By Lesli Nolen
I can’t believe summer is almost over and here we are in August. Before you know it, school will be back in session, schedules will be busier than ever and yes, Christmas is just around the corner. But this has to be one of the most bitter-sweet months for me.
Five years ago this month, my dad passed away. He had lung cancer and fought the battle as long as he could. I was very blessed to be able to spend that last week with him and be able to do and say all that I thought I would have years to do. At the time, Skylar, our daughter, was 3 years old. She was Grumpy’s (that is what the grandchildren called him) little girl. They had a special bond and that bond is still with her today. She can remember sitting in my dad’s lap talking about everything or nothing at all and being a big helper with the hospice nurse who was there taking care of him. My dad told Skylar he would always be there watching her and that she could take him with her wherever she went. She didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but believed deep down she knew she could. I didn’t know how either—I just knew there was something special there and that only God could make that happen. And He did.
A couple months after dad passed away, we were outside on our back porch and Skylar looked up at the moon. It was so full and bright and seemed so close that if we reached our hand out far enough we could touch it. She looked at it and said, “Look, mommy, there’s Grumpy. He is watching over me!” My heart exploded with all sorts of emotions. I stopped and looked up at the moon and there it was, “the man in the moon. He had done it. We had received our special something our connection with Grumpy that would be with us—something that Skylar could carry with her wherever she went. Today, Skylar, now 8, and I still look at the moon, talk to the man in the moon, and take him with us wherever we go.
If we had not suffered this loss, if all of this hadn’t of happened, I don’t know that we would have discovered our new love for the night sky. Through the years, as Skylar has gotten older, her curiosity about the moon and stars has grown. When she turned 5 years old, we got her a telescope. I think I wanted it just as much as she did. We began spending our nights looking at the moon and then just picking out a star and looking at it through the telescope. I’m still amazed at what our Creator created. The more and more we looked at the stars the more I became fascinated with it all and wanted to know more.
It was about this time of year when I started researching the stars. I wanted to know more about them and teach Skylar something about them. And to my amazement not all those big bright stars were stars. The brightest star in the southwest that I was so fascinated with was actually the planet Jupiter. I would look at it and think, wow, that star is so bright. Then I would look at it through the telescope and I could also see at least six little “stars” around it. So back to researching I went. I found that Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, it is the largest within our solar system and it has 63 confirmed moons. I was looking at Jupiter and its six main moons! How cool is that?! After that I was hooked.
Our sky adventures led us to the planetarium at Angelo State University. It is one of the largest in Texas with a 50 foot dome, seating for 110 and a three dimensional view of the universe. On Thursday nights they present a story in the theater and then afterward they bring out the telescopes and allow viewing of the night sky. They answer questions, show you the different stars (constellations) and planets. The last time we were there we were able to view Saturn. Saturn is an amazing planet in itself. It is usually visible to us during the spring. It is like Jupiter in it being a giant gas planet. It also has several moons and it is known for its ring. Which is visible with the telescopes. Once again, I’m humbled at the making of our universe.
We have shared our new love of the night sky with our friends and family and I hope you don’t mind my sharing some of this with you in the months to come—I will remind you of what is visibile in the night sky. Right now (August 10, 2009; 10 p.m.) Pluto, Jupiter and Neptune are in the west-southwest. Saturn is in the far east. On September 10, 2009, 10 p.m., Jupiter and Neptune will be a little more south and west and Uranus due west. By October Jupiter will be due south and will be the brightest “star” in the sky. I have really enjoyed learning about the planets and stars and finding out our view of the constellations changes with the seasons.
There is a constellation named Andromeda—a fall and winter constellation. I purchased a star certificate to name a star there after Skylar when she was 5. I wanted to put a little part of her up there with Grumpy too.