Now I lay me down to sleep…

The first time I contemplated my own death, I was nine-years-old. I had already lost three out of four grandparents, had endured breast cancer with the remaining one, and was regularly reminded of what would happen to me in the event of my parents’ untimely demise. (Don’t misunderstand, my folks were not morbid and they certainly had a will spelling all of this out, but I think they just felt better knowing I was aware of their wishes just in case the legalities got “complicated.”)prayer

For years I lay in bed at night reciting a simple prayer my mother taught me when suddenly, at the ripe old age of nine, the full meaning of the third line brought the harsh reality of death to the forefront of my brain. “If I should die before I wake”…Wait…What did that mean? Was that a real possibility? It sounded so matter-of-fact and yet it was a really scary scenario! Sure, I wanted to go to Heaven and live with God and Jesus as much as the next person, but I preferred not to be ripped right out of my bed, thank you very much!

My mother would listen to my extensive list of “God blesses”, give me a kiss good night and walk out of my room unaware she was leaving me riddled with anxiety and wondering if I would actually make it through the night. I never told her that the prayer frightened me, or how nervous it made me feel inside. I think deep down I was worried that she wouldn’t take my concern seriously, or worse she might confirm the possibility that I could up and die in the middle of the night. Who needs that level of neuroses?

Here’s the thing: Now that I am older I know one day, I will no longer exist. However, I don’t really feel any better about it than I did when I was nine. I don’t know when it will happen or under what circumstances, but at some point, my life will be over. Whatever I have done up to that point will stand as my contribution to the human race. Whatever I still planned to do will go unaccomplished. My children, grandchildren and, if I am really lucky, my great-grandchildren will still talk about me from time to time, but within a few generations, it’s highly unlikely anyone will remember my name. At best, someone might remember that there was a writer in the family, but because I am not J.K. Rowling, I suspect my literary legacy will fade pretty quickly.

I suppose none of this should bother me because I won’t be here, but it does. I want to ward off grief from my heart and put away trouble from my presence, but with more years behind me than in front of me, I can’t. This is the only life I’ve known. It’s what I’ve got. As for what happens after this life…well, that’s another issue and one I struggle with. Yes, I want to be with God and see my parents again, but I don’t want to give this up. (I’m also not to keen to leap into a great big unknown!)

I always thought that with age, I would be able to face the inevitable with the same level of maturity my parents did, but so far that hasn’t happened yet. I thought with age, my faith would strengthen but in reality, it’s pretty weak at times, just like Jesus’ disciples. I may be nearly halfway into my 40s, but I am still that same, scared nine-year-old shaking in the dark – the one who has paid attention to the words, but doesn’t always understand their meaning and who is still looking for answers, but is too afraid to ask the questions.
Today’s Mass readings: ECCL 11:9-12:8; PS 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17; LK 9:43B-45

 

About the Author

Julie Young is an award-winning writer and author from Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA, whose work has been seen in Today’s Catholic Teacher, The Catholic Moment, and National Catholic Reporter. She is the author of nine books including: A Belief in Providence: A Life of Saint Theodora Guerin, The CYO in Indianapolis and Central Indiana and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism. She is a graduate of Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis and holds degrees in writing and education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She can be found online at www.julieyoungfreelance.com

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7 Comments

  1. I have been blessed that within the last 5 years I have had a heart attack and brain surgery. While the heart attack was a bit scary it all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to contemplate the outcome. The brain surgery was a scheduled event and I had some time to contemplate. Add to that the fact that the surgery was very high risk and I found myself seriously contemplating my own death. What a blessing that is. Needless to say I survived the surgery but with a greater anticipation of life and death. And while it sounds perhaps a bit strange when I awoke in the recovery room after the brain surgery I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t with the Father. I no longer fear death but instead look forward with great anticipation and longing to death and to new and greater life.

  2. Julie
    You have already made an impact, I look forward to your reflections more than any of the other writers. You are concise, your writing is of earthly concerns and thought provolking. We all must at some point step over to the unknown. I truly believe that living is much harder than death and dying. I believe the God watches over each of us and it is his time that our life consists of. A very special Franciscan taught me this prayer i say it often sometimes hundreds of times in a day to remind me that God is in control. Here it is:
    Lord take me where you want me to go!
    Have me meet who you want me to meet!
    Tell me what to say! (In your case write)
    Then keep me out of your way!
    Julie Jesus defeated death don’t be afraid

  3. I recently came to the realization that I spend way to much time worrying about the future. I’m almost sixty and am in pretty good health, but as my eye sight fails and the kids are grown and have families of there own, I can’t help but wonder what the golden years will bring. I pray everyday to stay present in just this day so fear and dread don’t blind me to all this day has to offer. Your reflection today reminded me again that God is in charge, and to take things one day at a time.

  4. Hey Julie,

    That tricky subject, death.

    We have the Holy Spirit that is the giver of life, but our religion, as best as I can tell, leaves death up to us. ( Do we believe in a spirit that is the taker of life?)

    That being said, it not about you or me. Our religion teaches us to have faith and to serve others, don’t worry about the rest. Try to focus on what God would want, not you. Read Matthew 25. For some reason or another, that seems to set things straight for me.

    Mark

  5. Julie, I sincerely admire your openness in writing. Your feeling about death is real and a struggle for most people including me. Death, I know is inevitable, and one day I have to succumb. My worry is not about death itself, it is about “The how”. If I had a choice which I have been praying for is for God to take my life after a brief illness, but not to allow me become a burden on my loved ones for too long. The thought of a prolonged painful and agonized sickness is what scares me the most. As Christians, we just have to surrender ourselves to God, our creator and be prepared. Let’s leave everything to Divine Providence.

  6. Peace with my own death and those I love has dawned as I draw closer to My Heavenly Father and grow in trust of His Providential care…even in death. He is Lord of all.

  7. Your reflection yesterday had me thinking all day, still thinking. My nearest family is 3000 miles away, and I expect when I die, all my things will most likely be tossed into landfill. All the embroideries and patchwork and other handcrafts I enjoy and take some pride in. They won’t be heirlooms, and that sometimes bothered me. But when I can be calm, and pray about it, sharing all of my stuff with the Lord, I know nothing will be lost in eternity. Don’t know the how, but I’m sure of that being so. This is something I think we should think about often: surrendering our lives to God. It’s a daily, even an hourly work. Thank you for all of your reflections.

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