I wanted to go into hospice, I felt a relief. I had been weighing this kind of decision for a while now. Given the new reality with both the spread of the disease and the narrowing treatment options, it was an easy decision to make.

That decision reached, the only task I had now was to finish the palliative radiation treatments because you have to complete those before starting hospice due to health insurance requirements. Here, I could write an extended diatribe on how stupid the insurance-based system is, but I’m not going to bother. I’m now done with the radiation treatments and the chemo and hospice starts in another day or two. I’m starting to have conversations with people, where — when I say goodbye, it’s a more of a final goodbye — so it’s a difficult point to be at. A lot of tears to flow yet. My wife and I have completed the previously-unfinished portions of my will and all the medical directives. It was very important to complete those documents, so I’m very glad to have that done now. I have also had heavy conversations with some friends and family, letting. them know of my decision, which of course has not been easy. Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve continued to receive supportive comments from readers, and have also continued to receive incredibly generous donations to my GoFundMe campaign. We still have financial needs in that regard, so if you’ve been considering donating to the GoFund me, please give it further thought. The money will go directly to my wife and child. It will help to defray upcoming burial costs, pay any remaining medical bills, etc.

A further note about some comments I have received: I’m not sure what it is about the fact that I’m dying and have made this public news, but it seems to bring out the bible thumpers. Although I appreciate when people let me know that their thoughts or prayers are with me, I find it strange and unhelpful when people try to push their belief system on me or tell me that I could have been cured had I been a more religious person. I believe that someone who harasses someone who is dying of cancer and questions whether they have faith or not isn very “Christian”- – even though all of the messages of this type are from people who say they are Christian. now, I spend no time on this blog talking about religious beliefs, nor do I seek to push things like that on others or interrogate them on their beliefs. One person last week left a comment approximately 3,000 words long replete with stories about how Jesus spent his time on the cross with 2 thieves -chock-full of numerous other biblical references, once again telling me what to think and believe. I have the feeling of being apiece of carrion circled by a species of vulture, who see a in me a person who they can somehow add to their tick list, maybe thereby obtaining some special cred at their local church or something like that? Do you get merit badges or some such thing? Fortunately, the blog comment section here will reject comments with too many words. And I have since taken the extra step of blocking comments containing certain religious words and phrases. Once again, I appreciate good wishes from religious people, just not proselytizing. Please give it a rest.

Kind words from readers in recent months otherwise have really kept my spirits up during a very trying time. I am deeply grateful for the support I have received. Experiencing so much kindness at the end of my life has left me with a brighter picture of humanity. It’s deeply meaningful to me to know that I have touched so many people’s lives. You have certainly touched mine. Thank you.

There may be only one post left in this particular thread and my wife will probably write it.

I hope you will keep striving to follow the trail I have tried to blaze in pursuit of the art of carpentry. It’s not about copying me – it’s about finding your own way. Express your values through your artisanry. The art of carpentry is a deep pool with much remaining to be explored. Why content oneself with merely treading water? I believe I have only scratched the surface myself.

48 thoughts on “White to Black (Update 10)

  1. Chris
    well, I hate to say it but I think it is time to say goodbye. 🙁
    You are an extraordinary human and you will be missed.
    Thank you for all.

    Marc

  2. This post seemed inevitable. I owe you much gratitude and you will be sorely missed. Peace be with you. – Mark

  3. Chris,

    I’ve been quiet for some time on this thread, but the time for that is unfortunately over.

    You have been and will continue to be a huge inspiration for me, and have permanently changed the way I see, understand, and interact with the built world – both large and small. Thanks so much for the energy you’ve put into your writing and teaching over the years.

    May you find a measure of peace with your family here at the last.

    – John W.

  4. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for giving so generously of your genius for carpentry. Thank you also for sharing your meditations on this illness: you have changed the way I think about living and dying.

    I wish peace for you and your family.

    Your admirer,
    Alex

  5. Chris,
    Thank you for sharing this brave journey with us. You have in so many ways entered our lives and made them better….You will be greatly missed and I’m sure that by now you realize that fact. You are an inspiration to us all.
    When I visit the gates of the Tenshin garden at the MFA in Boston…. I will stand there and proudly proclaim…..
    “My friend, Chris Hall, made these gates!”
    Peaceful journey my friend.
    Joe M

  6. Chris, thank you for sharing some of your life’s work with us. Most certainly your research and writings removed a veil and language barrier to western carpenters and woodworkers, and you leave a robust legacy. You have left us all better for your efforts. Thank you for the knowledge and inspiration. Your decisions to share the machinations of the end of life answered a lot of questions I wish I could have asked my Dad when cancer took him, but I thought better than to ask. Your insights have provided me peace and closure. Thank you. And now, I wish you the most profound peace and rest possible. I will never forget you. Blessings to you and your Family. -Rob

  7. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for being so open and for sharing your journey.

