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Celebrating 'the longest day'

Published June 21. 2014 09:00AM

On June 21st, I will celebrate "the longest day" the same way I do every year. I try to stay awake until the sun goes down.

That's not normally a hard thing to do. During the winter months, I can go to bed at 6:30 if I choose. It gets dark before then.

But, in June, the sun is persistent. It hangs around almost until 9 o'clock. And, I try mightily hard to keep my eyes open that long.

"The longest day" is held each year on the summer solstice the day of the year with the most daylight hours. If you are wondering, the shortest day is Dec. 21 when the sun gives up early the way I do.

One of our favorite World War II movies is "The Longest Day." However, the movie occurs on June 6, 1944, not June 21.

The reason for the title of the movie is quite clear. Those brave men who invaded the Normandy coast to free Europe spent the hardest 24 hours of their lives. It was truly the longest day they had ever experienced.

Recently, I read a book titled "The Steel Wave" by Jeff Shaara. The novel tells the tale of D-Day, the 6th of June, 1944. In an unusual writing manner, Shaara follows certain men throughout the day some English, some Americans, some French, and some Germans.

The reader gets to experience the horrors and joys of that day through the eyes of the participants. Although it is a work of fiction, "The Steel Wave" is as true to history as possible. The descriptions of men landing on the beaches are as realistic as the scenes from "Saving Private Ryan," a WW II movie favorite.

My own personal "longest day" came when my mother was dying of cancer. We knew that she was near the end and wanted to spend every possible moment with her. Even though she was in a coma, we held a bedside vigil.

The fact that her hospital bed was in the middle of our living room made her last hours more convenient for us. She had hated being in the hospital and kept saying "home" to me when I visited. So, we did what every child tries to do please our parent.

When the ambulance brought Mom back home, the hospice nurse told me that it would not be easy for us. I gave her the required medications and tried to get her to eat. It soon became apparent that nothing like food mattered anymore.

Those hours that we spent by Mom's side were my longest day. And, God willing, that will be the only one I will ever experience.

If you would like to contact Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her email address: or in care of this newspaper.

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