Last night, I saw a shooting star. It always feels lucky to catch a glimpse of that heavenly streak of light, but this was even more serendipitous. I was lying in bed, Dave beside me playing Words with Friends, his face illuminated by the glow from his iPad. My gaze had strayed from the game to the window and beyond, to the forked limbs of the maple tree black against the night sky. And there was the star, falling, it seemed, from one branch to the other.
To see a star fall as I lay in my bed? What are the odds? I so want to think it was a good omen from Mom or Dad or God, saying all will be well.
Dave, as always, fell asleep as soon as he closed his iPad. Also as always, I lay awake for hours. From the front of the house, the moon shone with extraordinary brightness, casting patterns of mullions and silver across the bedroom floor. More than once, I rose to press my nose against the cold glass of the windowpane. The pink Super moon was two days passed, but still, it was round and full and brilliant. I thought of all the eyes, going back through time, through hardship and longing, that had been lifted to that beacon.
A shooting star, a beaming full-faced moon: so much light in the darkness, and I want it to mean something, to portend hope well placed.
I’ve been sifting through old family pictures, some as far back as the 1800’s. One captures an elegant young woman dressed for a party, her hand resting gracefully on her lap, palm upturned. She is my great-grandmother, and she doesn’t look happy. What was she thinking when the picture was taken? How did she die? What was she like? What did she enjoy doing? Why didn’t I think of these questions when Mom was still alive?
To me, those in the past seem as gray and two-dimensional as their images. Hell, my own past seems a fiction now, when pictured moments of babies held close, giggling groups crammed close for a shot, and great gatherings of celebrants at weddings and holidays are forbidden luxuries. But I’ve given more thought lately to the reality of sorrow, fear, and pain faced by ancestors who endured great wars, depression, and disease.
A friend wrote me recently about her great-grandfather. He returned from serving his country in World War I and then succumbed to the Spanish Flu. Imagine the elation of the safe return of that husband/father/son from mortal threat and one’s own release from the agonizing worry over his daily peril… only to lose him to illness at home. My heart stills at the cruelty and depth of that pain. With losses mounting from COVID-19, even of those striving to heal and help others, I want reasons, I want meaning. I cling to belief in a grand plan, far beyond my understanding… I must.
I pray a lot these days, often with tears, always with yearning, and always with gratitude for those on the front lines and in my own life, for so many years of blithe, wonderful times with loved ones. This pandemic crisis will end, and we will emerge from quarantine to hug again. For now, and for always, memories, prayers, phone visits, Dave’s hugs, funny videos, ZOOM-time with loved ones, and shooting stars must sustain me.