Jan 25 2008

A Brilliant, Brief Life

Published by at 8:09 am under All General Discussions

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for the wife of an old friend. An old friend I somehow lost touch with even though we live only 20 minutes apart from each other and work in the same field (NASA) – where we first met. It was a tough, emotional and uplifting experience. And I now regret all the time missed with these good people.

No excuses really. We all had time consuming work that would make it hard for all four of us to get together. But it is amazing how some people enter your life, push it onto a completely new path, and then disappear as work and life pushes you all back on your independent paths. Brief moments of intense experience and changes in a life’s trajectory.

I met my friend while we were trying to push through some international agreements on communications technology for space missions back in the early 1990’s. We were pushing the comfort level of a very conservative community. Few people understand but NASA has fallen in love with its old technologies and ways – sometimes they loathe to try things that the rest of the world use daily and without thinking twice. There have been screw ups, so there is some rational cause for warning, but to battle this comfort level is to take on the community in general, and feel their wrath for being asked to look outside their comfort zone.

My friend and I, plus the NASA rep who led this little group of malcontents and others spent a lot of time in Europe trying to crack open the international community, to give our ideas a chance. It meant long meetings in foreign lands, with late dinners over excellent beer before getting up and getting back in front of the nay sayers the next day. To say we were not welcome is an understatement. And during these long endeavors, both overseas and here in the US, we all grew to know each other and respect each other.

Back then my friend’s wife was not with him, she had moved overseas and his marriage was in danger. And so while he worked to bring NASA into the recent past from the dim past, he also was working to save his marriage. Of those days I just remember telling him to keep trying and to show he cares and things should work out. Anyway, after we had won the day on trying some new technology (months later) I heard from my friend that his wife was returning and they were moving near by. It was great news! I had moved onto another project that had me driving to Baltimore everyday. But we found the time to all four have dinner a couple of times. But then life got really crazy.

They had their first child, a year later we had our twins bringing us up to 4 children (and yes, we are the younger couple in this case). I don’t remember the first 18 months of the twins lives very well – needless to say we were busy and seriously sleep deprived. Then more things came and went. Before I even realized it something like 12 years had slipped by from the time we met to the day I got word of the memorial service. I did not even know my friend’s wife was ill, it was stunning news.

But I can tell you she was one intense and powerful spirit. The church was filled with well wishers from around the community and across their lives. The stories of how she touched people, especially in how she fought her cancer, were inspiring just in the telling. It was clear in real life she was a force that swept everyone up.

I went to my friend after the ceremony and just looked at him and said “can you believe how fast 15 years goes by?” He just shook his head with a smile. He was in a better place now that a years’ long battle with cancer was over. She was in a better place of course. And it all hod gone by us so fast. I told him she was still touching people’s lives, because I had been so touched – and altered once again.

Her spirit touched people and opened our eyes to what is possible, what is worth living for. Hers was a brilliant and too brief life. It was something to behold, especially if the intensity of it can come through so strong on one afternoon to someone who sadly missed out on much of this special person. I walked away happy for my friend to have been so blessed, and happy once again that our paths had crossed and I could participate, even briefly in their extraordinary lives. It is amazing how many great people one can meet in a lifetime.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A Brilliant, Brief Life”

  1. wiley says:

    So true — I think we can all relate to similar experiences, and those that haven’t are too young, someday they will. Well said, AJ.

  2. conman says:

    AJ, I know I give you a lot of grief on your blog, but this post is a really good one. Thanks for taking the time to remind of us the important things in life we often overlook