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No. of Recommendations: 232
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning. - Mark Twain


It's not until you lose something that you realize how much it matters to you. After moving to the West Coast, I was shocked to find there were no such things as lightning bugs (sometimes referred to as fireflies) in the Bay Area. Some hasty research showed that San Francisco summers were simply too dry for lightning bugs. They need water to flourish.

Summer simply isn't summer without having lightning bugs flash during the waning hours of daylight. I grew up in a small town just north of Pittsburgh, PA and spent many evenings chasing lightning bugs. My father had the job of using a hammer and nail to create airholes in the metal lid of my glass jar “lantern.” My mom supervised the capture of the bugs, and prevented the carrying of the jar into the house. I suspect my father was far wiser than he let on (now that I'm older, I'm sure of it). His airholes were always too large, and in the morning the lightning bugs had escaped, leaving behind the empty jar. I'm pretty sure that the two acted as a team; Dad ensuring that the lightning bug catching could continue and Mom making sure that my bedroom didn't become filled with a swarm of lightning bugs.

I think about those days a lot now. Lightning bugs have come to symbolize youthful innocence, or at least carefree summer nights. Recently, I sit, entranced by the brief flashes of light, and think about my Mom.

She passed away unexpectedly in February, 2000 from an aneurysm.



Heaven gives its favourites early death. - Lord Byron


There are two kinds of aneurysms, one where the blood vessel gets clogged, and one where it bursts. The clogged kind, while not a good thing to happen, is treatable. The bursting kind is untreatable.

Mom had the bursting kind.

It happened a few days after my 32nd birthday. Receiving the late phone call from my sister. Lying in bed with my wife, mentally urging time to flow faster so that I could catch the first flight east. That seemingly unending flight back east. Watching her twitch as the respirator breathed for her. Holding her hand as the doctor declared her to be brain dead.

That was one of the hardest things I've had to endure.

I hadn't been back to Pittsburgh since Mom passed away. I planned on going last year, but then I got a new job back on the east coast. Right after arriving back on the east coast, my wife had some health issues to get through, which delayed the visit further.

I finally got a break to visit my Dad over the 4th of July this year. The house, the town, the region… all similar to my mental images, but different enough as to be disturbing, like a summer without lightning bugs.

My Dad's knee is getting bad. Within a year, he'll probably need to have it replaced. He was walking with a noticeable limp, and commented multiple times that he can't “go” like he used to. We visited his doctor, so that he could get a shot of steroids in the bad knee. I talked with the doctor at length about the knee. My Dad is at least taking my advice and getting a second opinion.

The house has little changes done to it. Nothing major, but unsettling. A new flower bed. Cement poured in the garage, finally fixing the uneven floor. A new car, replacing Mom's green Cavalier. The new car shouldn't have been that surprising. Dad always did turn over cars every few years.

He has a female companion now. She's not a girlfriend, per se, but she's someone who he hangs out with and shares many interests of his. She's nice, and Dad and I had a long discussion about how I was OK with it. She's a very nice person, and we got along well. I made sure he understood that I didn't see her as “replacing” Mom, and he assured me that she wasn't. He then said something uncharacteristically sentimental:

“No one could ever replace your Mom.”

We fished. We worked around his house. We drank. Eventually, we visited Mom's grave.

I was OK until he leaned over, put his hand on the headstone, and whispered, “Look who I brought to see you, Mom.”

That was simply too much. The emotions, the memories…they came flooding back. My eyes started welling up, and my Dad simply said, “C'mon. Let's get out of here.”




Our concern for the loss of our friends is not always from a sense of their worth, but rather of our own need of them—and that we have lost some who had a good opinion of us. - François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld


The trip was over too soon. But, upon reflection, it was probably a good length of time to visit. Too much longer, and I'm sure that I would have been intruding on my Dad's “post-Mom” life. He dropped me off at the airport, and I worked my way to the far gate for my flight.

I came to the nexus of terminals in Pittsburgh's airport. Again, I was struck by a memory of my Mom. One time, as my wife and I were visiting from San Francisco, my parents drove us to the airport for our return flight. We had stopped in that intersection of hallways to seek out a restaurant to kill time before our return flight. My Mom had found the directory, and I vividly recalled her excitedly calling us over, as if she had found a treasure. I stood there for a few moments, staring at the directory, thinking fondly of her before I pressed on to the gate.

