This is the time of year that we associate with being good. Children are on their best behavior in anticipation of a visit from Santa, grown-ups develop a child-like kindness that extends to others and it seems that we get along a little better.
When bad things happen during the holiday season, it seems even worse.
It was three years ago on a December day that Caleb Sorohan, a freshman at North Georgia College & State University was driving along a road in Morgan County. He was a handsome fellow with a smile that could light up a room.
He was going to Athens to do a little Christmas shopping. En route, he was exchanging text messages on his phone with a friend. A second later his car crashed head-on into a truck pulling a horse trailer. Caleb was killed instantly.
It was nine days before Christmas and instead of planning a holiday party, his family was planning a funeral. First of all, there is something terribly wrong with the scenario of parents burying their children. When you add to that the pall of death at Christmas, it is beyond awful.
There is good and bad from this story.
Caleb’s family and his former classmates at Morgan County High School began a relentless pursuit of a texting and driving law for our state. It was signed into law less than a year after his death and is called “Caleb’s Law.”
Caleb’s sister, Alexandra, now a freshman in college, has traveled the state as a passionate advocate against texting while driving. Her brother, Griffin, is a member of the Governor’s Commission on Teen Driving. They are articulate spokespersons for a cause that they are reminded of every time they think of their big brother.
I toured the state recently with Alex in hopes that her story would convince others not to text and drive, especially during the holidays.
I heard her story repeated five times in a single day. I had a lump in my throat every time I heard it. I saw news reporters and tough state troopers fighting back tears.
On the Christmas morning after his death, Griffin and Alex decided to gather at the top of the stairs and come down while Dad captured it all on videotape. It was a tradition that began with Caleb.
Sadly, it didn’t help their spirits.
Since that first Christmas after his passing, the Sorohans have gone away for the holiday. They couldn’t take that empty place around the tree or at the family table. They’ll do it again this year.
There are good things that have come as a result of the tragic end of Caleb Sorohan’s short life, but the good can’t take away the pain of a parent or sibling. A vital part of their lives was taken in a moment.
Despite having a law against it, people continue to text and drive. It is every bit as dangerous as drunk driving, and we are losing too many young people as a result.
There is no message worth anyone’s life. If you are so addicted to your smartphone, put it in the glove compartment and avoid the temptation.
An empty place at a family table in Morgan County is a stark reminder that one mistake can create a lifetime of pain.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.