Mesa Musings: Really appreciate life before it's gone

Editor's note: Jim Carnett wrote the following piece 50 years ago as a 16-year-old junior at Costa Mesa High School, when he was sports editor of the school newspaper, the Hitching Post.

This is the most wonderful time of the year.

The warm summer sun beats down on the bronze, tan bodies of teenagers and their world of sand, sky and sea; life seems wonderful, fresh and new.

But do they really appreciate life?

You're probably saying, "This isn't a sports column," and you're right. So I'll try to make it one by telling you a story that has something to do with sports.

Ed "Porky" Oliver was one of the greatest pro golfers in the history of the game. He was a colorful player and his 250 pounds earned him the right to the name, "Porky."

He loved everything about the game of golf.

He loved the happy, laughing conversations in the musty, damp locker room. He loved the warm spring sun that beat down on the fresh, sweet-smelling fairway turf; but, most of all, he loved the other players and the intimate friendships he had with them.

Thus far, I have used the past tense in connection with "Porky's" name, for a few months back Ed found he had incurable cancer of the liver. His golf days were over.

Porky Oliver is now in the midst of playing in the biggest and most important match of his life. If he blows a putt and loses, it will mean … his life.

His name "Porky," is no longer apropos of his figure; he is now only the sickly, frail shell of the man he used to be. But, he gives a weak smile and says, "I'm losing weight for the first time in my life!"

Ed is now confined to his bed; his wife and two sons care for his every need. He says, "Only now do I realize how much I love my family and life; never before did I realize how wonderful life is."

Do we realize how wonderful life is, or do we have to be on our deathbeds to discover that fact?

"Every night before I go to sleep," Ed says, "I pray that God will just give me one more chance to live and enjoy fully my family and life."

Unfortunately, it appears Ed will not get another chance.

God grants that we don't have to ask for a second chance; let's love and live life now to its fullest. It is the greatest gift we have ever been given.

Have a wonderful summer!

Present-day addendum from Jim Carnett: I spent summer of 1961 at the beach with my friends, immersed in a "world of sand, sky and sea."

It turned out to be one of the best summers of my life, and I endeavored to take nothing for granted.

For Ed Stewart Oliver Jr., who had notched 14 PGA Tour victories during an illustrious golf career, it was not such a good summer.

He continued to grow weaker, and died of cancer at the age of 45 on Sept. 21, 1961, days after I began my senior year of high school.

His story helped to open this 16-year-old's eyes to the challenges and trials that life often places before us.

Have a wonderful summer. Like all seasons of life, it's a gift!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.

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