    All the very best to you and your family.

    Herbert

  8. I make it a point to visit your garden gate when I visit my daughter in Boston. I will continue to do so.

    Goodbye unmet friend,
    Mike

  9. Chris,
    You have had a profound impact on my life.
    Thank you for years of inspiration.
    I will be thinking of you and your wife and son in the weeks to come.
    Brendan

  10. Chris,

    You have shown us what is possible when one dig deeps and pushes further in exploration of life that profound knowledge can be obtained and incredible feats accomplished.

    I stand in awe of what you have built, the quality of your character and tenacity of your spirit.

    I regret what you are suffering as you are my dear friend. I am forever in your debt and grateful of what you have shared with me and for the friendship you have offered.

  11. Chris,

    To me, you are the definition of a craftsman; embodying all of the best that we can be.
    Your thirst for knowledge and drive to push the craft as far as you can, has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration for all those that walk the way.
    It has been a honor to know you.
    You will missed but not forgotten.
    I wish you and your family Peace.

    Mark

  12. Hi Chris,

    I started reading your blog only a year or two ago, and it has inspired me to challenge myself in my woodworking. What you accomplished in the craft is remarkable. Thank you for sharing it with others, it was much appreciated by many I’m sure, anyway it was for me.

    Sincerely,

    Pascal.

  13. Dear Brother Chris…You are a near master at writing…expertise expressed in all but scholars works. I believe your presence will stay in our hearts. You pushed it to the max in wood working in a fashion which few could model. But you did so in a humble and gracious manner that inspired so many people. If this is the last post I will be at a loss for words… You have been this far and now the circumstances you experience you face with such courage and dignity. Thanks for all the great gifts.

    WARD

  14. Chris, Your mastery of joinery is a legacy in and unto itself. The combination of investigations into world joinery, and unlocking Japanese Carpentry and Joinery as a gateway to such for western woodworkers is nothing short of Legacy work. I know you had much more you wanted to do and share. I will miss your voice, opinion and knowledge. Thanks for everything, and may you enjoy profound rest. You will be missed. All the very best, Rob

  15. Thank you for sharing so much of your knowledge and displaying a level of craft to strive for. I will be learning from your posts, videos, books for years to come. Just today, your post on the Shinx prompted me to try a piece of katalox with my small Hitachi surfacer that I had only used on softwoods. So I turned the blade to 90 and…the results were great. That simple, well written paragraph changed how I use that tool. Thank you again for clearly sharing your experience.

    May you and your family find peace.

    Matt

  16. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for all that you’ve shared with us here over the years. There have been few publications which I’ve looked forward to so much as a new post on The Carpentry Way. To continue your metaphor, nearly every post exposed me to new corners and depths of the pool of the art of carpentry, and I will never forget the influence you’ve had on me as a woodworker.

    I wish you and your family peace and love.

    Greg

  17. Chris,
    Thank you.
    I hope your transition is easy.
    I will carry what I’ve learned from your blog forward as I pursue the craft.
    I will remember and hope to emulate the attitude towards the ultimate you have expressed here.
    Jim Dillon

  18. Chris, for many years now, I have had the honour to be inspired through your posts. You have always come across as a man who is constantly learning and fine tuning his skills. Sharing your journey required a man that was humble, for which I am very thankful for.
    And so with a heavy heart I’ll say goodbye, Bon Voyage!
    Andrew

  19. I am so sorry to read this post. You’ve been an inspiration to me in your writings, and have been someone I admired for many years. I’m so sorry for you and your family. I feel lucky to have a copy of your essays and will archive as much of your blog as I can.

    Thank you for such an honest sharing of such a terrible time.

    Sam

  20. It sounds odd to say, but thanks for sharing your experiences with the world. You possess a calmness and dignity that anyone would benefit from.

    Although cancer can be caused by many things or nothing at all, it’s a shame that those prone to bible thumping don’t seem to be concerned with things that could be accomplished in this world with respect to environmental and occupational cleanliness.

    I’m hoping the next stage in you and your family’s lives goes as peacefully and comfortably as it can. Thanks again for all the knowledge and experience you’ve shared. Peace.

  21. My great aunt is in hospice for end stage heart failure. She has been a second grandma to me. During this sadness, the gathering of family to express love, memories, and well wishes to whatever comes next has been joyful and touching. I hope you experience this as well in these final stages of your life’s journey.

  22. Hi Chris, we salute you. Thank you again for all that you’ve shared with us, and the examples you have set. I will always remember and be inspired by your work, integrity, and passion. I wish you and your family peace.

    – Siavosh & family

  23. Chris,
    We’ve never met, but your work and writing have been an inspiration to me for years. Thank you for all you’ve done; you’ve made your mark on this world in a way that most people don’t. I hope your remaining days are as free of pain as possible, and as peaceful as they can be.

