Good Man Gone

In this time of pestilence casting a shadow over our earth, i received an email this morning. It was expected but dreaded, not good news. Harvey Hathaway passed away last night. He fought a valiant fight against the other dreaded villain, cancer, pancreatic cancer to be more specific. When i learned of his condition in early November, i wrote a post about him after he approved my doing so. i wanted to post it again to honor him as a memorial service will not be held until we all can get together again. i have some comments to add to the post at the end: 

There’s This Nice Guy

This is one of the more difficult things i have had to write in some time. i sit at this  damnable electronic marvel, strum my fingers across the keyboard not hard enough to print a letter on the screen, and resort to my usual excuse to do absolutely nothing useful playing spider solitaire. It’s that time now. i need to get to it. It’s not easy.

You see, playing golf yesterday, he told me he wouldn’t be playing with us anymore, adding he had cancer. Being me, i thought he was joking after a pretty bad couple of holes. My cart buddy quietly admonished me. There was no joke. Our golfing partner really had cancer. And it didn’t look good.

It’s been a long time since i have been so shocked. As we played, i learned more. Then when we joined our other players in the clubhouse dining area, he told the group of seven the extent of the bad news. It was much worse than i thought.

Harvey Hathaway’s stage four pancreatic cancer has spread to his liver and his stomach. The only possible treatment is chemotherapy. With it, his prognostication for living is somewhere around eight months. Without chemo, the number shrinks to three months. Oh, there have been miracles of cancer patients surviving much longer than predicted, even beating it, and i am praying this will be another miracle story.

But it doesn’t look good.

Harvey is one of the nicest guys i know. He is a retired cop. One job he had was a security guy for Hugh Hefner and quite often his job was to escort and protect the Playboy Bunnies at Hef’s Los Angeles mansion. From Harvey’s account, he never strayed from his job for some dilly dallying and became friends with a number of the bunnies. Harvey is so nice i believe him totally.

Harvey and i have had a running joke for a couple of years. We often play partners with Marty Marion and Jim Hileman. That means two against two with each hole worth two possible points. Each six holes, we switch partners. Harvey began as a pretty high handicapper but kept improving. When we were partners, he would not play very well, and since playing well is not my usual profile, this never went well and we nearly always lost that six holes. Then Harvey and i would be have different partners. Harvey’s play would greatly improve and mine would go in the opposite direction. The result inevitably would be me losing all three partner matches and Harvey winning two.

i jokingly called it the “Harvey curse” until i about half-way believed it. i brought it up every time we played together. Harvey and i would share a laugh.

“Harvey” is a great name for Harvey. He reminds me of another Harvey, the title character in the movie. Actually, my Harvey seems to be a cross between the pooka, a six foot, three and half inches tall rabbit also named Harvey and the movie Harvey’s running mate, Elwood P. Dowd, the character played by Jimmy Stewart. If you can imagine that combination, you have a real good idea of what i think of Harvey Hathaway. He’s winsome.

He also is, from my perspective, going through this the right way. He is letting people know. He is from a time and has been in a profession where giving up and feeling sorry aren’t part of the agenda. He’s Harvey. He is approaching his situation with dignity. This is what i would expect from Harvey.

After our round and lunch of sliders, i began to drive home. My shock had worn off. i wanted to cry. i wanted to scream. i wanted it to rain so i could do what i did when one of the most wonderful women in the world passed away from breast cancer fifty-six years ago. i was a freshman in college when i learned my best friend’s mother, Virginia Harding had succumbed.

When i came home from Nashville for the funeral, i ran, an abnormal thing for me at the time, from my house to Henry’s where i had spent more time than anywhere else other than our house, about a half-mile. It was raining. i was sprinting at full speed, i screamed with tears running down my face. i hated the world for letting this terrible loss occur. It was fruitless. i knew it. But i needed to deal with it my way.

Well, Harvey isn’t gone yet, and god willing, he could beat this. But driving home, that’s how i felt. How could whatever powers of good that are let this happen to one of the nicest people i have ever met?

i have lived long enough to know that is not how the world works. But this one still stinks.

Oh yes, Harvey and i won our six holes. The curse is broken. Maybe that is a good omen for what is next.

Harv, if you need me, i will be there anytime, anywhere.

My thoughts today:

Harvey went out the right way. He was brave. He was gracious. He accepted his fate. He was a gentleman to the end.

Harvey was like his namesake in the movie. In fact, he was better to be around. He more than earned my highest compliment, which i gleaned from comments about my father from his friends in his last days, “He was a good man.”

The curse is broken, Harvey, but not the way i wanted.

And that comment above about “…if you need me, i will be there, anytime, anywhere,” still goes.

And right now, i wish like hell it would rain. i need to go on a run.


3 thoughts on “Good Man Gone

  1. Very sad, Jim. I have the same thing going on in my life. My best friend, golfing and fishing partner, rib cooking, cigar smoking, Manhattan drinking and whatever else was happening, has stage four lung cancer. He had a similar diagnosis, two or three months without chemo and 2-3 years with chemo. He just started chemo a couple of weeks ago.

  2. Powerfully said – more and more I’m acquainting myself with the “big” occasions of life. Your words covered it.

  3. My brother-in-law (my sister Mary’s husband) has pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver and stomach. He is barely eating and may not last long. He was taking chemo but at the last treatment the doctor said it was not helping so they sent him home. He is in hospice now. He waited to late when he first got sick to see the doctor. All we can do now is pray. We last saw him three weeks ago before the stay at home order. All we can do is pray.

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