By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
This season of hope
Placeholder Image
The year 2007 has not been an easy year for me. I lost my grandfather this year; so this will be my first in 46 years that he won't be there at our family gathering.

Most every Friday for the past two years I would drive over to Elness Convalescent Hospital in East Main Street here in Turlock and watch his life ebb away, little bits at a time. I'd walk down the halls, passing by rooms pierced by moans of pain and broken hearts, a forgotten lot of people cast aside to die. I would sit by his side and try my best to bring him into the world of the living, telling him about our kids, and trying to get them to come down to this foreboding place. Rest homes just aren't pleasant places to visit.

Every visit was another reminder that all of us - even the young and healthy now - are destined for bodies and minds that eventually wear out and pass into history. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Eventually even the memory of our existence fades as those who knew us die off. If you don't believe me, try to recall the biography of your great-great-great-great-grandfather or grandmother. Most of us cannot even name them.

I've sustained other significant losses as well this year. I have been affected by watching the passage of good people I've made acquaintance in my job as a newspaper writer and editor. You may have experienced the same with the parting of such community giants as Gus Pallios, one of the founders of Richland Markets. Really good people.

The death of Rob Phipps, general manager of River Oaks Golf Course in Ceres and the city's vice mayor, was especially difficult for me. I knew Rob for at least 10-15 years, maybe longer. Meeting after meeting I saw Phipps make decisions as a city leader. He looked in good health on the night of his last meeting. That was Monday, Nov. 26. The following Sunday he was gone.

Not only was his death disturbingly sad, the thought of someone two years younger than yourself makes you give thought to your own mortality. Life is woefully short. None of us have any guarantees that we will have a tomorrow.

During Rob's funeral, I watched a man unexpectedly suffer a heart attack. It was just another reminder of how fragile life is. Later on that day, on a drive to Sonora, I came upon an tragic accident in which two young people lost their lives. The driver, an 18-year-old Oakdale girl, made the grave mistake of allowing her car to drift head-on into an oncoming SUV. Death was very much on my mind that day in particular.

Yet, days later I learned of the death of an old friend who was very much a part of my teenage years.

I don't mention all this to bring anyone down at this joyous time. But death is real and certainly no respector of the holidays. (My father-in-law passed away Christmas Eve 2002, which happened to be the same night Lacy Peterson disappeared, i.e., murdered.) But it is precisely this holiday that gives mankind hope for reversing that horrible, ugly thing in death.

Somehow in this commercialism we have lost sight of the true cause for the celebration. Permit me a bit of political incorrectness for a moment but the Christmas season used to be considered joyous not because of this obsession with buying gifts but because of what it represented: a celebration of a hope brought by baby Jesus, savior of mankind, some 2000 years ago.

If sin wreaked havoc and brought tragedy into the world, it was Jesus who offered life - and ever so abundantly. Yes, death is around all of us. But the believer in this Christ child doesn't see death as an end but a beginning.

The Christmas story is one worth examining by all of us, for despite the darkness of the days, Jesus is the silver lining.