A Humbling Encounter (reprise)

Earlier today I came across a post on Facebook from Chris Hadfield:

“46 years ago today we walked on the Moon. Neil, Mike and Buzz inspired me to do something different with my life. I cannot thank them enough for the gift they gave us all.”

I wonder if they thought of their accomplishment as “a gift”. I wonder if they had any idea it would impact generations to come, well beyond the historic and scientific milestone it was.

I recall Robert Thirsk telling me about having his love of Mathematics and Science instilled while in my Grade One classroom, and his passion for space exploration fostered by a Grade Three teacher who brought a radio to class so he and his fellow students could listen to the historic ‘walk on the moon’ moment as it happened. Teachers may never know the value of what they do, but they believe in the importance of nurturing young minds.

On this 46th anniversary I thought it would be timely to share this post from my 2009 archives…

~

Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

[On May 27, 2009] he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 was another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he would live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”

expedition2021_soyuz_launch

My link with this history-making event was miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.

~  ~  ~

On Fridays, Endings and Beginnings

When I was a child, Fridays used to be my favourite day of the week. Not much could equal the exhilaration of that 3 p.m. escape from school that heralded what seemed like endless hours of weekend freedom, and there was nothing like the day it was coupled with the end-of -June release into summer vacation.

 

Julie Payette & Bob Thirsk

Julie Payette & Bob Thirsk

I wonder if the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour experienced a similar end-of-mission excitement as they returned to earth today. Their sixteen days in space included a lot of history-making highlights – the first gathering of thirteen people in one place outside of earth’s boundaries, and the first meeting of two Canadians in space, Julie Payette and Bob Thirsk.

 

Thinking of other endings, I also wonder how the crew of the Albion Ferry feels today as it made its last sailing on the Fraser River at noon, crossing between Fort Langley and Maple Ridge. The new Golden Ears Bridge has made the ferry crossing obsolete, much to the disappointment of many who have enjoyed the free service since it began on June 7, 1957.

 

Klatawa taken from on board the Kulleet

Klatawa taken from on board the Kulleet

 

Endings can be bittersweet. Remember what it was like when you did that last save on a completed manuscript? All those months (in some cases years) of sharing your mind with the complexities of your characters’ lives finally reached a conclusion. Were you relieved to say goodbye or reluctant to send them out into the world on their own? Such moments are a little like watching your baby leave for his first day of kindergarten. There is regret for what is being lost but anticipation of what is to come.

 

Endings lead to new beginnings both in writing and in life.

Can It Be Forty Years Ago?

In an earlier post I mentioned why I am particularly fascinated with the current space mission and I’ve been following each day’s highlights on NASA Television.

 

Years slide by faster than most of us can keep track… often faster than we would like. When something jogs memory we look back at incidents that surely happened only last week! As I explored the NASA site I realized that today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 astronauts’ first walk on the moon. They have released a newly restored video from the live TV broadcast of that event.

 

July 20, 1969


 

Awesome is an overused word these days, but I remember being awestruck on that day and I still find the concept of space travel wondrous. When we are allowed glimpses into bits of our world that used to be unknown to us but that have been there since creation we realize anew that our God is indeed an awesome God!

“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? 
     Who is like you— 
       majestic in holiness, 
       awesome in glory, 
      working wonders?

     [Exodus 15:11]

A Humbling Encounter

Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Today he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 is another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he will live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”

expedition2021_soyuz_launch

My link with this history-making event is miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.