The flight home, while uneventful, was filled with thoughts of Mom. And Dad. He'll be OK, I know that. I wonder if this trip caused him to think as much about her as it did for me.



There are gains for all our losses, There are balms for all our pain. - Richard Henry Stoddard


That night, after getting back to my own home, I poured myself a glass of my latest passion, vintage port. Standing out on my deck, I surveyed my backyard. The sun had just gone down and the lightning bugs were just starting their dance.

I smiled and drank a silent toast to my parents, especially my Mom. I miss her.
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Summer simply isn't summer without having lightning bugs flash during the waning hours of daylight. I grew up in a small town just north of Pittsburgh, PA and spent many evenings chasing lightning bugs.... Lightning bugs have come to symbolize youthful innocence, or at least carefree summer nights.

When I was little I used to chase lightning bugs all the time too. There was a rumor in the neighborhood (I don't know if it was some sort of urban legend peculiar to Bethesda or not) that scientists at NIH were paying people to collect and bring in lightning bugs, that they were studying their phosphorescent compounds for cancer-protection properties. I wonder if it was true....


My last night of high school, I made a special point of going out to collect fireflies. It just seemed like the right thing to do. The way to say good bye to that part of my life. Catch fireflies and then get up the next morning and read "Oh the Places You'll Go!" in AP Psychology. The right way of the world....


Eventually, in one of my upper-level physics classes, we learned all about the chemistry of phosphorescence. How the energy levels are treated and how the particular valence structure of the atoms and molecules involved must be set up in order for the glowing to occur. I can now converse at length on this phenomenon. Somehow, lightning bugs still seem like magic....
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Eventually, in one of my upper-level physics classes, we learned all about the chemistry of phosphorescence. How the energy levels are treated and how the particular valence structure of the atoms and molecules involved must be set up in order for the glowing to occur. I can now converse at length on this phenomenon.

Please do.

Sorry, one line, but I am trying to encourage expanded discussion.

Rick
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I can now converse at length on this phenomenon.


That's good to know, because I've been wondering about something. Watching fireflies is something I've had opportunies to do at length, and what I've noticed is that when they are lit, they are always moving upwards. When the light goes out, it seems they can move wherever they want to, but as soon as the light goes on, they are seemingly forced to sweep upward for as long as they are glowing.

Somehow that seems appropriate to me, but I've been wondering if there is a scientific reason for it. It certainly makes poetic sense.


euclid
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"in the neighborhood (I don't know if it was some sort of urban legend peculiar to Bethesda or not)"

Hey, homey.

mglf
Walt Whitman '79
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Hey, homey.

mglf
Walt Whitman '79


Shh, don't tell them how to reach me. They're putting together one of those stupid alum books and I'm trying my best to disappear. If I never get included and they never invite me to reunions, it will be too soon.

fg
Walt Whitman '95
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Somehow that seems appropriate to me, but I've been wondering if there is a scientific reason for it. It certainly makes poetic sense.

That's a behavioral thing. They're lighting up to signal each other. Easier to do that when rising above the grass than sinking into it. Nothing to do w/ density changes as they get brighter, or anything like that.
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"Shh, don't tell them how to reach me. They're putting together one of those stupid alum books and I'm trying my best to disappear. If I never get included and they never invite me to reunions, it will be too soon."

I get the mail, too.

I was actually tickled to see that Dr. Marco is still the principal there, as he was back in the stone age when I went. I went to the old school, which was torn down when the buildings you went to school in (designed by a college pal of mine) were built.

Skip the ten-year reunion; it is a very lame look-at-me-fest. But do try to go to your twentieth; everybody has mellowed out lots by then, and it's a neat thing for one night to see folks from twenty years before that you might not even have thought of since you graduated.

m
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csayre,

My eyes are filled with tears as I write this reply, you see...I have gone through an eerily similar experience just four years ago.

I also grew up just north of Pittsburgh (a small town right on the Allegheny River called Ford City).

I worked in the DC area for 8 years before moving out west to Salt Lake City for my job. I never really thought about the fireflies not being around but you are correct about something not being right about it.

My mom passed unexpectedly in September of 1998. She had never been out west and that is all she could talk about in the weeks leading up to the two week vacation. My sister and her husband also made the trip.

From Salt Lake City you can get to about 8 National Parks and a few National Monuments within a 5 hour drive. We hit half of them in the first week of the vacation.

