Each year I carefully note both the shortest day of the year and the longest. I do my best to be aware of the exact moment these milestones occur. These are important to me not only because of the seasonal meanings but because they signify something deeper. And the older I grow the more significant they become.
You’d think that the longest day of the year would be one I looked forward to with joy. The summer is getting into full swing and all the amazing outdoor activities can still be embraced. The sun is still high well into the evening hours and things are blooming.
But the longest day is the one I wish I could postpone. After all, the longest day of the year is really the start of the decline of sunlight. Each day we have a tiny bit less time to spend basking in the warmth of summer. Everything is growing and insects and animals are busy doing their summer things but the longest day just reminds me that, in the blink of an eye, the insects will be gone and the animals will be less active.
The shortest day of the year, though, fills me with hope. From that dark, cold day in winter will come more and more sunlight. Everything will slowly begin to awaken. It feels sometimes, that it takes far longer for things to become bright and filled with life than it does for everything to go to sleep for winter. But the promise of long days of sunlight and the world bursting with life excites me.
Perhaps it’s because I know that I have passed the longest day of my own summer. And people I love are even closer to the dark, cold days of their winters. In much too short a time some of them will go to sleep and will not awaken to a new spring.
When I think about my own death I’m not filled with fear nor do I have any regrets except for the hurt my passing will bring to those I leave behind. My life has not been extraordinary in ways that the world will notice. I’ve never written a great novel, nor composed music that moves the masses. I am not an eloquent speaker and I don’t have grand ideas that will change the lives of people all over the world.
Yet my life, small as it has been, has been immensely valuable because I have given the world my children. And even if they don’t write a novel, compose music, or conceive of things that will change the world they will leave their own legacies.
I pray that they leave behind people who loved them deeply and whom they loved deeply. I pray that they have lives that make them and those around them happy. If they are truly missed and stories about them told to grandchildren and great-grandchildren their lives will be as valuable as that of people who reach a far broader audience. Because the people you touch in a very personal way are the ones who will carry you with them and pass on everything about you.
In my life I’ve read amazing books and listened to music that moves me down to my core. But nothing and no one has touched me the way that my family and friends have done. Nothing has given me more joy than retelling old family stories about long deceased relatives or sharing stories about my own children with their children. Recalling events long past shared with friends warms me in the way that no book or music can.
So, as I count the days until the shortest day of the year I am happy in the knowledge that, even when there are no more days left for me, my family and their families will be blessed with long days of sunlight and life.