I am working at a client site in Galveston, with about a dozen other people from my company. Most of us are commuting from Dallas each week. We share rental cars, and a bunch of us leave the client's office together at 2pm on Fridays, in several cars. Of course no week is the same, since we often have special circumstances. I stay at a hotel called the Harbor House, which is a really nice converted warehouse at the pier. Harvey just called it 'the warehouse'.
Friday, December 15, 2000
It is foggy all day in Galveston. Since Harvey Olson and I are both staying at the Harbor House, we meet at the desk in the morning when we check out, and we load our bags into his rental car before going to work. Since my bag is in his car, we plan to ride together to the airport. Harvey has a meeting at 1pm, but tells me he still plans to leave the office at 2pm. Steve leaves about 10 minutes before 2, and at 2pm I notice Don and Freddye leaving. The conference room door is still closed, and Harvey is still in there, so I park myself in a chair nearby and wait. At about 2:10pm Harvey walks out of the meeting, and we take off.
All the way to Houston I am concentrating on trying to lift the fog. Harvey is skeptical, but I tell him I believe I sometimes have been able to lift or dissipate the clouds, or keep them from letting go with their storms, until we get airborne. So he goes along with me and cheers me on - since we suspect the fog has to lift before our plane will take off. I am really tired, and I finally admit that the fog is too much for me, and that I feel I have no influence on it.
We arrive at the rental car return, and the guy who receives our car tells us that all flights to Dallas are canceled because the fog is even worse in Dallas. So we start walking to the place where the Avis bus will arrive to take us to the terminal. The bus rolls to a stop, and as the passengers disembark, I am surprised to see Steve getting off - coming back to Avis from the terminal. I ask Steve what's going on, and he says that the ticket counters are a chaotic mess with everyone scrambling to arrange a later flight, since all flights to Dallas are canceled. Steve says that he decided to come back to Avis to rent a car and drive home. Harvey asks if we can share his ride and if Steve can drop us off at DFW on his way home, since Harvey leaves his car at the airport in Dallas. However Steve lives in Plano, so he says DFW is not on his way. Harvey then tells Steve how close to Plano his house is, and Steve agrees that Harvey's house is on the way. Harvey asks if I would like to ride along and have Steve drop me off at his house, and I immediately accept. While Steve quickly finishes the paperwork, I run to the pay phone and call Chris. I tell Chris that she should not pick me up at DFW, that Harvey and I are driving home with Steve, and I'll call her from Harvey's house in 5 or 6 hours. Harvey gives me his home phone number and asks that Chris call his home and leave a message that we are driving, so his wife will not worry.
So because of the fog, Harvey's meeting, our both staying at the Harbor House, our running into Steve as he got off the bus back to Avis, and Harvey's home being on the way to Plano - I happened to meet Harvey's wife Terry, and to spend over an hour visiting with Terry and Harvey.
Monday, January 08, 2001 &
Tuesday, January 09, 2001
I fell asleep about 10:30pm although I was so tired from the traveling, that I spent most of the evening half-unconscious. I even left the office a little earlier than everyone else did, because I just reached a point where I could not try to think anymore. My suitcase was in Harvey's rental car trunk, since he was also staying at the Harbor House. I told Harvey to let me know when he got to the Harbor House, and I'd come down and get my suitcase from the car. The front desk rang my room at about 6pm, to let me know 'Mr. Olson' was checking in. I came down and we went to the car, got our bags, traveled up the elevator to our 3rd floor rooms and said goodnight.
After I fell asleep (or practically passed out from exhaustion) at 10:30pm, I slept really well for 2 hours. When I awoke at 12:30am I felt refreshed enough to do a little work. (I had taken my work from the office with me when I left, just in case I felt up to working later - since I left the office early.) I had some ideas about the design of the system software changes I was working on, so I made some scribbley notes until about 1:30am. When I was through working, I decided to go to bed and turn on the TV to shut down my mind. Of course I got sucked into watching an entire movie, and when I finally shut off the TV, it was 3am. So now I was ready to go to sleep, but I figured it might be difficult to get up at 6am, so I was about to arrange a wake-up call with the hotel desk. And as I reached for the phone, it rang.
The hotel manager, Stacey Gilbert, called me at about 3am. She said she was calling from home, and that she just received a call from the front desk that Mr. Olson had called for an ambulance, that the ambulance had arrived and was preparing to take him to the Emergency Room at UTMB, that he apparently had a heart attack, and that it did not look good. I thanked her for calling me, and - in a semi-shocked and only partly awake state, I ran down to the front desk. The man at the desk was Wayne, and he told me the ambulance had just left with Harvey for the Emergency Room, and if I wanted he would call a taxi for me. I asked him if anyone had called Harvey's wife, and he said they did not even have his home phone number. I said I would be back down to the desk in a few minutes. I went back up to my room to call Cliff, our Project Manager here in Galveston. Unfortunately, I only had his number at the office and his pager number. I called the pager number, and I left a voice message. I then decided to call Julie's room, to let her know what was happening, and to see if she had the phone number of Cliff's apartment in Galveston. She also only had Cliff's pager number, but she suggested I come by her room and take the keys to her rental car. When I came to the door, Julie thought she'd like to come with me if I could wait a few minutes for her to put herself together. Since she had a bad cold, and had taken some medication, I suggested she go back to bed and get some rest. I stopped at the desk on my way out, and Wayne said the technicians had come back to clean up a little. The technicians said that although no one could say anything formally yet, that Mr. Olson looked really bad, and that he looked blue as he left in the ambulance.
