Atlantis: Time to Say Goodbye

Watching her land live was agony and ecstasy.  I wish it wasn’t the last, but at least her final approach was pitch-perfect and altogether beautiful.

I took screenshots of that historic final landing.  Figured I’d share.

Pilot’s view on the final approach.

Atlantis on infrared.

You can see the glow around her.  She’s hot!  Twin sonic booms nearly stopped my heart before they announced what they were.

Pilot’s view of the runway.

And again, with a little flare of color.

And here she is, about to touch down.

Almost down.

Touching down.

Love that smoke – from the tires?  I don’t know enough about these landings to tell.  But it’s beautiful.

Chute deployed.

Steaming hot! Watching that steam come off her in infrared was really fascinating – it looked almost like smoke signals.  As dawn came and they took close shots of the nose of the orbiter, you could see the air wavering from the heat coming off her.

And there she is, crew members out, mission complete.  STS135, the final orbit, an unqualified success.

Yeah, that deserved a high five.

America’s future in space is uncertain.  That’s the only darkness on this day.  I just hope the next manned ship this country launches is the one that takes us beyond our own horizons.  I want to see a geologist on Mars.

Make it so, America.

And for Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Endeavor, and Enterprise, the song that cycled through my mind as I watched the last of you land for the very last time:

Goodbye, old friends. I’ll miss you.

Goodbye, Our Sarah Jane

Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who played Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith, died of cancer today.  Russell T. Davies gives a worthy tribute to her here.  All I’ve got is this clip from YouTube that doesn’t do her justice, and some fangirl memories.

She was brilliant.  So very brilliant.  I’d never known her – my obsession with Doctor Who begins with Series 1 – but the instant she appeared on the screen in “School Reunion,” I didn’t need my friend to tell me she was someone special.  You didn’t have to know who she was.  She just blazed out from the screen.

It would have been such an honor to have gotten a chance to meet her.  I have to agree with Steven Moffat:

“Never meet your heroes’ wise people say. They weren’t thinking of Lis Sladen.”

We’re all going to miss her terribly.  One of the best companions ever.  She was brilliant.

If scientists ever manage to build an actual TARDIS, I can guarantee there’ll be one hell of a queue forming to go back to shake her hand.

Some Brief Thoughts on Death and Dying

Diana Wynne Jones, outstanding fantasy writer and Neil Gaiman’s friend, died. She lived a long life, and a good life, and left a lot of magic behind.

I found myself standing on the balcony after hearing the news, staring into the sky at the stars, and caught myself thinking, “I hope Death came for her.”  Those poor, deprived people who aren’t fans of Neil Gaiman won’t understand why that’s a happy thought.  Maybe this will help:

Death of the Endless

There are worse last sights than a cute, perky Gothic chick taking you on one last adventure.

Of course, I laughed at myself a little for the thought.  Death exists only in the imagination.  There’s no actual being who’s going to drop by and haul anybody’s arse off to the Summer Lands.  There’s no afterlife.  There’s life, and then there’s not.  People seem to think that’s terrifying.  They can’t face that death is the end, that there’s nothing beyond to look forward to.  I get that.  Not as much as I used to, but I understand some people desperately need to believe there’s no end to us.

I used to need that.  I used to fear dying quite a lot, actually, and worried about the quality of the afterlife.  But then I read Sandman, and met Death, and thought that while life was preferable to death, there wasn’t any real reason to fear Death herself.  I didn’t want to meet her too soon, but it wouldn’t be so bad.  She put a spring in my step.  She dispelled the shadows.

Still.  I worried.  What if I didn’t accomplish everything I’d set out to do?  That’d be me, moping around the Summer Lands, regretting the things I hadn’t done.  I’d get what everyone gets: a lifetime.  But would it be enough?

Then I became an atheist, and suddenly, the fear was gone.  Seriously, totally gone.  I no more want to die now than I ever did, I still want to accomplish things and leave something of lasting value behind, but I’m no longer afraid of the fact of death.  Why should I be?  I won’t have regrets.  I’ll know nothing about it.  There will be no me left to fret or regret.  The end of consciousness used to be a terror, but for some reason, a day came when I could fully accept it.  I think it’s because I realized there’s no use in fearing it.  And now, I could dedicate all of me to this life.  It’s the only one I’ve got.  No do-overs.  Do I really want to spend it in perpetual panic?  No.  So.  Live a good life, and a full life, as long as I can, and enjoy it.  One day at a time, with no eternity staring me accusingly in the face.

But.

There’s a chance that, at the end, I’ll see Death.  Near death experience, y’see.  Got to thinking about those tonight.  The last imaginings of the hypoxic brain.  Some people see Jesus.  Some people see – well, whatever their culture’s conditioned them to see.  So it’s quite possible that the last fitful firings of my synapses will present me with a tunnel, and a cute perky Gothic chick, and with the last instant of consciousness, I’ll be able to take her hand and let her walk me off the stage.  It won’t matter a bit that it’s not real, or that it won’t be remembered.  It’s still a hell of a nice way to go.

A last instant of happiness.  Don’t know.  Could be.  A last, delightful little hallucination as the grand finale. 

I hope that Diana Wynne Jones’s brain did that for her.  I hope that the last synapse fired off a happy ending, a fitting tribute to a wonderful life richly lived.

Give Lockwood and Ozma Some Love

Ozma’s dying.  She’s Lockwood’s beautiful feral baby.  We didn’t get a chance to see her when we were there – she’ll only associate with Lockwood – but we caught a glimpse.  She’s a gorgeous girl.  I’m glad she’s got someone she loves and trusts who will stay with her to the end.

Ozma

Love and hugs to both of you.  I’m glad you had each other, even though it’s never long enough.

Adios, Jimmers

This has been a horrible month.  First Holly, now my parents’ cat Jimmy.

Jimmy seemed everlasting.  He married into the family when my stepmother and father tied the knot.  I could always count on that enormous bundle of orange tabby sacked out on his favorite blankie on the sofa when I went home.  There was a time when he got so fat he seemed to be competing with Garfield, but then the new kitten came home and bits of Jimmy just melted away, like winding a clock back to the days when he was slim, trim, and always ready for a good chase sequence.

I think Spook added years to Jimmy’s life.  Even though, later on, he went back to his former ways, and spent most of his time sacked out.  But then he’d wake up, decide he wanted his old dad, and get down on the floor to engage in some serious cute.

And if you yelled “Shrimpers, Jimmy!” from the kitchen, you could bet you’d have one attentive cat there in a split-second.  He loved his shrimpers. 

Goodbye, dear old Jimmy Durante.  Thanks for those 18 awesome years, buddy.

We’ll miss ya, Jimmers.

We Loved You, Holly

Our own George W. and his wonderful Mrs. DoF lost their beautiful, brave baby girl today.  They gave her one more summer and a fall, one last squirrel chase, before the time came.  They gave her a lovely life.  Dearest Holly, you surely chose the right humans to own. 

We got to know her through the photos her daddy posted.  Who can forget that adorable little face, intent on a glass of milk?

From George’s Cats Album

We surely never will.  Hasta, Holly.  Oceans of love to you and your family.