When Bad Things Happen To Good People

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen has some thoughts on this season of light, and some stories that are casting shadows over it. – Ed.

If it wasn't the mom and dad from South Carolinawho crashed to death on their way to visit their kids for the holidays it was that poor hiker husband and fatherwho died alone and in cold not too far from shelter in a storm. If it wasn't the three missing hikers up there on Mt. Hood in Oregon it was the devastating news that Bob Gainey, a hockey legend and one of the crown princes of Canada, had again been struck by tragedy. Never mind the unspeakable horror of Iraq and Afghanistan and Darfur. Right here in the land of milk and honey in this season of joy there can be so much pain.

Because the first three stories have gotten so much media exposure here in the States, and because the Gainey story hasn't, let me focus upon it. Once called by the Soviets "the greatest hockey player in the world" here is a man who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and who runs the Montreal Canadiens, the most storied franchise in the history of the National Hockey League. Here is a gentle, kind man who says what he means and means what he says. He is more respected and revered in Canada than any sports executive I can think of, past or present, here in the States. He is a good person, no make that a great person, and bad things, awful things, Kennedyesque things, keep happening to him.

Just over a decade ago, recounts fabled Montreal sportswriter Red Fisher, Gainey lost his beloved wife to brain cancer-- she was 39. His kids suffered, naturally, and so did he. One of those children, Laura, took to drugs and only recently found her way out to become a vivacious happy young woman. She was the child that Bob Gainey lost last week when she was swept by a wave off the sailing vessel she was travelling on out of Nova Scotia. She loved to sail, Laura Gainey did, and now a father will not even have his daughter's body to bury. Read Red Fisher's work,> you can easily find it online, and you'll get a better sense of what Bob Gainey is all about. Read it if you are a parent or a child.

Me? Despite reading the famous book many years ago, I don't know or understand why bad things keep happening to good people. For the Kim family out west and the Guay family down south and the Gainey family up north, there was no Hanukkah miracle this year. The lamp did not stay lit for eight days. And all the saints and apostles in the world, and all the rosaries and Hail Marys of a generation, couldn't stop this from being the worst Christmas they will ever have. Remember them, and the thousands of other Americans and Canadians who grieve this year like never before, and the millions of others around the world who do so, as you go about filling that holiday shopping list. In this season of giving, and getting, these poor folks had taken from them, before their time, in the most dramatic and terrible way, their most precious gifts.