My friend Michelle blogged about a young girl who lost her battle with cystic fibrosis last week, and I was drawn to her caringbridge site for so many different reasons. As a teacher, I’ve lost too many kids to tragedies–some in their control (drugs, car accidents) and some not (murder, cancer, cystic fibrosis). So when I see a courageous child fighting a horrible illness like cystic fibrosis and rallying an ever-expanding community of friends and family to believe in love and life and all that is good, I can’t help but join that community, join that rally, and pray for that child and her family.Haley Palmer is that young girl who died last week, but her community continues to celebrate her life and the lessons she taught all of us. Her memorial service was yesterday, and the Oklahoma city of Owasso was painted in pink–Haley’s favorite color–as a show of support in all that she believed in. A news report that aired last night featured Haley’s two younger sisters, who talked about her favorite quote:”Footsteps in history aren’t made sitting down.”
I did not know this young, courageous girl, but here in Baltimore, as I get ready for a busy but fun-filled day with my children, I take strength from Haley’s favorite quote.
Today, at 7:59 p.m. EST, marks the beginning of summer solstice, which literally translates to Standing-Still-Sun. It is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Beginning tomorrow, the days will begin to get shorter and shorter until we reach winter solstice, on December 21, where the sun stands still once again.This is the earliest that summer solstice has occurred in 112 years–or since 1896. In my opinion, it’s the perfect occasion to mark the significance of Haley’s words.In mourning, we pause to reflect, to remember, to celebrate the life of a friend or loved one who has passed away. Our worlds stop, or stand-still, during this time, and we shift our priorities to embrace what we believe to be most important in life.
Thousands of years ago, individuals used to do the same thing during the solstice, where they would stop and take stock of the things they may have taken for granted or neglected. This is especially true during winter solstice, when in BCE times, individuals believed that the Gods were so angry with them that they decided to take away their sun. It wasn’t until a few days after winter solstice (around the 25th of December) that they realized that light was returning (the days were getting noticeably longer), and the celebration began that, once again, the Gods forgave them for all that they had neglected and taken for granted.
So maybe today–tonight especially–is the right time for us to take Haley’s words to heart. As the sun-stands-still at 7:59 p.m., maybe we can make those personal resolutions to get up and resume making our footsteps in history.
It doesn’t matter how you do it. A call to a nephew, a visit with Dad, even a return to a memoir piece you started years ago. Whatever it is, get up. Don’t let the sun go down on you. Take some steps. Make some history.
LIVE. LOVE. GROW.
(picture taken at Loch Raven Reservoir, 6/19/08, as my children fed bread to the Canadian geese)