Celebrating the season, remembering departed friends

Each year, people hang up empty stockings on Christmas Eve, hopeful their wishes will be fulfilled come Christmas morning.

Although Christ's love for us is equal, the reality is that for far too many people those stockings remain empty on Christmas Day. Too many awaken to hunger, cold and want. That is why it has been a pleasure to partake in local projects that are striving to fill some of those immediate needs.

As a board member of the Salvation Army, I know how your donations of food and your donations to the kettle have benefited many locally. I know the pleasure of taking a name off the Salvation Army tree and providing the Christmas wish of a young child.

I’ve seen the delight of children who receive gifts through Kops for Kids. What is more musical than children’s laughter? I have watched almost 400 people line up at the Arts Center for a meal of soup, bread and water, helping us think of all the people who face empty bowls every night. Yes, blessed is the money that goes to local food programs to fight hunger. With my fellow Rotarians, I have helped wrap the new clothes we have purchased for local children in need. With these acts, stockings are filled.

Attending the Old Fashioned Country Christmas Concert on Dec. 14 with Terry Brown and Greg Hager, supported by their talented families, and Gene and Christine Brandi, another form of need was provided. Our empty stockings were filled with classic carols and a beautiful version of the telling of the story of the birth of Christ. It was a full evening that began with the telling of the “Night Before Christmas” and we even had a special appearance by Santa. Our spirits were high with the truth that Jesus is the reason for the season.

It was music once more that filled our spirits' stockings thanks to the Arts Councils gift of the lyrical sounds of Patrick Balls’ The Christmas Rose, presented Dec. 16. For timeless centuries music has had the magic to cast its spell, and the evening blessed all those who attended with an uplifted spirit. Special thanks to our good friends John and Sandy Spevak who gave us our tickets for the Country Concert, and Carolyn and Gene Vierra for the tickets for the Christmas Rose. The gift of those tickets proves once more that friends are amongst our greatest treasures.

At this time of celebration, decoration and adoration, grief seems even more difficult to bare. But, no matter what the season, life goes on and sadly so does death. On Dec. 14, I attended the services of two special people who will be celebrating Christmas in heaven this year.

Dolores Brazil was one of those people who always just made me feel better to see her. Always beautiful, her hair perfect, a broad smile on her face; to me, she was a tonic. Dolores, in my opinion, was also one of the world’s best cooks. Many times I was spoiled when she would drop by a homemade delight, “Just because.” Her tamale pie was amazing.

The whole of Los Banos will seem empty due to the loss of one of the happiest men in town, Jim Pearson. Jim, and his devoted wife, Sherry of Pearson’s Jeweler’s, which has not just been a store, it has been a destination where people drop by to just chat.

Jim was a `good sport’ and a great storyteller. A man who knew no strangers, Jim opened his arms and heart to all. It takes a special kind of marriage to work side-by-side each day, and still be talking to each other by the time they get home. Jim and Sherry had that.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I wish I had a picture of the last time I saw Jim and Sherry. It was the Downtown Christmas Stroll, a chilly Friday. We dropped by Pearson’s as I have countless times over the years, and enjoyed cider and snacks as we chatted. Jim was smiling as always, and Sherry her usual charming self. We had a nice visit. It seemed such a typical slice of life for them. They were together, where they loved to be, and I will freeze frame that image in my memory.

Such ups and downs life gives us, a true roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes our stocking appears full, while other times empty. May we all be reminded this coming Christmas Eve, that most miraculous of all nights, that our stocking was filled to the brim that holy night. We only have to open our hearts, eyes and souls to receive it’s gifts today. May your Christmas be joyful, and your spirits are bright as we head into a new year.

Diana Ingram Thurston can be reached at dingramthurston21@gmail.com.