My sister returned back to Pittsburgh after this first week. She left early Saturday afternoon and that night at 11:30PM I had to make the call to let her know the terrible news. Mom had an aneurysm, and it was the bursting kind. My Dad found her on the couch when he was going to bed for the night. The paramedics came but to no avail, the bursting kind is just too wicked.

I blamed myself for the longest time. Was it because she came out west? Was it from the altitude? Too many questions. The doctors say it would have happened anywhere. I want to believe that, but who really knows. She was 62.

I make the trip back to Pittsburgh at least twice a year, most recently over Memorial Day weekend. The fireflies were out, but not in full force. There was another member of the insect family in the air and its name is the cicada. Once every 17 years they come out in full force and this year was no exception. The last time they were around I was a junior in high school and the time before that an infant. They are relentless and can really do some damage to trees when laying their eggs.

The cicadas reminded me of Mom. Not because of any significant occurrence, just because she was around the last time they were. I miss Mom too.

jhazens
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Eventually, in one of my upper-level physics classes, we learned all about the chemistry of phosphorescence. How the energy levels are treated and how the particular valence structure of the atoms and molecules involved must be set up in order for the glowing to occur. I can now converse at length on this phenomenon.

Please do.

Sorry, one line, but I am trying to encourage expanded discussion.

Rick


http://members.aol.com/profchm/frye.html
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<<Eventually, in one of my upper-level physics classes, we learned all about the chemistry of phosphorescence. How the energy levels are treated and how the particular valence structure of the atoms and molecules involved must be set up in order for the glowing to occur. I can now converse at length on this phenomenon.

Please do.>>

It's my sixth post on here today, but since you asked so politely, hee hee.

I am not going to bother discussing the chemistry involved, but rather the physics, since I find chemistry rather boring. (Yes, the periodic table is a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a physicist, would I?)

Phosphorescence is actually a wonderful example of quantum tunneling. The molecule involved has two different energy levels that are relatively close together, but clearly separated in energy. (In fact, in order to be phosphorescent, the energy separation has to be such that a photon of energy that makes up the difference will have a wavelength in the visible range, so they are pretty far apart in quantum terms.)

Okay, so you stick some energy in the system. (I don't know how fireflies in particular do this, but it must be some metabolic process, probably.) The molecules are then boosted into a higher level. They are stuck there. According to classical physics, they are stuck there forever, until an enzyme comes or something knocks it into a different chemical formulation or something.

Ah, but in quantum terms, it is just a matter of time. Any energy barrier will be overcome with enough time (speaking, of course, of finite energy barriers).

So eventually, all of its own accord, against classical physics and intuitive thinking, the molecule drops to its lower level and a photon is produced in the process. Since it takes so long for this process to happen, we can note such a delay. Thus when we charge up phosphorescent bracelets or look at fireflies or plankton, it is not a single brilliant flash that we see. Rather, there is a gradual decay over time until the number of photons produced is small enough that we can no longer pick it up.

Quantum tunneling. What a wonder.

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I can now converse at length on this phenomenon.

That's good to know, because I've been wondering about something. Watching fireflies is something I've had opportunies to do at length, and what I've noticed is that when they are lit, they are always moving upwards. When the light goes out, it seems they can move wherever they want to, but as soon as the light goes on, they are seemingly forced to sweep upward for as long as they are glowing.

Somehow that seems appropriate to me, but I've been wondering if there is a scientific reason for it. It certainly makes poetic sense.



http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/Entomology/courses/en507/papers_1997/stous.html
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I am not going to bother discussing the chemistry involved, but rather the physics, since I find chemistry rather boring. (Yes, the periodic table is a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a physicist, would I?)

I am not going to bother discussing the physics involved, but rather the chemistry, since I find physics rather boring. (Yes, Maxwell's equations are a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a chemist, would I?)

Sorry, couldn't resist.

The reaction involves a chemical called "luciferin." The exact structure of the molecule depends on the source (insects' luciferin differs from bacterial luciferin. See: http://www.lifesci.ucsb.edu/~biolum/chem/detail2.html) and an enzyme called luciferase. (Sidenote: The chemicals are named after Lucifer, the fallen angel of light.)

