I stared into the sky at the black hole ringed with white-hot fire. I’d never seen anything like this before in my life. It was unearthly. Alien. Tears flooded my eyes. Awe flooded my soul.
My mother taught me to gaze into the cosmos as a girl. She walked into the front yard, brought the binoculars to her eyes and found the craters on Luna. Then she handed the binoculars to me.
Mom never saw a total solar eclipse. I wish she’d been alive to see it with me Aug. 21. My husband and I traveled from Memphis, in the partial eclipse zone, to western Kentucky to see the sun go totally dark. We’d booked our hotel room 10 months in advance. I packed a bracelet of Mom’s. I’d wear it during the eclipse in honor of her.
In the moments before the moon totally blacked out the sun, I was skeptical, building to upset. I’d heard it got dark enough to see stars, but it was daylight with more than 90 percent of the sun covered. An eerie pallor draped us, but I’d seen a partial eclipse before.
And then, as I watched the last sliver of sun disappear, it was as though someone turned off a lamp. It was like sunset without the gradual fade of the sun. Crickets started their evening symphony. Venus sparkled in the sky like a brilliant gem under glass.
The small crowd assembled in the back of the motel oohed and aahed. My husband excitedly announced the appearance of orange light at the horizon, but I couldn’t speak. I felt so overwhelmed I wanted to cry out, to dissolve in a mess of emotion. My chest heaved.
I love to look at the stars at night. The universe gives me a glimpse of the glory of God. I usually feel part of something big and awesome while stargazing, but during the eclipse I felt like an ant or a speck of dust. For me, this wasn’t a scientific experience but a spiritual one.
Too quickly, a sliver of brilliance appeared at the side the darkened moon, and I knew it was time to put my solar glasses on again, but I didn’t want to. I stole a quarter of a second look and then put on the glasses. I didn’t look long. The show was over. The glory was gone. I told my husband later it was like going to heaven for two minutes and then being sent back.
The whole afternoon I was quiet. The awe sat on my chest. I didn’t know what to do with this feeling. So I took a long walk and talked to God about it. He answered me immediately.
Before humanity learned the scientific reasons behind the darkening of the sun, the ancients felt terror and looked to impersonal, angry gods to bring back daylight. I don’t have to sit in fear because our Creator is a personal God. He didn’t just fling creation into space and wash his hands of it. He interacts with us and even loves us. Awe is an appropriate response to such a God, but he wants recognition of his mighty personhood to spark a better love for him.
The eclipse wetted my appetite. And it gave me comfort – my parents are in a happy, beautiful place even more incredible than the stars, planets and galaxies in the sky. I realize there’s so much more glory to God that I’ve yet to see. Monday, I only glimpsed it.
What did your parents teach you about the universe? What have you learned since your childhood about the cosmos? How would you describe your eclipse experience?
Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com
Sheryl M. Baker
It must have been wonderful to see. I can’t even imagine what the full eclipse looked like. So glad you got to go.
Thanks, Sheryl. Make plans for the next one in 2024 – it will go over southern Illinois.