Every day grows dimmer.
The sun itself grows weary by late December.
Friday, Dec. 21, marked the winter solstice. It’s the day of the year when the heart of our solar system appears lower in the sky than it will at any other time of the year.The sun floats low across the sky, barely raising her golden head above the southern horizon. And her light vanishes too soon. Shadows march quickly across the yard. Night descends suddenly this time of year, like some cosmic entity tossing a pin-pricked purple velvet blanket over the world earlier and earlier every afternoon.
And for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, their own world grows darker and colder during this season.
It’s no coincidence that Christmas, our holiest of holy days, falls just a few days after the winter solstice. Even before the birth of Christ and the rise of Christianity, mankind found this time of year sacred.
After the darkest day of the year, the sun starts to make a comeback. Little by little, minute by minute, days grow longer.
The growing daylight meant the difference between life and death. It signified rebirth. Just as things were at their darkest, a glimmer of hope and prosperity was revealed by the coming light. Christmas coincides with this astronomical phenomenon.
When I was a kid I thought the most important thing about Christmas was the presents. Of course I knew the story of the manger and the wise men and all that, but that was secondary to the idea of bicycles, skateboards and Nintendos.
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned the materialism of Christmas isn’t all that important. The value of gifts isn’t how much they cost or even the gifts themselves, but rather the sentiments attached to them. The joy felt by a mom or dad when they see their child’s face light up like a supernova is the real present. The toy or dress or video game is soon forgotten, but the happiness of the moment is forever imprinted. The assembling of far-flung family members to break bread is the real jewel.
But the holiday season has a doppleganger. lt’s a cruel irony that the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most heartwrenching for people who are dealing with the death of loved ones. Just as the earth’s tilted voyage around the sun has made our nights longer, our hearts also grow darker when we think about those no longer here to enjoy Christmas with us.
But they are still here. They live in the laughter and tears of those who knew them best. And it’s up to us to make their presence known this holiday season. Make their favorite dessert. Give a gift they would have given. Tell one of their corny jokes. That’s how you ensure they are still alive. Make sure you have a good time for them. That’s what they’d want. The greatest gift are memories. It’s how our lost loved ones live forever.
As the earth’s tilted voyage around the sun makes our world a little brighter every day, celebrate the light left behind by those we loved. Even though they might have left too soon, they are still here, all around us.
Brandon Evans is a Messenger reporter.