What happens is that luciferin combines with ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to form luciferyl adenylate and pyrophosphate (PPi) on the surface of the luciferase enzyme. The luciferyl adenylate remains bound to the enzyme:

luciferin + ATP -------------> luciferyl adenylate + PPi

The luciferyl adenylate combines with oxygen to form oxyluciferin and adenosine monophosphate (AMP). Light is given off and the oxyluciferin and AMP are released from the enzyme's surface:

luciferyl adenylate + O2 -------------> oxyluciferin +AMP + light

The wavelength of light given off is between 510 and 670 nanometers (pale yellow to reddish green color). The cells that make the light also have uric acid crystals in them that help to reflect the light away from the abdomen. Finally, the oxygen is supplied to the cells through a tube in the abdomen called the abdominal trachea. It is not known whether the on-off switching of the light is controlled by nerve cells or the oxygen supply.

csayre
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After moving to the West Coast, I was shocked to find there were no such things as lightning bugs (sometimes referred to as fireflies) in the Bay Area. Some hasty research showed that San Francisco summers were simply too dry for lightning bugs. They need water to flourish.

Yes, but in truth and fact, the absence of lightning bugs in various part of the country is due largely to LBYM'ers collecting them in glass jars to save on light bulbs.
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I am not going to bother discussing the chemistry involved, but rather the physics, since I find chemistry rather boring. (Yes, the periodic table is a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a physicist, would I?)

I am not going to bother discussing the physics involved, but rather the chemistry, since I find physics rather boring. (Yes, Maxwell's equations are a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a chemist, would I?)


I am not going to bother discussing either the physics OR the chemistry, since both are exhaustively described in a number of on-line references and innumerable texts. (Yes, the dogmatic minutae surrounding childhood icons are a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't be screwing around on this board, would I?)

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After moving to the West Coast, I was shocked to
find there were no such things as lightning bugs (sometimes referred to as fireflies) in the Bay Area. Some hasty research
showed that San Francisco summers were simply too dry for lightning bugs. They need water to flourish.


We don't have lightning bugs here in Minnesota, or at least I've never seen one. All we have is mosquitos, which is odd because mosquitos also require water, standing water in particular. I guess you could say it bites (or sucks) that we have mosquitos instead of lightning bugs.

Erik
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<I am not going to bother discussing the chemistry involved, but rather the physics, since I find chemistry rather boring. (Yes, the periodic table is a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a physicist, would I?)>

I am not going to bother discussing the physics involved, but rather the chemistry, since I find physics rather boring. (Yes, Maxwell's equations are a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a chemist, would I?)


I would just like to point out the elegance w/ which I both changed the topic to behavioral ecology w/o reference to my thoughts on chemistry or physics *and* answered the question that was asked.
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I would just like to point out the elegance w/ which I both changed the topic to behavioral ecology w/o reference to my thoughts on chemistry or physics *and* answered the question that was asked.

Granted. But since you were answering a different question than both csayre and myself, I hardly think it is relevant.

In particular, I had mentioned that I understand the chemistry involved, but since I wished to discuss the physics instead, I felt that I should explain.

Incidentally, while I DO find Maxwell's Equations a source of wonder and joy, I hate studying and applying them as well. I much prefer General Relativity (although perhaps a chemist has little use for those).

fg
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I would just like to point out the elegance w/ which I both changed the topic to behavioral ecology w/o reference to my thoughts on chemistry or physics *and* answered the question that was asked.
=== === ===
Point duly noted.
Overheard this morning at the coffee-maker just across from my cubicle:
"Well, she is nice enough -- but she is one of those characters who usually begin those standing ovations."
--BigBunk
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I would just like to point out the elegance w/ which I both changed the topic to behavioral ecology w/o reference to my thoughts on chemistry or physics *and* answered the question that was asked.


I would like to point out how much I appreciated the clear and succinct answer to the question; a question which was phrased so as to maintain the relationship between science and poetry without making judgements about the relative value of either.


euclid
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csayre added to your Favorite Fools list.
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Next January 9 will be the thirieth anniversary of my mother's death.
Heck, I was barely 17.

I told my wife it took 25 years to get over it, now after reading your post. I wonder if I ever will...

Peace

buzman
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Next January 9 will be the thirieth anniversary of my mother's death.
Heck, I was barely 17.

I told my wife it took 25 years to get over it, now after reading your post. I wonder if I ever will...

Peace


Peace, for sure.

