By Anne Dukes
Wesleyan Christian Advocate
Despite a medical prognosis that his doctor said leaves him with only two or three months to live, the Rev. Frank Harvey continued to perform his dynamic dramatic portrayals of biblical characters during the month of November.
He drinks carrot juice to please his wife Hazel and has gathered his children and friends around for comfort and care, but, in his own words, “I’m happy, but I’ll be happier next year.”
Harvey wants his many friends in Georgia and elsewhere to know of his terminal cancer and his (and his doctor’s) decision not to proceed with any further treatments, including chemotherapy. He also wants everyone to know that he trusts in the Lord’s grace and is “not really reluctant” about passing from this world. (That’s not the case with his wife, who is reluctant to lose him and has him trying some homeopathic treatment that he says, “doesn’t taste too good, but I go along with it so she won’t think I’m not trying hard enough.”)
Harvey is an ordained pastor in the South Georgia Conference on voluntary location in Kentucky, where he and his wife moved in order to be closer to their children. Through the years, he has kept up a demanding travel schedule, hitting the road to bring to life biblical characters such as King David, Joseph of Nazareth and the Roman Centurion, which he performed Nov. 6 at Atlanta First UMC. He was also scheduled to perform Nov. 30 in his hometown of Lexington.
Harvey has been diagnosed with Meyelodysplacia. Because of his age, 75, and other “indicators,” a bone marrow transplant, which is the only cure for the disease, has been ruled out. “All the treatments would more likely kill me,” he said, adding he “cannot imagine myself spending what life I have left devastated by a chemotherapy that has a high statistical chance of killing me.” Harvey even told his doctor, “sooner or later people must realize that it is okay to die.”
Harvey expressed his feelings about dying this way: “If death was a horrible consequence, then everyone Jesus healed would still be alive. But the fact is that everyone Jesus healed died. That must mean that death is the greatest thing that happens to a believer.”
Harvey also said that when he arrives at the pearly gates, he will trust in God’s grace because, he said, “I am quite sure that my reservation in heaven is not based on something wonderful I’ve done for God, but rather it is because of something wonderful God has done for me.”
This advance notice of the disease’s course has allowed Harvey to prepare his family and friends (of which he has many in Georgia) for the end and to be able to communicate with them. “If I do get into a period where I’m suffering and can’t communicate, well then I’ve already talked with everyone and I (and they) can let go without worrying about trying to get in any last words,” he said.
“So I am preparing for death but expecting to live and carry on my ministry until Jesus comes to get me — and that will be my ultimate blessing,” said Harvey.
This article appeared in the December 2, 2005 edition of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate published in Georgia. It has been reprinted here with special permission.