  24. Chris, my comment did not escape my browser last night. I’m saddened to hear of the cancer’s progression.

    Thank you for all you’ve shared in health and sickness. I hope that hospice can be as comfortable as possible for you and your family. I’m sure that your journey will serve as an inspiration to future people on this path.

    Peace.

  25. Chris;
    So sorry! Your inspired me to journey into your type of woodworking. May your days be peaceful as possible! Will never forget your lessons In life as well as wood! Thanks for all!
    J.T.

  26. Chris,

    I too haven’t said much over this series of posts, I can only echo how much I’ve appreciated your skills and knowledge and your desire to share and educate us all both here and in the detail of your posts in the forum. Your candour in what must be a difficult time for you and your family is amazing.

    Thank you.
    Iain T.

  27. Chris,

    Your wonderfully intelligent craftsmanship has been an inspiration to me, but even more has been the forthright account of your ordeal. The clarity, courage, and humor that you have shared with us are nothing short of amazing. What a good thing you have done to give such a gift to us as we confront our own mortality. Thank you. Godspeed.

    Rob

  28. Chris,

    I walk by your table almost every day, and without exception, I’m always awed by its beauty. And, it inevitably leads to thoughts of the incredible build journey you shared with me, and so many others. How much you learned (math, joinery, carpentry, culture, writing, SketchUp…) AND were able to do in your lifetime – to such perfection – completely astounds me. It’s humbling.

    Like your work, and this table, you are truly a one-of-kind. I know you had a lot more to do, but hopefully whatever happens next, or wherever you go onto, you’ll continue to inspire and teach, like the beautiful things you created.

    Your friend and student,

    Guillaume

  29. Chris,

    Guillaume’s comment reminded me: I wanted to say that I made the andon you designed for your tutorial at your forum Craftsmanshipinwood. It has been in our living room for a year. A few evenings ago, my wife and I were sitting around talking about nothing in particular, and there was a pause, and then out of the blue she said, “You know, that is a REALLY nice lamp. I love looking at it.” I agree. It is calm and serene and perfect for end of the day.

  30. We are all stumbling to the exit. We don’t acknowledge it when we are young and foolish, many deny it when they are old and foolish. No one knows what’s next if anything. One can only hope for a companion to accompany us to the door. Only we can step through, unknowing what’s next but knowing you have loved and been loved and leaving behind the memory of that love makes the world better for having lived. Your family will miss you. Your companions will miss you. I know I will. Besides I still owe you a Korean dinner. See you in the bardo.

  31. Chris,
    I wanted to use the word ethereal to describe your work lately, sharing with friends. I hesitated and looked it up. “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world”
    I am a better man for having made your acquaintance. Your excellence and indomitable spirit, your generosity and courage will be your legacy. You have been so generous to the world with your writing here. Thank you. The blessed nature of walking this slow path toward the end is it affords time to share these goodbyes. Peace, brother.

  32. Chris
    I don’t know what to say , but I know it’s not going to be goodbye. You are in my workshop every day, sometimes on my shoulder and sometimes in my head. I have met my people in my life and only a few have touched my heart. You are truly in there. Your are the best craftsman I have ever met. Many people will understand to be a craftsman you need to be humble, kind, honest , sharing and knowledgeable you are all of those and more. I will continue to thank you every day and do my best to keep your spirit next to me.

    🙏🏻 Andy

  33. Chris-

    Thank you for your generous gifts of passion for the craft, wonderment at the ability to create, sharing knowledge, questioning what can be, and understanding that these talents are best honored when shared with others. You have made a difference for all of us who aspire to create beautifully as you have. Peace and godspeed to you and your family-

  34. Bless you and yours Chris. Loved and admired your tedious attention to detail and honoring the craft of carpentry. Thank you for being a inspiration when such motivation rarely exists in a throw away world. So thankful to have found your work years ago and followed your quest for ultimate perfection, understanding, discipline and mastery. May any or all good just gods truly bless you and your family.

  35. I’ve read the above mentioned post a couple of times…I think somewhat that guy was trying to say that just like that thief on the other cross, who had minutes left to live. you could ask the Lord for help at the end of your life.
    that being said, I think all of your song has not been completely sung. we have enjoyed all you have done to advance the craft.
    You will be greatly missed.

  36. You will always be remembered Chris- thanks for sharing yourself with the rest of us for so long. I’ve learned an incredible amount from your blog and books and I’m sure others have too. I wish you peace and dignity on the rest of your journey.

  37. Hi Chris, you and I have never met but I wanted to share how much I’ve learned from your posts and watching your videos. Also how much I respect the bravery and strength that goes into these latest blog posts. I am on the verge of being able to pursue making things of wood full time without distractions of shop building etc. I want you to know that your work and ideas will be along with me as a continue to identify and refine the “me” in this craft. We are all a product of our inspirations and you’ll be there with me on the rider. I wish you peace.

Anything to add?