Upon my return to Blighty in April '95, I went down from London to stay with my brother and his wife and kids in Salisbury for the weekend. Friday night we had that phone call. You know the one, if you'd had the experience. The worlds literally stands still for a few seconds, when your Mom say, err, we've got some news about Dad. OK, this is a real understatement, but for those who've been here, I'm sure you know what I mean. My brother's wife was the one who picked up, 8pm, on the dot (I'll never forget the stupid action of looking at my watch, for some reason).

Damn, that was a mad evening. The persistent cold wasn't just a cold. 40+ years of smoking Dunhills's ain't nice. My bro quickly took to calling one of their neighbor's to look after their two kids. Me, being a dumbass, took a 30-minute walk, ironically chain-smoking close to a whole pack of M Lites in the process, to clear my head. F*ck it, I mean, I'de just been the top honcho at Chemical's grad program, made a slip-up in working an internship at Banc One and not declaring it, and the INS decided I was not a worthy sole, despite my parents having spent over $100k on my education at SMU. Man, I was angry (still am, to some extents, but that's a different story).

So, at 10pm, we arrive at my folk's house in mid-Dorset, about a 1.5 hours drive from Salisbury.

Dad was his usual self, dammit. So logical. So cool. The doc's had given him 3 months. Lung cancer, had spread to the stomach. F*ck it, the first time I've shed tears as I write this. Cool as a cucumber, he tells us of his hidden 'thing', that as a big cheese manager at Kodak here in the UK, in the 60s he took out some extra policy for his wife.

So, despite our manic inheritance tax laws, we're OK. (Like that was the most on our mind, but, dammit, he was so damn cool about it, like it was nothing other than an extra lovey dovey gift to his beloved.)


In a beautiful blue lagoon on a clear day,
a fine sailing ship spreads its brilliant white canvas
in a fresh morning breeze and sails out to the open sea.

We watch her glide away magnificently through the deep
blue and gradually see her grow smaller and smaller as she
nears the horizon.

Finally, where the sea and sky meet,
she slips silently from sight, and someone
near me says,
'there, she is gone!'

Gone where? Gone from sight. That is all.
She is still as large in mast and hull and
sail, still just as able to bear her load.

And we can be sure that, just as we say,
'there, she is gone' another says,
'there, she comes!'.


Henry Van Dyke


In the intervening times, I ended up at one of the Rothchilds firms. He was thrilled to bits. When he was able to be thrilled, given the amount of morphine he was on. Knowing you're gonna die, and soon, I'd hate to know what he went through. I know he knew pain. He got so weak my Mom had to bathe him in the bathroom with him sitting on a stool he was so weak to stand up.

The docs gave him 12 weeks. He lasted 11. A fighter to the last. During this battle, my Mom's oldest sis had breast cancer, a couple of year's after my Mom had the same (it runs in the family, on both sides, it seems).


Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep

I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow

I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift, uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.


Mary E.Frye


I've heard it said that you can't live on regrets. That's cr*p. I regret the time, on New Year's eve, '98, my brother called me, I'd just rolled a joint, a promise to myself that I'd never smoke again (that New Year's resolution, as you do, lasted about 48 hours). Mom's got stomach cancer. 6 months max. Man, I got sooo stoned that night. Wanted to just rewind the last four year's of my life. SMU was a blast, the best three years of my life. How quickly it all unravelled. I'd become, to my family though, a bit of sh*t, unknowlingly, on my part. The apartment, the Porsche, the weekend breaks to Florence, Paris. I'd become a stereotypical City w*nker.

May 31st, my brother's wife called me, about 9pm. Mom died. And I hadn't been to see her for two weeks, as I was too f*cking busy taking my girlfriend to Italy. Problems arose, and I didn't speak with my brother for two years, certainly not what our parents had brought us up to behave like.

I called him a couple of years ago, on the behest of my girlfriend.

I picked him up at West Hampstead station. It was p*sing with rain. I stopped by the local Odd Bins liquor store for a shed load of Guinness Draught cans. As we cracked open the first few, in the first minutes that we'd been together since the funeral, we both looked ateach and laughed. Really laughed. Until then, we'd hardly spoken a word. Sadistically, he reached for a pack of Embassy's. As a cue, I grabbed a pack of M Lites. We shinked glasses, and shot the sh*t for over five hours. My faults, his faults, whatever. Ultimately, we chilled the cambative air between us. And that feels so damn good. When he denied me, a coupla years earlier, to have his kids come up to Lomdon to stay with me over a holiday weekend, that hurt. His eldest, Tom, was at the time doing a school project on Henry VIII, and I wanted to take him to Hampton Court and the Tower. That hurt. But, ultimately, we hooked up, patched our differences, and are probably stronger for it.

