They were a part of an elite group…the men who walked on the moon. They had the privilege of going somewhere that few humans would get to go. It was a small group of just twelve men, but only three of the twelve got to walk on the moon twice, and only Captain Gene Cernan got to be the last human being to leave a footprint on the lunar surface. The final words he spoke on the Moon on December 14, 1972 represented everything the Apollo missions stood for. He said, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”
Captain Gene Cernan was the third man to walk in space, one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface…the last one!! How amazing is that? Some things are almost to big to imagine, and walking on the moon is one of them for me. The really shocking thing for me is that the last man walked on the moon 45 years ago today…and no human has been there since that day. I wonder how much Captain Cernan has thought about that fact over the last 45 years. I’m sure he has had to tell people about it more times that he can count, too. I suppose it would be strange to have your whole identity to the world be that you were the last man to set foot on the moon, but then again, I think it might be extremely cool too. Now, consider what his wife was thinking those two times her husband was in space and walking on the moon. Well, she has been quoted as saying, “If you think going to the Moon is hard, you should try staying at home.” Yes, I imagine that would be a tough job too, especially after Apollo 13 almost didn’t make it back to Earth.
As for Cernan, he has been said to be sad that the American space program has dwindled into nothing. All the hard work they had done, and all the accomplishments, now seemingly not important. He was quoted as saying, “It was if someone took Columbus’ Santa Maria and said: It’s history – you guys discovered America, let’s take it out and scuttle it. It’s over, you’re not going to go anywhere. To think of what we were capable of doing and now we’ve been told [in a tweet by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin] that if we want to go to our own space station, we’d better get a trampoline – that statement hurt. It hurt me personally.” Yes, it hurts me too, and I have never been to the moon. So how much did it hurt for those twelve men who walked on the moon…Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin -Apollo 11 July 21st, 1969, Pete Conrad – Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969, Alan Bean – Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969, Alan Shepard – Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971, Edgar Mitchell – Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971, David Scott – Apollo 15 July 31 August 2, 1971, James Irwin – Apollo 15 July 31 August 2, 1971, John W. Young – Apollo 16 April 21st to 23rd, 1972, Charles Duke – Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972, Harrison Schmitt – Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972, and lastly Eugene Cernan – Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972. It’s like having your life’s work thrown away.
The other day as I was driving to work, I noticed a bird in flight, and how it had to quickly change direction to avoid the car in front of me. Funny as it seems, a thought came to me that if this bird had lived in a different time in history, it would never have had to watch out for the car. in times past, there may have been a wagon or a horse, but if you go back far enough, people had to walk, and so even if they were running, they could not have gone as fast as the car in front of me that was in all reality going pretty slow, by today’s standards. Even the light poles we all take for granted wouldn’t have existed back then. Now lights and wires seem normal to the birds. They land on them as if they were a tree or a rock…or as if they were put there just for them. Often, we think about what life might have been like if we had lived in a different time in history, but rarely do we think of what the animals might have thought as the times changed.
Consider the horses at the time in history when the car was developed. They would often turn away, rear up, or run in the opposite direction when cars first appeared on the road. Then as time passed, the cars seemed no more strange that the person riding on the horses back or the wagon the horse was harnessed to. They were simply another object that the horse now lives in the same world with. And so it was with the bird. Granted the bird had to swiftly make a course change, but that did not mean the bird feared the car. The two of them were just traveling in a direction that put them in the same space at the same time, much like a car accident would.
Animals even get used to the people who share the same space. Take, for instance, the deer that many people…at least in Wyoming, have in our yards, and while they may not let us walk all the way up to them, they do not get up and run out of our yard in fear, but rather, watch us cautiously. Even the squirrels in my yard don’t necessarily run from us. As Bob and I walked out to our garage this morning to go the breakfast, a squirrel playing near the garage stopped and looked at us. I talked to it, and still it stood there…not five feet from me. The fear of people had long since let this squirrel, possibly because of the fact that it has lived in this area all of its life, but more likely that my neighbors have long had a habit of feeding the squirrels. I suppose many people would not like the idea of feeding the squirrels, but the ones in our neighborhood don’t seem to damage the trees like the ones in other neighborhoods. Maybe because the neighbors feed them…who knows. Whatever the case may be, I can say that much has changed in the things the animals have seen as time has gone by. Like humans, they have adapted to it…getting used to the changes and seeing them as normal now. Maybe they even think, as I do, “Look how far we have come.”
Sometimes in life, we get the opportunity to interact with nature is ways that are unexpected. Most of the time wild animals, want nothing to do with humans. We are the enemy, and they know it, but once in while, you find a situation where the animals have learned to trust humans. Such was the case when my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin took their son, Christopher to Denver with Kevin’s parents. Christopher’s other grandma helped Christopher to feed the geese some bread, and the geese loved it. Now, knowing my grandson like I do, I know that he was laughing with pure delight as the geese come up to him and took their dinner from him. Christopher has always loved animals. And when something got him excited, his laugh was amazing. I can just imagine the excitement he must have felt.
Some people have more chances to get to know nature up close and personal, like my good friend Becky, who lives on the mountain with her husband, dog, a number of deer and wild turkeys. The turkeys don’t allow her to get too close, but the deer are very brave. They will come right up to the camera…just to see what it is, even sticking their nose right up to it sometimes. Becky is treated to a side of nature that most of us never get to see. And, as she continues to live on the mountain, the deer will get to know her better. This picture of one of Becky’s favorites, Buddy, has him eating out of one hand while she took the picture with the other hand. She was nervous, but Buddy was a gentleman, so all went well.
Even in town, we have been treated to situations where nature and humans can interact. I know, because I have deer that come into my back yard often throughout the year. They are relatively unafraid. We can walk around the yard while they are there, and unless we get too close, they just watch us with curious interest. Maybe they, like we, each wonder what the other is all about. We aren’t too sure how close we can go, but we would love to be able to get really close…we just don’t know if we dare. Should we take a chance on a wild animal trusting us enough to allow us to get close? Most of us will take that chance. That’s why we feed the geese, deer and turkeys, and even the squirrels, like the one who bravely climbed up my grandson’s pant leg, until he realized he was very close…and then he ran. Those moments are special, and maybe even a little unnerving, but that’s what getting close to nature is all about.
The waiting is over. My friend, Evelyn has gone home. For us here on earth, death seems like a thief that comes in and takes away those we love, but for those in Heaven, it is a joyous day. The day that humans were made for. The Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalms 116:15. So today is a precious day to the Lord.
For Evelyn, today is the day that her existance exploded into the most amazing joy ever felt by humans. She is free from pain and earthly limitations. She is with our Lord Jesus and she has seen God’s face, a privilege saved for those good and faithful servants who have been made the righteousness of God through the death of Jesus on the cross. She is among the justified, as are those of us who have chosen Jesus, but now she knows true joy. The kind of joy that can only come from being in the presence of God.
So, why is it that we have such a hard time feeling even the smallest hint of that joy when we, who are left behind, think of our loved one. Humans fight to stay alive. Fight to keep our loved ones alive. Fight to win the battle against illness. But for what? Our earthly travels are filled with troubles. And yet, our very existance is a gift from God. I guess it really is about the circle of life. Every life has its beginning, its middle, and its end, which is really a new beginning, with no middle and no end. Eternity with God is an amazing day that never ends, in which we never tire, and darkness doesn’t exist. Is there anything better than that?