I watched the sunrise. I was sitting in my truck, parked near the beach, eating an egg-and-cheese sandwich.

What a day. It was magnificent. Beginning with the first beam of sunlight.

The sun came up at 6:21 A.M. here in Northwest Florida. It happened the same as it does every day.

The sun woke before everyone else, got itself showered, combed its hair, ate some Corn Flakes, and made its ascent above the Gulf of Mexico.

I watched the sunrise. I was in my truck, parked near the beach, eating a breakfast sandwich.

The ball of light made the Gulf look like emeralds. I had to cover my eyes to look at the water.

Not many people talk about the sun, but they ought to. Because the sun will eventually burn this earth into a Pop Tart.

I hate to get all sciency on you—you’re looking at a 2.3 grade point average here—but scientists tell us that the sun keeps getting bigger. And one day, it will engulf the world as though it were my Uncle Tommy Lee engulfing dozens of innocent devilled eggs.

And when this colossal event happens, everything will be gone. Even devilled eggs. There will be no more trees, no grass, no skies, no more Lawrence Welk reruns. It will be lights out.

Well, actually, it will be lights ON.

You know what else? We are pretty small in the big scheme of things. The sun contains 99.86 percent of the “mass” found in the solar system. What does that mean?

Okay: imagine objects in the solar system were shrunken into miniatures. Imagine the earth were the size of a basketball. That would make the sun about the size of Bryant-Denny stadium.

The sun also makes its own gravity. Meaning: every dadgum thing in this universe sort of hovers around it—like folks at a potluck table.

In fact, if it weren’t for the sun’s gravity, the earth would shoot forward in a straight line through space. We would all float into nothingness, and be sad, and dark, and frozen, and become a civilization who listens almost exclusively to Neil Diamond.

But Neil Diamond aside, the human body is arranged around the sun. Every piece of us needs the sun. Our eyes, skin, hair, organs, mind. In short: to be human is to love the sun.

Our great-great granddaddies based their societies on the sun—since there were no iPhones around. They woke with the sunrise, they went to sleep at sunset.

Then, in Gregorian times some clever schmuck figured out that it takes 365 days for the earth to circle the sun. So, he invented the first calendar. Then he printed millions of them, with refrigerator magnets on the backs and RE/MAX Realtor advertisements on the fronts, and he gave them away at various real estate conventions.

Our weeks are based on the movement of the sun—the word “Sunday” comes to mind. Our days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds, nanoseconds are based on a sundial. This means, in a manner of speaking, all human TIME is measured by the sun.

If you want to get a little more poetic: the sun is responsible for all earthly ambition, for romance, for art, for color, for birth, and for love.

You cannot live without it.
The sun makes photosynthesis possible. And photosynthetic organisms are what we mammals eat. So, no sun; no food. And even MORE importantly: photosynthesis is the only five-syllable world I know.

But getting back to being poetic. The sun is everything. It’s everything you see. It’s responsible for taste, touch, and eyesight. It feeds man, bathes him in warmth, makes life verdant.

The birds, crickets, locusts, frogs, and cicadas all announce its arrival each morning. And when it arrives, it makes the Gulf of Mexico look magic.

And it’s kind.

Even though we humans can’t understand the big light, it doesn’t make it any less generous. It is the humble center of the Milky Way, a compass to the sailor, a friend to the dirt farmer.

It is so bright, none can look at it without going blind. So majestic, it consumes things too close to it.

And one final day, science says it will swallow Earth. Pure white light will burn the whole world into soot.

On that day, our pain, and suffering, and sadness, and injustice, and sorrow, and hatred, and anger, and bitterness, and intolerance, and disappointment, and disharmony will go up in flames. And time will be no more. Only sunlight will exist. Forever. And ever.

Ben Leary passed away this morning. He was a sixteen-year-old. Brain cancer took him from us. He had a beautiful face. A good family. A happy life.

I wrote this for him.

Because his smile always reminded me of sunlight.

