salter

Shooting stars’ give peace

of mind

and comfort

The lingering pall of the Sept. 11 terrorist atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and the resulting bioterrorism incidents across the country left me struggling with the idea of getting overly excited about staring down the inevitable Thanksgiving turkey and dressing and reflecting on what a great year it’ been .

Instead of thanks, my thoughts have been on grief and loss, outrage and anger and war and peace.

I’ve spent most of the year watching a good woman who gave me a daughter I adore suffer great pain and indignity with a grace that I’ve never fully understood.

Then there are more pedestrian concerns. There’s the prospect of watching another Manning take aim at my struggling Bulldogs in the annual Egg Bowl.

Holiday blues? Yes. But my pretty high school sophomore unwittingly offered a cure in the wee hours Sunday morning. Even as a little girl, Kate was never an early riser. Not even Christmas Eve nights would hasten her from the peaceful sleep of the innocence of childhood.

Yet on Sunday night, she touched my shoulder and roused me from sleep at 4 a.m. I bolted awake, assuming she was ill or frightened or somehow needed me.

“Nothing’ wrong, Dad,” she said. “I just wanted you to go outside with me and watch the meteor shower.”

At first, I declined, citing a sore back and a cold night. She left the room, resolute to complete her mission. I lay there a few moments before realizing that I had just said no to the person I love most in the world – who asked me for nothing more than a few moments of my time. I got up.

I joined her outside and immediately saw the cause of her excitement. The meteor shower was indeed magnificent.

Holding onto my arm, shivering slightly in the cold night air, Kate turned to me and asked me if I remembered the last time we shared a sight such as this “at the old house.” Suddenly, it came back to me.

Years ago, when Kate was small and her mother still mobile, we made a pallet on the driveway and lay flat of our backs watching another meteor shower. More than trips to see Disney’s wonders, more than anything purchased with money, it is this memory that our family shares as the most meaningful and precious.

Staring up at the crystalline night sky with my daughter, I was ashamed of myself. For in that moment, Kate reminded me of the things for which I am most thankful – faith, family and friendships.

Our family is still together. And in the skies over a troubled, frightened nation, God is still shooting fireworks and displaying His wonders to those who will pause to observe them. Like the lives of those who died Sept. 11, all our lives are like those meteors hurtling across the sky – beautiful, brilliant and sadly gone in the twinkling of an eye. The lesson ends.

Over Sept. 11? None of us will ever be.

Thankful? Yes. Now more than ever.

Sidney L. (Sid) Salter is Perspective Editor/Columnist at The Clarion-Ledger, 201 South Congress St. P.O. Box 40 Jackson, MS 39205; ssalter@jackson.gannett.com.