I'll leave it here. But you know what, time really does heal. It doesn't mean you forget. But the passing of time allows you to get on with your life, which is what I know my folks would want, ney, demand. They're still there. My Dad is, I'm sure, still silently cussing my bad trading decisions, my Mom still laughing at my culinary skills.

25 years? I dunno. You can't get over it. But you can move on. When my Dad died, Mom put up a saying on her bedroom wall. I still have a glance at it now and again.

Bullet


All is Well

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effect without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.

All is well.

Henry Scott Holland
1847-1918
Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral
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Beautifully written - thank you!
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Hmmmmmm, all these nice heartfelt stories about growing up with lightning bugs...

I too grew up with those amazing little bugs lighting up my backyard each night in the early summer. Yes we collected them in glass jars and poked holes in the lid... but that wasn't too exciting.

It was much more exciting to run around in the backyard with my brothers and WHACK those little suckers with baseball bats... kinda like a natural fireworks show.

Boys will be boys!!! :)
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Somehow that seems appropriate to me <that fireflies fly up while lighted>, but I've been wondering if there is a scientific reason for it. It certainly makes poetic sense.

>>>>That's a behavioral thing. They're lighting up to signal each other. Easier to do that when rising above the grass than sinking into it. Nothing to do w/ density changes as they get brighter, or anything like that. >>>>

Actually it's a little more complicated than that. Each species of firefly has a particular flight path and light sequence, so potential mates know which ones to chase. Some fly up, some blink rapidly, while others fly a zig-zag (and so on). Some females even imitate the flashes of other species so they can eat the hapless love-struck males!

There is an excellent illustration of this in J.E. Lloyd "Studies of the flash communication system in Photinus firelies" Miscellaneous publications of the museum of zoology, University of Michigan 130:1-95, 1966. Jim Lloyd is at the University of Florida in Gainesville now, where there are plenty of fireflies if you know where to look.

Cheers, Dan (yes, an Entomologist)
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How beautifully written!

Made me well up and think, too...
My mother passed away in 1989 and the time or distnace haven't diminished her "special-ness" and memory in the least.

Thank you for sharing! :-)

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You have crafted a moving story full of hometruths and magical word pictures. Your choice of elegant quotations made useful intermissions along the way.

My father died with his boots on seven years ago at the age of 82. Four years later, three years ago, my mother passed away at age 66 from an aneurysm of the same kind that fell your mother.

I take what comfort I can from knowing they suffered only briefly. Lives are sometimes shorter than hoped, but better that than being haunted by a living death drawn out through years of pain and decline.

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection."

Thomas Paine
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I didn't want to be disrespectful to the thread, but now maybe that the focus is on lightening bugs in particular, I can own up:

Growing up in LA, the only lightening bugs I ever saw the first eightteen years of my life were the phoney ones in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

