A moment is more than a measurement and more than a memory, it is a place in time. A static point in the timeline of the Universe, never lost and never changing. Every moment that has ever come to be and has passed, still exists – just in a different place in time.
Think of life as a movie, each moment is represented by a frame in that movie reel. Each frame marks a different moment in the film, just as events mark different moments in our lives. Just because a frame in a film has passed while you watch it, doesn’t mean that the frame has ceased to exist. It still exists, just in a different place in time.
It is equally true that every person we have ever loved and lost still lives, just in a different place in time.
When we turn our eyes towards the sky at night, we see all of those little twinkling lights, each a planet reflecting light or a star producing that light.
These objects are light-years away from us. The closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4 light-years away. Meaning it would take four years while traveling at the speed of light to get there.
As incredibly far away as that may seem, the next largest galaxy nearest to our own Milky Way is the Andromeda Galaxy, some 2.5 million light-years away. The Universe is massive, near unfathomable.
When we look through our telescopes at these objects in space, we are looking into the past. Some of the stars out there no longer exist, we only still see them from here because it takes so long for their last light to travel here.
Our own star, the Sun, is so far away that it takes sunlight about 8 minutes to get here. If our sun suddenly vanished, we wouldn’t notice for about 8 minutes.
The distance between us and these objects in space is more than just the space in between, it’s time too. To travel through space, is to travel through time, that’s why it’s called space-time.
Think of someone you have lost, think of a moment you shared with them that you cherished. If you got into a spaceship and traveled away from the Earth through space-time at the speed of light for as many months or years ago the moment occurred, and you turned that ship around to face Earth and if you had a telescope powerful enough that you could see people on the Earth, that person you lost would be there still living in that moment in time you experienced together.
They are still there, right now, in those moments, still alive right now. Just in a different place in time. They will always be there in those moments. For as long as the Universe exists so too will they.
If your loved one ever looked up at the moon, at the planet Venus, or at any one of the stars overhead during their lifetime, then look up at them tonight because the two of you will be looking at them together, just from different places in time.
This profound understanding is the most beautiful thing that astronomy has ever taught me. It has given me a great sense of peace and comfort. I hope it brings you that same feeling.