If there were ever a suitable microcosm for life, for me, it would have to be the 24 hours of Relay For Life.
One day and one night, 24 hours. Yet so much is packed in to the American Cancer Society event that you really can see the stuff that life is made of. Escalon had its annual Relay this past weekend, the final one of our three communities – Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon – to stage the ACS signature event for 2015. There are highs, there are lows, there is laughter, there are tears. There are memories made and memories shared.
Like any big ‘life’ moment there are months of planning that go into this event. You don’t just “throw it together” in a few weeks, any more than you would throw together a wedding at a moment’s notice. Like high school graduation, there are speakers to line up and awards to present. Like any noble endeavor, it brings together a broad spectrum of people working toward a common goal.
We have run the gamut of emotions in Escalon recently – but the ‘where’ of what has happened isn’t as important as the ‘why’ it impacted the community so much.
High school graduation is always a cause for celebration, the achievement of one of life’s first big goals, on the way to adulthood. This year, it was even more special for one student, Adam Roberson, who spent much of his senior year focused on battling cancer. He also fought to get back on the baseball diamond for his final season as a Cougar and I am sure I wasn’t the only one that wiped away a tear as he accepted his diploma.
But that was a tear tinged with joy.
The loss not soon after graduation of longtime coach and retired teacher Pete Arellano brought the community back down to earth in a somber way. Here is someone who, at 90-plus – still made it a point to get to track meets, volleyball games, Friday night football, countless community and fundraising events, all in the name of cheering on his ‘kids.’ Likely, these days they were the grandchildren of kids he taught initially but he loved to support them and even hosted a scholarship golf tournament. He was a veteran, the driver’s ed teacher who taught half the town to drive, a Lions Club member and someone everyone in the community knew. There wasn’t enough room in St. Patrick’s Church on Friday to accommodate all that attended – testament to the wide-ranging impact Pete had by living his life by a set of principles that included fairness and courtesy.
With Relay, you plan, you prepare, you hope for the best. But the truth is, just like in life, you don’t know what you are going to get. Escalon’s inaugural Relay year, it rained for almost the entire 24 hours, with a few brief torrential downpours thrown in for good measure. In June. In California. Nobody planned for that.
This year, with 105 degree heat hitting the Central Valley on Friday, we were lucky enough to have some cloud cover, a breeze and temperatures topping out in the mid-90s on Saturday. By nighttime, the handheld candles we planned to raise aloft as we walked the track following our luminaria ceremony would not stay lit because of that breeze. A few scattered here and there could be seen on the track but most of us walked in darkness. Not exactly according to plan.
Through it all, though – as in life – with Relay, you learn to make the best of it. You learn that you can plan for months and still have everything go sideways at the last minute. The real trick is to not let it throw you. Keep moving forward, gather your family and close friends near and make it work, together.
A community mourned Pete Arellano on Friday.
A community celebrated Adam Roberson on Saturday.
Life, with all its beauty and all its challenges, goes on. One day at a time.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.