For most people, the holidays are a time of hope and new beginnings -- but one Edina woman who spent the past 19 Decembers agonizing over thinking about the son she lost just before Christmas saw hope emerge anew this year.
Barb Degnan can't explain the sudden switch, but she wants everyone who is struggling to know you can find hope even on the darkest of days.
The display of 3,000 lights in front of Degnan's home is a beacon for many, but Degnan said she spent nearly two decades seeing them in a much different light than most others.
"Every light on that tree was really a tear," she said. "It was a sad time."
That's because Degnan missed her son Dan, who was killed on a Minnesota highway two days before Christmas at the age of 20.
"I dread this time of year every year," she admitted.
That's why she created the light display in Dan's memory. What began with just a few has grown to thousands.
"It's a symbol of Dan. It's so bright and he's just a bright being in this world," she said.
Somehow that symbol was able to change everything as the 20th anniversary of Dan's death approached. While Degnan was driving down the hill toward the tree that lights up her neighborhood, she suddenly saw memories instead of tears and sadness.
"Somehow -- magically -- this year, on the 20th year, those lights all became wonderful memories. This year, it's the most spectacular it's ever been, and that's been a gift," she said.
It was once impossible for her to talk about her son, but now she finds joy in telling stories about the boy she raised -- from his first Christmas to when he became captain of the football team. Though it has been a long journey and she knows the pain will still remain, she said she is now choosing to remember her son as he lived, not by how he died.
"It's just a warmer, happier feeling that he was on this Earth and was able to give so many people so much joy," she explained. "I'm just very thankful he was here."
Degnan recommends anyone who finds themselves in a dark place should talk about their lost loved one or find a cause to fight for.