The Taurid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. Check it out! But I’m not writing about that today. Today, I’d like to remember a friend and the Leonid meteor shower that peaks next Monday/Tuesday.
The Leonid meteor shower is one of my favorite times of the year. There have been years it’s been an incredible storm, like the time I woke up early with my roommate Sarah and got to see 111 shooting stars in 15-20 minutes (I love the number 111, so I stayed out just long enough to hit it on the nose). Other years, it’s been cloudy or cold and I didn’t even attempt a viewing. But my favorite was the year 2003.
My good friend Eric died on 11/12/2003, seventeen years ago tomorrow. We planned to go out into the country together with several friends to watch it. We would stay up late, drink hot chocolate or hot toddies, lie back to take in the wonder of the universe and talk about life, God, and beauty. The Leonids were projected to peak around 40ish meteors per hour, so pretty good in meteor shower standards.
When he got sick, my friend Theresa and I changed the plan and decided we would bring the shower to him by putting glow in the dark star stickers on a posterboard and running around his hospital room in the dark. He died less than a week before the peak, so we never got the chance.
After he died, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch. Part of me longed to see it but the other wanted to be alone, wallow in my tears and not interact with anyone. One of my friends, Julie, knew me well enough to know this about me. I said I didn’t care about seeing it, especially because the sky was mostly cloudy with only a few glimpses of starry night. She knew better. She knew how badly I wanted to see it but how my heart was too broken to admit it.
The night of the peak, she invited me to go with her to her parents’ lake house, just she and I. We brought sleeping bags and laid them out on the deck by the dock. We laid down side by side to watch, though there wasn’t much to see. We didn’t really talk. We just stared up at the cloudy sky.
Occasionally a window of stars would open up out of the clouds and we’d see a streak zip through the opening. Sometimes I’d see a flash so bright it would appear through the clouds. I stayed up all night long, waiting for a glimpse of the heavens where Eric now lived, weeping in wonder each time the heavens touched the earth in bright tracks across the sky, hoping it was a sign from God and maybe from Eric that beauty was still alive and that one day I would heal.
I hope I never forget that night. In all its pain, it was life-giving and soul-healing. The Leonid shower coming up next week is not projected to be all that spectacular, but I will love it nonetheless. I’ll remember Eric as I watch and be grateful for the short time we had together on this earth and for the time I have left with my family and friends.
How about you? What experiences have helped you heal? Do you have a friend who knows you well enough to sit with you in your pain?
“You, you alone will have the stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing. When you look at the sky at night… you, only you will have stars that can laugh!”
And he laughed again.
“And when your sorrow is comforted you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window for pleasure… and your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you… .”
And he laughed again.
Look up at the sky… And you will see how everything changes…
–The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.