By Tim Hayes

“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”

Such came the final message from Opportunity, the amazing little engine that could, after roaming around the surface of Mars for the past 15 years, sending images back to NASA all that time from the Red Planet.

A ferocious dust storm finally did Opportunity in, clogging its portals, choking away its lifeblood of sunlight, and sending it to its Martian reward.  NASA never expected its interplanetary shutterbug to last anywhere near 15 years, but you know what they say: When Opportunity knocks…

After reading about its moving and ominous farewell statement, it got me thinking.

“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”

Opportunity knew its time had come.

While comprised of sheet metal, gears, electronics, glass, and rubber, the Mars rover had animation but not emotion.  That final transmission merely stated the facts at hand, coldly and directly.  It said nothing about fear or anticipation or “moving toward the light” or any of the rising, swelling tide of thoughts and expressions that one might assume comes before the journey ultimately ends.

No, Opportunity simply reported that its battery had been depleted from a lack of solar energy, and that the dust storm – reportedly the size of North America – made its surroundings unusually dark.

When my time comes, I don’t want even that much warning.  I want to drop like a bag of hammers.  I don’t even want to know it’s coming.  Surprise me, please.  No pain, no shock, no sir.  One second: All in.  Next second: Lights out.

No prolonged bedridden scenes for me, please.  Just flip the switch, and see-ya.

I know, I’m a real chickenshit.  But at least I admit it.

“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”

Of course, a low energy level or a sense of darkness doesn’t have to mean impending doom.  Most folks experience these scenarios a few times in their lives, and it’s not always a negative thing.

Lousy breaks happen.  As a self-sustaining entrepreneur for nearly 20 years, I’ve had clients fall away or change their minds at the last second.  Every now and then my cash flow gets bottlenecked by late client payments, which can create some anxiety about meeting my bill-paying obligations.

You get sick or injured, there’s an emergency with your extended family, you lose your job, your house gets flooded – pick your poison, but nobody’s spared the occasional, unplanned vicissitudes of life.

But you know what?  It’s when life tries to knock the crap out of you, that you really learn what you’re made of.

Being let go from a corporate job led to the greatest professional years of my life as a consultant.  Being diagnosed with cancer a quarter-century ago led to a change in attitude and an increase in gratitude.  Sporadic financial challenges have led to a firm belief that, alongside my wife, we can overcome anything together.

Even the intrepid Opportunity – which must have had some mechanical glitches along the way before the final one this past week – kept on going, way past its expected shelf-life.

I suppose what I’m saying is that when things get sucky, one needs to be plucky.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Keep the faith.  It’s when things get worse that you must not quit.  Stay calm and carry on.  All of those sayings, worn threadbare from constant use, remain in our minds because they state the truth.

Now, it’s quite late in the evening as I finish this essay, so you will please forgive me if I sign off here.  Because, in fact…my battery is low and it’s getting dark.

Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes