Now I lay me down to sleep…”
This prayer now hangs on the wall by my bed. When I came across it in the multi-floored, rambling gift shop, among all the other signs and pictures and home décor, I felt I had to have it. It speaks to me and for me on many levels.
I used to pray it, on my knees, every night when I was a child. At my side my mother sat, overseeing that prayer, and when I came to “If I should die before I wake,” I’m sure she felt that possibility keenly—after a certain point in time, at least, if not before.
You see, I nearly did die. The whole family thought they’d lost me. The doctor later told them that without penicillin, recently brought to the medical forefront, I would not have made it (though I’m sure a lot of earnest prayer rose up to God, as well). My poor mother, who had always wanted a little girl in addition to her two boys, had lost a baby to miscarriage just a couple years before my birth, and I remember her telling me how deeply it affected her. She was sure it was a little girl, because our kindhearted old doctor wouldn’t answer when she asked the gender. And a song the radio often replayed at the time voiced her feelings in the lyrics, “When I lost my baby, I almost lost my mind”—so strongly she hated to hear it.
The girl four doors up the street, just a few years older than I, died from scarlet fever. Other children around the town died from polio. Death was a stark reality, an ever-looming possibility—even for little toddlers who kneel beside beds. This prayer on the wall acknowledged it, and asked for grace in death as well as life, whichever should come in the next twenty-four hours.
Do parents teach their children this prayer anymore? I suppose some do, but their number must be few. I never hear of it. And, admittedly, I don’t think I imparted it to my kids either, for I encouraged self-spoken rather than memorized prayers. But whether in prayers from memory or spontaneity, how many of us encourage our children to pray about their deaths—except for God to keep them from experiencing it?
We cannot, however, be kept from it. Barring Christ’s return beforehand, we will all die—and we cannot know when. But something in our culture seems to have inculcated in us a vague denial of that truth. Or avoidance of it.
This is most unfortunate.
For we need Christ in both life and death. And to experience Resurrection, we must first experience death.
This weekend focuses on both Christ’s Death and Resurrection. What a good time to talk about both to our young ones, and share what 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 35-40, 42-44… says, in words and object lessons they can understand, like showing them the daffodil bulb we bury and the daffodil in bloom! What a good time to impart our hope: that though “it is appointed unto all people once to die…” that Jesus Christ led the way for all of us who follow Him, to also be resurrected to a better life forever.
He couldn’t be resurrected if He didn’t die.
We can’t be resurrected if we don’t die.
This is the beauty and hope in death: the provision of His presence in it, all the while we “sleep,” and our final glorious and joyful Resurrection from it, forever made shiny clean and new, and forever after ALIVE.
2 thoughts on “The Importance of Death Awareness”
Great post…I prayed this same bedtime prayer, Syl! I taught a modified version of second verse to my kids….”Guide me, Jesus, through the night and wake me up with the morning light”. Didn’t want to scare anyone ?
I always hated when you got to the part about dying. When our children were learning this prayer, we changed the wording to “If Jesus comes before I wake.” It was saying the same thing, but with a softer tone. Thanks for a lovely post.
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