36 comments

  1. Linda Lou - September 1, 2018 6:01 am

    Wasn’t what I expected…but oh, how beautiful! ❤️

    Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - September 1, 2018 7:43 am

    Ben Leary a boy to remember. I am sorry we are without your beautiful smile, I for one will think of it when the Sun shines it’s brightest. God bless Ben’s family and friends, we are praying for you all.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  3. Susan Swiderski - September 1, 2018 11:06 am

    Ben Leary must have been a remarkable young man to have inspired such a beautiful tribute. May he rest in peace, and his friends and family find peace, as well

    Reply
  4. Tana Branch - September 1, 2018 11:50 am

    You are my sunshine—-every morning!

    Reply
  5. Trina V. - September 1, 2018 12:06 pm

    I think this is my favorite piece, even though I wasn’t expecting the ending. Rest In Peace, Ben! Prayers for his family and friends in the days and weeks to follow.

    Reply
  6. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - September 1, 2018 12:09 pm

    Saying a prayer for Ben and his family. I hope he is enjoying the sunshine.

    Reply
  7. Joy - September 1, 2018 12:27 pm

    Wish I could have known Ben Leary…he sounds truly remarkable. May his family know we are praying for them….He was a gift from God…only wasn’t on this earth long enough but we will see him one day!

    Thanks Sean for remembering Ben and sharing him with us….What a beautiful tribute you wrote!

    Reply
  8. Connie Havard Ryland - September 1, 2018 12:29 pm

    God be with Ben’s family and friends. Losing a child takes the sunshine out of your life. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  9. Nancy - September 1, 2018 12:33 pm

    Beautiful! We were blessed to know Ben through you! Praying for his family and friends. Thanking God for you, Sean.

    Reply
  10. Anne Parrish - September 1, 2018 12:34 pm

    Sean, this is one of your very best. You came very close to poetry. Ben is now with “the Father of Lights.” “Eye hath not seen , nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love him.”
    1 Corinthians 2:9

    Reply
  11. Steve - September 1, 2018 1:06 pm

    Excellent.

    Reply
  12. paula jones - September 1, 2018 1:11 pm

    Wow. I didn’t see that ending coming.

    Reply
  13. Julia S. Dunlap - September 1, 2018 1:12 pm

    In October a group from our church goes to Saint Jude’s. I was so looking forward at the possibility of Ben being one of the children I would get to meet. I will not see Ben’s sunshine smile In this world but will be honored when I see him Heaven. This is our hope in Christ. Praying for Ben’s family and friends.

    Reply
  14. perry5360 - September 1, 2018 1:23 pm

    My baby sister passed away 3 years ago with brain cancer she faded quickly until all that left was her smile, that never faded nor did sunshine that she brought to all. Three weeks after she passed I found an email in an address i no longer use, she had sent to me the day before she died , smiling, waving , Good Morning Sunshine. God takes the best to be by his side. I am sorry for your loss and his family’s. Theresa

    Reply
  15. Connie - September 1, 2018 1:35 pm

    They should teach your theory about the Sun in school…I think the kids woul really get it, maybe soak it in like sunlight! Maybe you’ve already written about 🐝 bees, good subject too. How about a whole series about the environment added to middle and high school curriculum. I’d read it all cover to cover 😊! 🌻🌲🐝🐣🐛🦋🐜🐠🐋🌳🌿🌾🌝🌦🌈💧🥜

    Reply
  16. James E Godwin - September 1, 2018 1:36 pm

    Very nice Sean. You sure do have a talent with words, you really punched me with this one. You sure are a gifted writer.
    I don’t see how you can write such beautiful articles about the important things in life but you write fresh things every time and just give them away because you love people.
    And…People love you !
    God bless you Son.

    Reply
    • Laine Thayer - September 1, 2018 1:45 pm

      Agree! I am so grateful that Sean is walking this earth at the same time I am.. his essays connect me with people I never meet in person! Thank you Sean for reading my email request to write about my nephew, Ben… you have captured him in words without ever meeting him in person!

      Reply
      • Pamela McEachern - September 1, 2018 3:36 pm

        So sorry for your loss of Ben, thank you for opening this door for us all to know Ben. Sean did do a beautiful introduction and now his tribute is so inspiring to the sunshine Ben brought to so many. Prayers to your family.

