nibbling on sponge cake
watching the sun bake
Sure, that’s one way to go.
His plan was to resign as Vice President of the largest engineering firm in the state and start his own company.
Then came the unexpected diagnosis: cancer. The prognosis was not good.
He could have stayed put. He had good insurance, made good money. He would have the support of the entire company as he started his fight for life. It would have been the easier path. But Harvey Chapman seldom chose the easier path.
He left anyway. He started the company from a spare bedroom in his house.
He landed a couple of projects and quickly hired some help. It was hard, grueling work with long hours. Add chemotherapy to the mix.
One evening he was going to an interview for another project, his young employee driving as he sat in the passenger seat going over his presentation notes.
“Pull over,” he said.
On the shoulder of the road, he opened his door and vomited. After a couple of minutes, he put himself back in order and closed the door.
They got the project.
It would go on like that for twelve years. More treatments. Bone marrow transplants. Experimental procedures. The company grew. He bought a historic building and renovated it to house his thirty-some employees. He ran 15-mile road races. He got married. At times he would feel great; other times he was kicking death away. But he was always looking for the next challenge.
He pushed his employees hard. Starting a company from the ground floor is no easy thing and he needed people to be committed. But there was more to it than that. He saw their potential. He saw that they could do great things if they made the right choices. As he had.
Not that he never made mistakes. But the one choice he made over and over again that was always the right choice, was to live life above the common. To choose, not necessarily the easy path, but the right path. To sacrifice the moment’s pleasure, for the promise of a future with meaning. He went through the Air Force flight training. He didn’t have to. He flew C-130s for the Air National Guard, even while he was running his company. He didn’t have to. He gave his employees generous bonuses and cared for their families. He didn’t have to.
Cancer eventually won. That was 22 years ago. The company he started still bears his name.
I don’t know what his last thoughts were, but I know he had to be content. It sounds cliche to say he fought to the end, but he did. And not so he could go sip margaritas on a beach somewhere. No, if he would have rebounded again, he would have been back at work, ready for the next challenge.
Ready to again live life above the common.