Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Life and Death Is Near and Far

I want to dedicate this column to a former colleague of mine who just passed away.  His name was Larry Cathey, and we both worked for our college student newspaper, The Eastern Echo.  Larry died of colon cancer on Saturday, about six months after he had been diagnosed.  He and his wife had just welcomed their first child into the world just two months ago. 

I use the term "colleague" as opposed to "friend" because I didn't have the fortune of knowing him like many of our mutual friends had.  But "acquaintance" seems like such a shallow and unfeeling description.  We had plenty of mutual friends, but he and I did know each other through our newspaper.  We'd see each other crossing paths on campus where it was a quick hello and off we went in various directions or at Echo functions like banquet here or a get-together there. 

Larry was a sports writer and a member of the Echo's executive/editorial board, whereas I was just a columnist.  Translation: while I was writing a dumb column and e-mailing it in to my editor, he was actually doing real work at the office in addition to covering athletic events. 

The only reason I know anything about his tragic passing is because we were facebook friends.  I can't recall if I requested him or vice versa, but at some point we interacted enough in each others lives to the point where we had some sort of marginal contact. 

When he first broke the news of his diagnosis, I felt genuinely saddened and sympathetic for him, knowing full well we hadn't spoken since about 2006, when we graduated from Eastern Michigan.  I wrote a supportive message on his status update where he disclosed his cancer, and hours later he "liked" it.  My message was nothing.  It was literally the least I could do.  I'm glad he liked it.  I wanted him to know that I was rooting for him to get through this anyway. 

You don't wish these kinds of things on other people.  I wonder how many other people who he had not heard from in years dropped him a note expressing their concern too.  Judging by the number of people who have posted to his wall in the last few days, he had a wider circle of friends and stayed in touch with more than I have with my circle in the years since.  I'd say he was lucky to have such a wide array of friends, but you have to be a decent human being to begin with.  So it wasn't all luck on his part.

My thoughts now turn to his family.  He left behind a wife and child.  This isn't meant to be an obituary, but I'm truly saddened that a wife lost her husband and a daughter will grow up with no memory of her father. 

I just learned there will be a viewing on Monday and a memorial on Tuesday in Flat Rock.  Not sure if it would be appropriate to attend.  I want to convey my sympathies without being awkward, so I may end up sending a card.

I'll say one last thing.  Larry had a battle cry when he announced his disease: Fuck Cancer.  That's one thing I'll say, he was to the point.  Normally, I think ribbons, bumper stickers, and sloganeering do nothing to fix the problem.  Otherwise, I'd have worn a ribbon for diabetes every day the last 15 years. 

But this isn't about me.  It's about him and honoring him.  So just for Larry, I stand with his spirit, even if I can't stand next to him:

Fuck Cancer.

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