These too were kind of majestic to me.

~~~

I never liked Disneyland. But Pirates was one ride I liked. The Bucs chasing the wenches. The song. The so-fake explosions in the fight between ships. It felt, even as it was shiny and new, old and tired. It already felt like time had passed Disneyland by, like this was truly another world, not serious, not scary but with just a bit of an edge to it, even when I was four or six. And that was part of what made it so likeable.

When you approached Pirates, it was relief. I don't much like rides but mostly because I don't like waiting in line. But waiting in line for Pirates was better. First off, it went quicker. Secondly, the wait was partially indoors, and the space was always civil and cool. There was water, and the diners at The Blue Bayou, everyone's favorite Disneyland restaurant. Also, it was one ride of all the ride that adults seemed to like. In fact, it was a crossover child-adult space, with the restaurant right there. And there were those fireflies, those little lights at the ends of fishing line swirling and switching on and off in the artificial night.

Lots of silly action along the way. The one that always got to me was the dog holding the key, perpetually, while the pirates who were behind bars begged him to bring them the key to their cell. Even as a kid, you can think--this is just a ride, all eternity, at least as long as Disneyland stands anyway, those liberty-loving bucs will be begging that dog for the key, and the dog will be listlessly shaking his head up and down, taunting them. From that particular diarama to Huit Clos is not a long step.

There's one little drop at the end of Pirates at the Caribbean, just one roller-coastery moment on an otherwise slow boat tour, certainly the prelude to every kind of Splash Mountain/Water World type of ride all over the country. It was a little treat nearing the end. If you were hot all day and appreciated the cool liberty of being in Pirates, you looked so forward to this little sudden rush, in which you wouldn't really get wet, but feel the cooling moisture welling up around you. Then you'd get off your boat, and look at the passengers getting on, and the fireflies were flicking on still, in the artificial perpetual night, beckoning you again, and the diners at the Blue Bayou were clanging their china with forks and knives oh so politely. It was a bit of a reverent spot even for a kid who didn't know reverence, and it was a back-to-nature spot for a kid who grew up in the city.

There's a carousel in Luxembourg Gardens, it's been there for over a hundred years, and just about every kid in France knows what it's like to ride that carousel, to feel it. We're a big spread out country, but if there's one particular feeling that a real high percentage of kids of a certain age in America share, it's the feel of getting onto Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, settling into the boat, and watching the fireflies flick on and off, and feeling cool in there on a hot summer day.

jeanpaulsartre
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CSayre,

Hello, I'm a new fool and just happened to read your post as a feature. I was blown away. It could have been my exact story. And I do mean exact. In fact I recently sat on a large rock in the middle of nowhere in Canada, reflecting on many of the same thoughts. My dad's bad knee was a bad bladder. Cancer took him and I believe he never really pulled out of losing mom. Until today, I wasn't sure that anyone could imagine that phone call, and seeing your mom's shell, and wishing a million times you could have said goodbye... or made another trip home instead of advancing. Funny... personal moments on a financial board.

"When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we may never see, will benefit from our action
(Maya Angelou)

Thank You for your story, I'm sorry about your loss
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It's pretty clear TMF's direct mailing works. I got mine today.

Rick
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I am not going to bother discussing the chemistry involved, but rather the physics, since I find chemistry rather boring. (Yes, the periodic table is a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a physicist, would I?)

I am not going to bother discussing the physics involved, but rather the chemistry, since I find physics rather boring. (Yes, Maxwell's equations are a source of wonder and joy, but if I wanted to spend my life talking about that I wouldn't have become a chemist, would I?)


You know, its posts like this that make me realise that, even with a math and an engineering degree, I don't know anything (relatively) interesting!

Simon
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I am sorry about your mom , That choked me up because I can relate (Im about your age & grew up & still live in N.Y.) I still have both my parents & you made me realize how important It Is to appreciate them now while I still have the opportunity. Thanks again I hope everything goes well for you.
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Hi 
My personal experience with fireflies was indelible.
I grew up in Marin County, Calif. .... no fireflies. I thought people who wrote about them exaggerated... to put it mildly. Then I was in Pennsylvania, on my way through. I stayed at a motel that wasn't a pleasant place to spend the evening, so I sat outside on a bench. And there IT HAPPENED: millions of fireflies all around me. It was incredible. It was like a luminous ballet. The whole thing lasted for maybe an hour. Blew my mind. I guess you could say that evening turned out to be one of the most magical ones I had ever spent. No exaggeration.

thusnelda
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If your Mom had a berry aneurysm, they can be hereditary, so you may want to get checked out.

The magic of fireflies were what I missed more than almost anything, when my family moved from the midwest to the west coast when I was 8 years old. My father said they could not get fly across the Rocky Mountains. My plan to bring a jarful of fireflies was vetoed....

Your post made my think about how I'll miss my parents when they go, and to savor the time we have.
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Thanks for your beautiful post.

They touched many memories of lightning bugs far away in the past.

When I was young in Oklahoma, my father (who is a disabled veteran who speaks very little) and I would go for long walks lit by lightning bugs.

When I was 16 during one of the evening walks I told him that I had read that in Japan, the royal court would often hold special evening parties in honor of lightning bugs, constructing special ornamental cages to hold them. Poetry contests were held with the theme of lightning bugs, and the poems were read at this occasion. He didn't reply, he didn't ever talk much.

I left home as soon as I graduated from highschool, to my parents' chagrin, and missed the lightning bugs in NY City.

During one of my rare visits back home, after a trip to Tokyo when I was 26, my father told me he had a surprise. He turned off the lights and presented me with a special cage he had constructed, full of lightning bugs.

Today, many years later, my father is a candle slowly burning out. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for lightning bugs and thank you again for sharing your story about yours.

All my best,
Joyce
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