Catherine Anaya

Mark Kelly knows best

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Miraculous. Lucky. Remarkable. We’ve heard these and many other words used to describe the astounding recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

She survived a shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tucson in January, leaving doctors – who typically talk in terms of science – talking of a miracle; and people all over the world pointing to faith.

As we all prayed for the family of those who did not survive and the many injured, the Giffords story was one many of us just couldn’t get out of our minds.

I cried listening to her husband Mark Kelly talk about how he first learned about the shooting and the initial reports that she had died. The tough astronaut broke down as he recalled hearing the news on television and then finding out his wife was still alive as he rushed from Houston to Tucson to be by her side. I can’t imagine.

The most poignant image from the days following the shooting is a photograph of Kelly holding Giffords’ hand at her hospital bedside. All you see is their hands, tightly intertwined. The visual speaks volumes; a commitment to hold hands in the face of whatever life delivers. When the going gets tough, the grip gets stronger.

Four weeks after the shooting, Kelly determined he would lead the space shuttle Endeavour’s final voyage in April after all, which seems to have caught many off guard. Some have been critical of the decision, believing he should remain with his wife.

When Kelly made the announcement and said his wife would embrace his choice to return to space, I couldn’t help but think that none of us are in any position to judge him.

“I know her very well, and she would be very comfortable with the decision that I made,” Kelly told reporters.

Who can argue with that? They are husband and wife and presumably know each other better than anyone.

Again, I go back to that photo of their hands. They must have an intense admiration and respect for each other, and strong commitments to the careers they have each chosen.

“Spaceflight is a risky business. Apparently, so is being a member of Congress. We each take risks every day in our lives,” said Kelly.

I think about the reports of her rubbing her husband’s neck just days after the shooting, and I can’t help but smile, imagining the deep love that must move her, even lying there critically injured, to make sure her husband is OK, letting him know she’s OK.

Kelly admits that immediately after the shooting, he never imagined he would fly the two-week mission. But his wife’s rapid progress in rehab made his decision easier. It could not have been an easy one, regardless.

He insists his wife will be there to see his final shuttle launch — and people all over the world will see Gabrielle at his final shuttle launch.

You can bet I’ll be watching, too, with faith in my heart and a grip of the closest hand I can find.

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