I drove to the Emergency Room, and there was a Social Worker who waited for someone to show up on behalf of Harvey. After checking with the Dr. to make sure it was OK to tell me, the Social Worker sat me in a room to let me know that Harvey had passed away. The most immediate question was who should make the call to tell his wife. There was little doubt in my mind that I was to make the call, since I happened to have recently met and talked with Terry.
Imagine how awful and unreal it would be to get a phone call that your spouse suddenly died - while out-of-town - and then magnify the unreality by about 5x if you receive a call like that from a total stranger! At least when I called and woke Terry up, and introduced myself, she knew who I was.
After I spoke to Terry, and she said she would call her son who could be there in minutes, I went to see Harvey. I was amazed that the impish gleam was still in his eye, and in my denial and shock, I imagined I saw his stomach rise and fall as if he was breathing, and I turned to the Social Worker standing on the other side of Harvey and said "are you sure he's gone?" To which of course she replied "yes".
I called Terry again, to make sure she reached her son, and to keep her talking while she was still home alone. I gave her the phone number of the morgue in Texas City where he would be taken, and I assured her I would pack up his things in his room, etc.
As I was leaving the ER, Cliff arrived - Julie had been unable to go back to sleep, and she figured out how to reach him. I had to tell Cliff that Harvey did not make it.
In the midst of all the gory details, and all the sadness and grieving over the loss of Harvey's presence, I have been overwhelmed with something new in my belief-system, born of my involvement in the aftermath of Harvey's death - and in the 'coincidences' that led to my involvement.
It has been about a month now since Harvey died. I meant to write about all this much sooner, but life has it's own schedule. My involvement with Harvey, and with his family after his death has changed me and has changed my life in ways I will continue to discover.
It is quite a set of coincidences - that the fog, Harvey's meeting, Steve's decision and timing of renting a car to drive home, Harvey & I just happening to catch Steve, and Harvey's house being on the way to Plano, etc. - so I think everything happens the way it does for a reason - even though we might not know or understand the reasons. Could Harvey's sudden death have been related to the medication he was taking for a stomach condition? Could his death have been prevented by anything someone might have done differently? Is there a conscious being out there somewhere who has a Master Plan? Are the major events in our lives pre-ordained and the minor choices we make all really guided by a Master? I do not believe it this way - but I must admit there is a sense I have of the universe being how it is, and of everything happening as it is supposed to. And I feel much more connected with, and in tune to the universe, and to a force beyond, and much less need to be in 'control' of everything.
I suppose I am feeling more fatalistic in my views, and more resigned to just flowing with the force of life and less interested in reining it in. What an ego to have believed I had power over the clouds and fog - and what a waste of the energies and abilities I do have, to be using them on the weather...
I am now open to many impulses of life and people around me, in a way that perhaps I felt when I was younger - so very long ago - but did not know what to make of it or do with it then... Now I believe it will be made clear to me what I am to do, if I can just quiet my ego and flow with the force of the universe's energies.
We are here for such a short time, and can be gone in an instant, and we are each of us intended to be and do something, to play some small part in this bigger drama of life.
I notice that I am a calm person, and that my voice and my presence have a calming and peaceful effect on others. Also that I am a very caring and compassionate person - so giving comfort to others is a very natural impulse. I must allow the beginnings of what is happening in me now to continue - I am allowing myself to open up and let stuff in - and I am allowing my ego to step aside, so that the result is I can have energy, words, deeds, and effects flow through me. In this way, to the degree that I can let go and flow with the impulse, I do not mind being used.
Is there some major change I should be making in my life? For now, I only know that there is a shift in how I view things, in how events affect me, in how I relate to people around me, and in how much more in touch I am with the physical, emotional, and spiritual realities both within me and swirling all around out there.
What it is that I am here to do, - whether it is revealed as a moment and/or an individual here and there in my life, or whether it becomes clear as a path I am to travel towards some goal, is all yet to be discovered. I will trust the sense of God I have within me, with a newly acquired level of trust and serenity. And I do not need to work very hard at figuring all this out, nor do I need to 'control' the ongoing growth or changes I am experiencing as a result of these recent insights.
Harvey, I miss your soft and kindly manner, your delightful company in traveling, your shining intelligence and knowledge in work and personal discussions, your kindness and caring in so many little things, your joy in life, your sense of humor, your devotion to and pride in your family, your many wonderful stories, your 'grumpy curmudgeon' act, and the impish gleam in your eye. I miss the opportunities we started to make to play some poker. I miss your special way of laughing. I miss having you here with us in person. And I know you travel with me always, since I am a different me (and I like to think, a better person) for having known you while you were here. In your passing, I know the intention is for me to help you watch over your loved ones, and I promise you I will continue to do so in the non-intrusive way I imagine you would wish it. And I know that the beginnings of the changes I am experiencing - in my becoming more in touch with and in step with who I am to be and what I am to do - is a gift you have given me, that I cherish along with your memory.
As life unfolds, and some fog lifts for me, with you by my side and in my heart, I shall now go forth and fulfill my mission, as you have fulfilled yours.
BobiJo        01/23/01 - 02/13/01