On a hot night in the summer of 1969 I sat on the front porch steps alongside my mom and brothers. The stars were thick, but it wasn’t them we were studying as we looked up to the heavens.
The moon was bright and held our attention. I concentrated; squinting, I believed I detected movement. Our astronauts were on the moon at that very moment. Proud and amazed I felt we were one, as though all of America had stepped onto the powdery surface with Neil Armstrong.
Most Americans felt unified with the astronauts at that moment, and I am sure Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin must have felt that solidarity as they splashed back down to earth. But over time what was their new reality? What is it like to experience something so unique and fantastic and then return to the daily round? When you reflect on the vastness of the universe from the perspective of space or the freedom from gravity who do you share it with? Who will understand?
I have often wondered if it is a lonely life for those who represented us with their steps onto the surface of the moon. To quite literally soar to such great heights must leave you with so many feelings to process and no one around you who can fully comprehend. It isn’t that friends and family wouldn’t try to understand, simply that their own experience would not allow for understanding.
When my brother was looking for clinical trials and treatment options for his cancer and again when my friend was putting together her life in its new configuration following the death of her child, I thought of the astronauts. Those who journey to places few have gone before, places beyond what the imagination can conjure must surely walk alone a good deal of the time. Within them stirs a depth of emotion few can comprehend; few even have words to describe the feelings aroused by such a solitary sojourn.
I have never met an astronaut and probably never will. I may never personally know the effects of an extraordinary journey on an ordinary soul. Though my own understanding of such things is limited by my experiences I can offer a prayer of peace for those who have journeyed alone. Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong and all solitary voyagers who have gone on before. God speed.
This week this is my Bigger Picture Moment.