        Peace and Love from Birmingham…Pam

        Reply
      • theholtgirls - September 1, 2018 3:40 pm

        (((((((((((Hugs)))))))))))) Thank you, Laine Thayer, for sharing Ben with us. Thank you, Sean, for connecting Ben with sunlight in our minds. He will not be forgotten!

        Reply
  17. Wanda Willis - September 1, 2018 2:32 pm

    Thank you, Sean for your blog today about the Sun. You inspired me and entertained me at the same time. And you are so right. One day the earth will burn up and the SONshine will be all that’s left. And it will be enough.

    Reply
  18. Gaynell Lumsden - September 1, 2018 2:34 pm

    Sean- I believe you are a genius!

    Reply
  19. Eddy - September 1, 2018 2:53 pm

    As many of your readers have oftened stated, we look forward to reading you everyday. For my birthday this year my sister gave me four of your books which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I so appreciate the range of your writing talents! The funny heartwarming stories as well as the more seriously touching ones. Thank you for all the people you write about that are facing so many of life’s challenges. Especially the children and families that are battling life threatening illnesses. Ben Leary had been on my prayer list since you first wrote about him and his family will continue to be. Please keep us updated as much as possible on others. Oh and by the way, I love you, too.

    Reply
  20. Carol Houston Rothwell - September 1, 2018 2:53 pm

    That big ole Sun over the Gulf this morning wasnBrian smiling at you..
    Letting you know he’s ok now!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  21. Sandra Smith - September 1, 2018 2:56 pm

    That one made my heart clench . 😢❤

    Reply
  22. Lucretia - September 1, 2018 3:01 pm

    . . .a wonderful tribute to Ben. . .

    Reply
  23. Jan - September 1, 2018 3:02 pm

    So beautiful … the sun and your memorial to Ben. I have been praying for him since you first wrote about him. Today he is free. My prayers and sympathy for his family.

    Reply
  24. Shelton Armour - September 1, 2018 3:48 pm

    Quite the tribute to a friend who passed. A very good story and analogy. Thanks.

    Reply
  25. Suzanne Hill - September 1, 2018 3:53 pm

    Carol Houston Rothwell, your comment made me cry. The Son will always exist & yes, Sean, the Son is all things & we need Him-very much!!

    Reply
  26. Edna B. - September 1, 2018 5:52 pm

    What a beautiful memorial! May this young man rest in peace. As for the sunshine, Sean you are a bit of sunshine for us every day with your beautiful stories. Thank you. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  27. debbie glaser - September 1, 2018 10:38 pm

    Sean, once again a beautiful love letter. Only thing you got wrong is; if the Earth had no sun it would not be listening to Neil Diamond. It would be listening to Adele. Now there’s some sad lonely listening. Anyway thank you for sharing the passing of a sweet young man and his smile. You are a gift❤️

    Reply
  28. Ivy Wallace - September 2, 2018 1:23 am

    Beautiful ! Rest In Peace, Ben .

    Reply
  29. Jack Darnell - September 2, 2018 2:51 am

    YOU SAID IT. Us and Ben will be on a level playing field. His wasn’t level here.

    Reply
  30. Cgsmith - September 2, 2018 2:59 am

    The column is nice but the science is lousy.

    Reply
  31. Kathy Burgess - September 2, 2018 4:08 am

    Sean, You are a man among men. I have only offered that praise to a handful of men in my long life…my Daddy was the first.
    I guess Ben ranks right up there if you recognized in him a loving spirit. My prayers and best go out to his family and friends during this sad time
    I lost my son in 2000. I know that pain.

    Reply
  32. Dianne - September 2, 2018 12:53 pm

    Ben Leary arrived home sooner than the rest of us. What a beautiful story you shared this morning. Ben would have loved it.

    Reply
  33. BJean - September 2, 2018 3:42 pm

    2nd Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” But the story doesn’t end there. God promises to create a New Heaven and a New Earth! And He Himself will be our Light. 😊

    Reply

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