As I flip over the pages of the 105 print editions of The Progress we’ve produced so far in 2019, I’m reminded of names I had almost forgotten, stories I barely remember writing, and a few things to look forward to in the coming months.
There was controversy and conflict, joy and sorrow, dollars spent well and money squandered, crime and grief, beauty and relief.
And as a reporter, there are all the stories I didn’t write, either for a lack of time or resources, or because someone didn’t want it told or wouldn’t co-operate.
There was the mother who first wanted me to, then decided she didn’t want me to, write about her 12-year-old son’s e-cigarette purchases after he was bullied at school when kids found out. I never got to my detailed 10-year look back at every homicide since 2019, or my feature on a local top-level Scientology dissident interviewed by Russian media.
But I promise, vaping, murder and Scientology is all coming in 2020. Now I have to make time.
What I wrote a lot about this year was, I admit, crime, death, misery, loss, and conflict. A lot of negativity came out whether from, for example, people with bigoted opinions who fought to have them heard, misinformation campaigns, or from the many personal tragedies we saw.
Cases of missing young people or elderly folk with dementia rocked Chilliwack in 2019. The families of Tim Delahaye and Kristofer Couture were desperate to find word of the young men who (unrelatedly) went missing, Couture’s vehicle spotted by the Elk Mountain trail head in January, Delahaye was last seen in the Columbia Valley in April.
There was 82-year-old Valentina Kushnareva missing while out mushroom picking near her home in the Columbia Valley and never found.
What happened to them?
And the tragic story of John Pop, the 79-year-old with dementia who walked away from his Promontory home in October and was found dead on a walking trail nearby four days later.
But it was the tragic story of Grace that captivated the community for weeks – the tragedy of it but also the way it brought the community together. Ethel ‘Grace’ Baranyk had severe dementia. She walked away from her home on July 13 and was not found until August 21, sadly deceased.
In that time, people who didn’t know her combed the streets, alleys, backyards, the forests, parks, trails and waterways, everywhere imaginable in a desperate and mostly informal search for the 86-year-old. While obviously tragic, the search of Grace brought people together who may now become lifelong friends. It gave purpose to people obviously looking for one. It showed that hope exists even when that hope is faint.
There is another story I didn’t write in 2019, and that’s the story of Cylena. A beam of sunshine with an angelic smile, she told me details of the horrors she endured on the streets using drugs, forced into prostitution, a life from which many never escape.
But she did escape. She’s better, she’s thriving, and she wants people to know it’s possible. I promise I’ll tell her story in 2020, too.
This year locally and across the globe we’ve been reminded there are negative forces out there, and they don’t seem to be going away.
There is despair. There is pain. Yet I maintain there is hope.
There has to be.
With much loss this year, came charity. With fear came comfort. Bigotry was, mostly, put in its place. And with tragedy came community.
The year is at its end, and there have been ups and downs, spills and overflowing, but the cup is half full, really, it is.
Happy New Year.
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