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Ripon Hospice tree lighting reflects countless lives
Ripon High School choirs including the Fifth Period Concert Choir and the Advanced Choir sang Christmas carols at the Hospice Inaugural Tree of Lights. Director Adam Serpa is in the foreground. - photo by GLENN KAHL

RIPON - Hospice of San Joaquin drew some 200 Ripon residents to the Inaugural Tree of Lights Friday evening where nearly 2,000 lights were ceremoniously switched on by members of the Ripon Community & Youth Commission.

Hospice of San Joaquin CEO, Stephen L. Guasco, welcomed the crowd that had braved the mist and soggy lawn of the park to be part of the solemn festivities at Mistlin Park at East Main and Oak streets to remember their loved ones.

Guasco honored Ripon sixth grader Aidan Svay, 11, for his art work that graced Friday night’s program cover and Hospice Christmas cards through the Give Every Child a Chance tutoring program at his school.

The Hospice CEO also thanked PG&E for its grant contributions that supported the Tree of Lights and patient care. Guasco also lauded PG&E employee volunteers and their family members who donated their time to decorate the tree. They included Mark Rasmussen, Ryan Dorris, Rich Cody, Mark McCartney, Travis Stapleton and Kenny Ruffin, Jr.

Caroling was provided by two Ripon High School choirs: the fifth period Concert Choir and the Advanced Choir, under the direction of Adam Serpa.

Following his offering of the invocation prayer, Pastor Chuck Roots related some of his insight into the value of life related to many of those colorful lights the crowd was about to witness coming to life on the tree.

“The lights on this Tree of Life are the reflections of loved ones and what they mean to you,” he said to those gathered near the park gazebo.

Roots noted that when people are very young they often have the impression that life goes on forever and reaching the age of 10 seems like reaching a monumental milestone – at 13, becoming a teenager, with nary a care in the world.

Then came 16 as the next bench mark when it was possible to get a driver’s license and the associated responsibility it brought with it, he added, but also with a certain degree of freedom.

“You almost miss 18 because you’re done with high school. Then you wonder to yourself, ‘Now what do I do?’ You are legal for a lot of things, but that means responsibility, ‘Am I ready for that?’ you ask.”

The pace of life picks up speed, Roots added. He said that the weeks and months seem to be slipping past as most of us are living life, busy with education, career, family, until one day the realization confronts us that the weeks and months are going by like so many telephone poles on the roadway at 70 miles an hour.

“Time waits for no man,” Roots said, “as we ask ourselves what have I done with my life as all of life’s successes seem to fade. The real question becomes, how will I be remembered?”

The Ripon pastor stressed it’s all about family, loving and being loved, special times. The gathering of loved ones for special occasions. Memories made. Being remembered.

“These are what is passed on to the next generations,” he said.

Roots recalled his grandmother who came to live with his family at 70. He said they developed a closeness and that she became his best friend.

“Twenty-four years later I performed her funeral and that was 30 years ago now. I see her face every day. I hear her laughing. Her Bostonian accent. The twinkle in her eye. It’s the light in the eye that shouts out, ‘Life, Life! For it is the light in the eye that allows us to look into the soul,” he quipped.

“God has blessed us with life and the loved ones who bless us still,” he concluded.

The event was sponsored by the City of Ripon, The Ripon Community & Youth Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

The mission of the Hospice of San Joaquin, a non-profit organization, is to provide comprehensive and compassionate medical care, counseling and support to terminally ill patients and to their families, regardless of their ability to pay, and to educate and to collaborate with health care providers and the public in promoting quality end-of-life care.