Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The night we chased the sunset

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published July 5, 2017

“Praised be my Lord God, with all his creatures, and especially our brother the Sun, who brings us the day and who brings us the light.” St. Francis of Assisi

Back in the days when my husband and I took frequent beach trips to Florida, I could watch the waves for hours. Sometimes, my mind would wander into a cache of memories and select a favorite—like the evening Jef and I packed a bottle of champagne and headed out in our boat, the Sea Moose, to watch the setting sun.

We didn’t realize it at first, but Mother Nature was in a decidedly feisty mood that evening. The wind began mischievously shaking the fabric of the sea, causing the Sea Moose to buck and pitch—so rather than chance it, we returned to the dock and tied off the boat.

Then we hurried to our car, hoping to get to the marshes before the evening show started.

We found a small, deserted dock where we could settle ourselves comfortably, parked the car and grabbed the champagne. But then, just as Jef was uncorking the bottle, the air grew still and a herd of eager gnats descended upon our flesh. Swatting frantically, we hightailed it back to the car.

Fortunately, it was a short drive to a ribbon of deserted beach, where we emerged cautiously from the car and sat upon the hood. The wind was strong enough to scare away the gnats, so we murmured a prayer of thanksgiving and settled in for the sunset.

As we watched, enthralled, the orange head dipped ever so slowly beneath the horizon. As it moved, the jagged oyster reefs became silhouetted in blazing light, turning black against the now-purple sea.

In moments, the sun vanished, leaving behind a cardinal sky streaked with amber. The wind then stirred voluptuously against the sea, which erupted in tiny waves of goose bumps.

When the wind stilled momentarily, the water seemed to relax, loosening its muscles in surrender. Moments later, thin fingers of orange light touched the oyster beds, transforming them to scarlet.

Sipping champagne, we readied ourselves for the grand finale, which featured the full moon floating like a sand dollar in the sky—and a rhinestone star, winking nearby.

“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,” I chanted. “I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”

I paused and then added, “I want this moment to last forever.”

Some moments are automatically preserved in our memories, while others seem to slip away. For me, the image of my nephew, when he was a chubby baby, standing in his crib, waiting for me to pick him up, will always be with me.

Another picture that seems eternal is my husband waiting for me at the altar, as I made my way toward him, my veil trembling from nervousness.

Perhaps the evening we chased the sunset in Florida would have automatically been imbedded in my memory, but rather than take any chances, I repeated my wish aloud.

And now, decades later—and nearly two years since my husband’s death—I can still riffle through my treasure trove of memories and select this one, and turn it over lovingly in my mind’s eye, like an especially beautiful seashell.

Each time I recall that magical evening—when we beheld Brother Sun so graciously surrender his domain to the moon—I thank the Lord God for His great and abundant mercy.

Because, you see, the wish I made on “star bright” that night—in some mysterious way—really did come true.

Lorraine Murray is the author of eight books, including a biography of Flannery O’Connor, “Abbess of Andalusia.” Artwork is by Jef Murray (Millenium’s end, oil on canvas) and can be purchased by contacting Lorraine at