Hello to those we lost

One of the projects happening at Gizmo CDA is Gizmo2Xtremes. They are building a robot to send 100,000 feet into the atmosphere attached to a weather balloon. From there, they will be guiding the robot back down with controlled flight to Lake Pend Oreille where it will dive 1000 feet below the surface. It is a fantastic way to get kids excited about STEM education.

Along with the robot and the weather balloon, Gizmo CDA is also sending messages on little scraps of paper that will scatter once the balloon pops – a stratospheric message in a bottle. At Kinetic Fest, they were selling tickets for people to write whatever message they desired to send up with the robot and balloon. I spent a couple hours in the Gizmo2Xtremes booth, talking to people about the project, collecting the money, and giving them paper for the messages. What most people wrote is a complete mystery to me. But there is one older gentleman that stood out.

Late in the afternoon, he walked up. If I were to guess his age, he’s probably a decade older than my dad; old enough to have grandkids that are grown with kids of their own. When I asked him if he wanted to send a message into space, he smiled big and said, “Absolutely.”

He handed me a dollar and I gave him the paper and pen. With no one else around, I watched his hand as he composed his message. The first four words he wrote simultaneously broke my heart and renewed my faith in humanity.

“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.”

He continued to say “Hi” to another ten names. Considering his age, I knew he wasn’t greeting anyone one still living. His saying “Hi” was his way of letting go.

I wanted to walk around the table and give the man a big hug. But I didn’t want to make it awkward so I just stood there on my side of the table which was probably just as awkward.

Grief is hard. We are not really taught the right way to mourn death and great losses in our lives. It is such an individual process that even if someone were to tell us what worked for them, there is zero guarantee that it will work for us. But this old man had it figured out. If anyone knows how to say goodbye to lost loved ones, it is him. Because there is something I noticed as he composed his message to space.

As he wrote, there was not a trace of sadness in his expression. It was something else completely.


He had come to terms knowing he would never see his parents, friends, and family on this side of existence, whatever sorrow he had previously felt was replaced with a calm that defied explanation. He was filled with peace. Sure, he might have been saying goodbye, but he did so in the best way he knew how.

He said “Hi.”

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