Contributed By Christopher Hamner


One memory has returned to me several times over the past two weeks. Roy and I met to discuss the status of the project late last summer, when he was just back from one of his treatments. We met in his office; seeing him for the first time in six weeks, I was taken aback for a moment. His optimistic (and prompt) e-mails over the summer had not given much indication about his physical deterioration. As we sat down to discuss the project, however, the extent of his fatigue became clearer; he labored to draw regular breaths. Roy explained that lately he tired in the afternoon, and that breathing became more difficult as a result. Would it be awkward for me, he asked, if he lay down on the floor to ease the effort?

It might have been awkward with anyone else, but Roy made it seem completely natural--and for the next 45 minutes we talked about the status of the project, the work we’d already done, and details that remained to be sorted out, all from the floor of his office. Within a minute, as Roy related a laugh-out-loud anecdote, I felt as if it were perfectly natural to have a meeting while lying on the floor. Why would anyone ever hold a meeting anyplace else?

As our conversation wound down, I inquired tentatively about Roy’s condition, which was obviously becoming more serious. But of course Roy didn’t want to talk about his discomfort, or his frustration, or his exhaustion, and steered the conversation to me. How was my summer? How was my work coming? I confessed (somewhat sheepishly, given the magnitude of Roy's illness) that I was having some difficulties: I had just received feedback from a reader I suspected had not read the work carefully or completely. Roy pressed for some details, and as I described the comments, he urged me to appeal. The next thing I knew, Roy was offering, then insisting, to read my proposal himself and to help draft a response to my editor. It was a moment that, to me, typified Roy’s generosity and his sensitivity: with everything going on in his life, Roy was still lavishly generous with his time, his energy, his insight. And despite the difficulties facing him, he never stopped searching for ways to offer his experience and his time to others. I was so lifted by Roy’s interest and concern that I was halfway across campus before it occurred to me that I had just piled a substantial amount of work on an extremely busy man with a serious medical condition. Roy was always so graceful with his generosity that it was easy for me to take it for granted. Thanks, Roy.

In the past two weeks, I’ve spun between deep sadness at not having years more with Roy as colleague, mentor, and friend, and deep gratitude for being invited into Roy’s community, and this department, for the two years that I had. Mostly I’m just mad at the universe for claiming him way, way too early.