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To infinity and beyond

February 5, 2013


When I moved away from my college town, I took one afternoon to go around to visit my professors and to tell them how much their teaching meant to me.  I personally went to each one and thanked them for their dedication to shaping my future.  I wasn’t just a gesture for me.  The Doctors Lockwood, Johanssen, Lyng, and Landwehr are people that I truly admired, and still do, even though only one is still with us.  They taught me much about chemistry, mathematics, and literature/Latin, but more so about life.  Along with my family, they truly played a role in the person I am today.

I have reached that age where loss of that generation of individuals is becoming unavoidable.  I have been blessed to know all of my grandparents as an adult (along with many great-grandparents and even a great-great grandmother into my teen years).  Sadly, only one of my grandmothers is still journeying with me today.

When I hear of another loss of someone I admire (even though I’ve never met them), I really give pause to think about the influence that person had on my life.  One such loss occurred on August 25, 2012 with the death of Astronaut Neil Armstrong.  I was “present” at his and Astronauts Collins and Aldrins historic moon landing.  In actuality, I was in utero, but hearing all the stories passed through the years, I feel as if I had been sitting there riveted to Aldrin’s reading of the Bible while waiting breathless to see Armstrong take those historic steps.

What occurred on that 20th of July in 1969 allowed for a greater push in science and mathematics that allowed a little girl born at Bethesda Naval Hospital in November that year to grow up and believe that she too could be a part of that world.  Although my ultimate footsteps followed that of Christa McAuliffe in the world of teaching, the entire Apollo program was a catalyst for my future.  Because of that achievement, a whole new world was open to those of us who came after them.

Even though my faith differs from that of Mr. Armstrong, I do still admire his accomplishments and achievements. Similarly, I don’t really care about whether his famous quote was rehearsed or spontaneous. What impresses me is the way he lived his life.  By all accounts I have read, his humility and humble nature as a reluctant hero dotted his illustrious career.  He simply did his job without wanting the accolades while giving back to the community as often as he was able.  In a world full of instant celebrity, those character traits are rare to find these days.

I loved the classy statement given by his family following his death.  The words were humble and embodied what we as a nation will always remember about him. Armstrong’s family said, “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” —  (Central Press/Getty Images) .

So, Mr. Armstrong, thanks for going to the moon and helping me reach for the stars.

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