Twain was born during a visit by Halley’s Comet on November 30, 1835, and he predicted that he would “go out with it,” too. He died the day following the comet’s subsequent return in 1910. Halley is the best-known of the short-period comets and is visible from Earth every 75 years.
Larger dust particles are left along the comet’s orbital path while smaller particles are pushed away from the Sun into the comet’s tail by light pressure. The comet is made of dust and water – like the human body – and continually leaves a trail of itself behind.
My Mom died on November 1st, 2001 – on All Saints Day. This wasn’t too long after 9-11, so I merely added onto that hollow feeling of grief that that tragic event had elicited in me and the rest of the world. But this was an even greater blow to my world.
I wasn’t ready to leave “Mom” behind. In a life filled with its own brand of sadness and loss, this seemed to be the biggest. I remember driving out to her grave in the days following the funeral and weeping. No words. Just tears. The greatest love of my life…. Seemingly lost.
The days after turned to months and years. My son kept me busy with new love and new looks at life. And still my Mom “returned” almost daily – correcting my grammar, reminding me to forgive when I didn’t really want to, telling me to eat what’s good for me, and what’s in front of me. I used to argue about lima beans – “I didn’t put them on my plate, why should I eat them?”
“Because you have to eat what’s on your plate.”
We were both right. Life keeps appearing to me – coming at me – like light pressure from the Sun. And people and places and events keep streaming behind me in my wake like so much dust.
I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters. They each have their own orbits. OK, Mom – “Each of them has his or her own orbit.” Our orbits intersect yearly and we reunite as a family at the next wedding… or funeral… or we just pick a date in the solar year and our lives intersect briefly. Our tails are shining like dust behind us, and we look at each other and see the bright comet’s head and the tail behind.
Occasionally when we return to my hometown, I see a friend from high school. They were great friends – first friends – Dave and Lee and Randy and Robert – the Mullen Brothers – the guys I learned to have fun with and to define what “fun” was! And on a special occasion I might meet the first love of my life! Lee Ellen. In my time with Lee Ellen I learned to kiss and hold and touch and feel… I learned to love… and to lose.
Do we really ever lose, though? Aren’t all of these people who have come and gone in our lives merely the light of our tail shining in space?
I remember when I was very young – 9 or 10 – sharing a room with my three brothers. There were two sets of bunk beds, parallel to each other. I was on the top bunk on one side of the room. My younger brother was underneath me – he didn’t like to climb – my two older brothers shared the other bunk beds. It was my greatest pleasure when I was able to stay awake long enough to listen to the conversations that my brothers held just a few feet away. They thought I was sleeping. I learned a lot of things about life…. Not all of them true.
I recall especially one conversation that they were having about diets – what one should eat or not. I was thinking “You eat what’s in front of you.”
David leaned over the edge of the top bunk to say to Phil – “You know what? I think if you ate just the right amount and the right kinds of food, that you’d never have to go to the bathroom.”
Phil, ever the scientific one, responded – “You mean the body would absorb everything because it got just what it needed?”
I was fascinated. I held on to this idea as the truth – what older brothers tell you is the truth until proven otherwise – this was true, then, until I realized differently. I realized differently sometime after Mom’s death.
People shine brightly in our life and then fall away. Always we have to keep facing the Sun (even if we aren’t supposed to look directly at it) – always we have to eat what’s on our plate, allowing it to pass through us, nourish us, strengthen us… and then…. To trail behind us like so much cosmic dust.
We are the comet. Trailing behind us is all of the events and people and places that we have lived and loved, and learned from…. These are all the very Light of us!
Mark Twain said “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.” I know he was right.
Happy Trails to you…. Until we meet again…..