Although we don't communicate as regularly as we once did, I will always consider "Hack" one of my all-time best friends. I was even a part of his wedding a little more than 40 years ago.
Hack, who is a few years older than I am, retired from the newspaper industry not too long ago. He was one of my early bosses and he and his wife, Sue, have always been two of my favorite people. He spent the latter portion of his career as one of the leading sports columnists in Ohio.
I was shocked when I recently found out that Hack was battling through some serious, kidney-related health issues. He had kept these problems to himself.
Hack had not written a column since his retirement. But he decided to put one final effort together that I'll admit brought tears to my eyes. He didn't write it for print, he wrote it for friends and those close to him.
Those tears I shed were tears of joy, and you'll understand why.
Hack told of being given a present a few months ago by one of his adult daughters, Amy. It was a small box that when he opened it contained a single bean.
"It's a bean," he said to Amy, not sure of its importance.
Not just any bean, she reminded him.
"It's a kidney bean" Amy said. "I'm giving you one of my kidneys."
Obviously, I was not present for this conversation, but I'm betting you could have heard a pin drop in that room as Hack was processing what was unfolding.
"I started crying and I've been doing a lot of that ever since," Hack wrote.
I found out Hack had reached what they call End Stage Renal Disease, and his kidney function was low.
Hack tried to talk Amy out of such an extreme measure. He did not want to jeopardize her future in any way. She is the mother of two young boys, and he emphasized she needed to remain healthy for their futures.
Needless to say, Amy loves her dad and her mind could not be swayed. The operation went perfectly and both dad and daughter are doing well.
"As her dad, there are a lot of pieces of me in Amy," Hack wrote. "Now there is a piece of her in me."
Hack spent decades writing about sports, and over the last 20 or so years I have been able to keep up with his work, thanks to the internet. But nothing my good friend ever wrote touched me like what he shared about himself and his daughter.
I have a lot of memories of Hack, like when on the spur of the moment we decided to drive four hours to an MLB playoff game in Pittsburgh (Hack was a Pirates fan) -- and make it back in time for work the next morning. Ah, those were the days.
Hack always had stories to tell, and most of them would always make me laugh. There were no laughs, though, when I read his latest effort.
But there were smiles, plenty of smiles. And a few tears -- of joy.