Hobo Bard of the Skies

For Andy

When my friend Andy died suddenly, and I realized that there was no way I could afford to go to his memorial service, I struggled with my feelings. There were feelings of guilt for not being there, and despair that I had no choice in the matter. I wasn’t working, and I simply couldn’t afford to go. Of course, not working made things worse because I had nothing but time on my hands; hours and days to sit alone and think about how desperately I wanted to be there. My heart was breaking from the loss, and from my helplessness.

I thought about sending flowers, but that seemed such a waste. Andy wouldn’t be there to enjoy them; there was no family to take them home and appreciate them, and even if there were, flowers would fade and die in a few short days. That was small consolation. I tried to imagine what I could do to honor Andy—and at the same time, comfort myself and his many scattered friends.

One night, as I watched a sad movie (which I probably shouldn’t have been watching), I received an inspiration. The teen-aged girl in the movie was dying, and the young man who loved her had named a star for her, and built her a telescope so she could see it. Although she would never realize her dream of becoming an astronaut or astronomer, he found a way to bring the stars to her.

That seemed like the perfect idea! I decided I would honor Andy’s life with a star. I consulted some of his Facebook friends to help me find the right name. I pondered and debated and weighed all the options, and finally made a choice.

I’m fully aware that no one can actually pay for the right to officially name a star, but many companies will let you symbolically name and dedicate a star to someone for free or fee, depending on how big a deal you want to make of it. I chose www.nameastarlive.com, which provides the opportunity to select a star in a specific constellation, give it a name, and make a dedication. The unique service that they offer is that your registered star name and message are actually launched into space to orbit Earth aboard a commercial mission—a new place to visit! I know Andy would think that was cool! His flight will be in late 2011.

More than that, a star—with its specific celestial location—gives those of us who are left behind and who can’t visit a gravesite, something tangible to view as a reminder. I hope that all Andy’s friends will search for it.

I selected a star in Ursa Major—the big bear—because to me, Andy was a big teddy bear despite his tough, New York-street-hardened attitude. I finally settled on the name Hobo Bard of the Skies, because hobo was a term Andy liked; Bard of the Streets was the name he used when he wrote his wonderful poetry; and streets was changed to skies to reflect his new territory.

My dedication was simply this:
As you wander the heavens we will see, and remember with love.

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