Today is a day when we put aside or cynicism and put on that altruistic red cap, ready to face the world head-on and make it a better place. We're armed with all the warm memories of the past and surrounded by the people who are important to us, God willing.
For a lot of Michiganders, the front page of the Detroit Free Press is delivering one of those people to the present-opening jamboree this morning: the incomparable Ernie Harwell.
I'll avoid the over-the-top claims about how much Harwell meant to be growing up, and instead highlight his importance to the state by saying I'm just one of millions who feel this way about him.
The former Detroit Tigers broadcaster was given six months to live in July, which unleashed a flurry of support from fans who had grown up listening to him. The newspaper allowed Harwell to say thanks in the form of a front-page greeting card.
Christmastime in the Harwell household always has meant that my wife, Lulu, did the heavy lifting and my job was the sending of the greeting cards. These cards were to express our thanks for the loyalty and support of our friends.
This year, I'm not sending cards. Last July, doctors gave me only six months (more or less) to live. That was five months ago. I am still hanging around. But, while getting ready for my new adventure, I'm not dying to send out cards.
However, my friends at the Free Press are allowing me use of this space to thank all of you who have reached out to me and my family since the announcement of my illness. I can't answer 10,000 cards and letters with a personal note, so I have to do it the easy way.
Robert Browning was a great poet but didn't know much about baseball. He once wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" That's a great outlook on life, but I'm sure Jim Leyland would rather see his outfielder catch and hold onto a fly ball than have his reach exceed his grasp.
Anyway, you folks have reached out to me in so many ways. Your encouraging words, your prayers and your gifts have touched my heart. You've certainly discovered "what's a heaven for."
I've received prayer shawls, Catholic mass cards and holy water, and beautiful flower arrangements. The family has enjoyed delicious food you've sent. We lead the league in casseroles, banana bread, pies, cakes and all kinds of cookies -- all expressing your loyalty and support. I deeply appreciate the visits of my friends -- especially those who flew here from Texas, Baltimore, New York, Boston, California and other faraway places.
Several years ago, I decided for the first and only time not to send Christmas cards. I was surprised that nobody seemed to notice. In fact, one friend told me, "Thanks for that beautiful card you sent," and another said, "Hey, I really liked your Christmas card."
So, this season I again won't send cards. (I'm saving my strength to sign the numbered posters commemorating my little speech in September at Comerica Park. I'm proud of the great job photographer-designer Jim Tocco did.)
Thanks to the Free Press for lending me this space to send you all my thanks and appreciation for your heartfelt responses.
It's warm, it's classy, it's perfect for a guy who's been a beacon of values for decades.
I think I speak for those millions of fans when I say, Merry Christmas, Ernie. We're all happy to have you around this holiday season and thank you for the joy you've brought into our lives.