Friday, May 29, 2009

Of Firsts and Lasts, Discovery and Loss

Two events happened recently. One was 350 miles above Earth.

The other was very much on the ground, in the middle of America. One was grand and amazing. The other, almost unbearably sad.

And, for some reason, I keep thinking about the strange juxtaposition of these events, and I cannot loose them from my mind.

Looking Up

The world watched as the Shuttle astronauts spent the better part of a week servicing the Hubble Space Telescope; an event covered by the worldwide press. Repair of Hubble offers opportunities for new discoveries unparalleled, and a sense of almost unbridled expectation, hope, and excitement for the future. Repairs to the Hubble will allow man to see to the edge of Creation, nearly 14 billion years ago.

Sixteen years ago, I was at the Kennedy Space Center with JPL friends to watch the first Hubble Servicing Mission. I will never forget
the thrill of watching the Hubble float over us, 70 miles above Florida, in the middle of the night, or the grandeur of witnessing a night launch; the moment, with liftoff that the night became the day.

And now, all these years later, two men, floating in the silent void of space, loosening bolts and replacing parts. Counting the turns of specially designed wrenches; every move coordinated for months in advance. Connecting wires, waiting for "aliveness tests", all while suspended in a vacuum where sound cannot be heard. There is no air up there. This is a "thin place", this space.

Down Here on Earth
The other event was known by only a few, and was strangely and deeply sad, quiet, solemn, and at the moment it occurred, almost silent.

A baby stopped breathing and passed away, a victim of Trisomy 18, after only a few weeks of life. A close friend of ours was the Pastor at his memorial service. His family loved him well, in those brief days of his life. He was surrounded by constant care, and his brief life here, among us, was not lived in a vacuum. His brief encounter on Earth was filled with meaning, although that meaning may still may be shrouded, and, for the present, hard to fathom.

Astronauts floating hundreds of miles overhead in a void of silence, gloved hands reaching out in the dark of space. And below, a small breath, growing weaker, fading.

The void of Space, and the void of Sadness. I cannot begin to understand this.

Maybe this is how it works, this life. Mystery, profound sorrow, hope, discovery.

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