Monday, July 13, 2015

If I should die before I wake

When I was a child and even well into my teen years, a framed prayer hung on my bedroom wall:

Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.


During the day it just hung there in its 8-1/2 by 11-inch frame, but at night it glowed in the dark, complete with a starry sky backdrop. I saw it from my bed every night and prayed it faithfully for years.

When I grew older, our culture’s Deciders (I’m thinking Dr. Benjamin Spock, not President George W. Bush) decided that it was better to give children warm, fuzzy, secure feelings rather than scaring them out of their wits. It became a bad thing to remind anyone, but especially children, that human life comes to an end and that we all die. Nowadays, there is a more sanitized, acceptable version of my childhood prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
Angels guard me through the night,
And wake me with the morning’s light.


As long as we keep waking up with the morning’s light, no one ever need worry his or her pretty little head about the elephant in the room -- our mortality.

Last week, our neighbor Joanne, who had been married to her husband Bob for 50 years, died during a very complicated experimental heart surgery. After several hours, her calcium-surrounded heart stopped and the medical team could not restart it. She knew beforehand that the outcome of the surgery was iffy. She had spent the last month preparing and freezing enough meals to last Bob for a couple of months.

When her son Erik sent around an email to tell her friends that “her heart stopped and she is bound for glory,” he included a music clip containing a simple song that I found incredibly moving and incredibly comforting.

Some of my readers are believers but I realize that many of you are not. Some of you are openly hostile to anything having to do with the Christian faith. That is certainly your right. But I dare you to listen to this simple song and not be affected. If nothing else, listen to it for Joanne:

Call On Jesus (3:45)

Perhaps I am naive. I pray that I stay that way until I draw my last breath.

If I should die before I wake, I can’t think of a better final post.

16 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

I am sorry for your loss. I am also very glad that you found comfort in that clip. I hope her friends and family do too.

Kay G. said...

I know the song, it's a very good one.
I am thinking of Joanne making those meals and freezing them. That brings tears to my eyes, she must have been quite a woman.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Farewell Joanne. Though I never met you, I shall follow.
I guess there's a sense in which the end of life is felt more painfully and absolutely by non-believers because we know there's nothing more. This was it.

LightExpectations said...

Beautiful, thank you. I was at a funeral last Friday (great-uncle, 99), and just yesterday got word of the death of my cousin. I'm not sure of his age, but he and his wife just celebrated their 47th. This song is a sweet, wonderful comfort.

We grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

I am praying for all those who loved Joanne.

All Consuming said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Joanne rhymes. It's a song that will indeed give comfort to many, in this case, specifically you and yours, and her family too.
You're quite right about the little prayer, it should have remained the same, I was taught it when a small child and it didn't scare me, but it did make me aware that people you love will leave one day, and so will I.

Over here back in my gran's day, they used to have people who had passed away on display in the parlour for a day or so, so that the family and friends could pay their respects. Back then, death was as much a part of life as living is. Something has been lost, and I feel it contributes to how little people value the life of others these days.

A moving post, with love, Michelle xx

rhymeswithplague said...

Thanks to all of you for commenting. Joanne was a hoot. She and Bob organized and led our subdivision's "Sizzlin' Seniors" group. The name is a misnomer as our only activity was to go to a restaurant together once a month for a meal. Joanne and Bob were also substitute teachers at our local elementary school, She will most definitely be missed.

Snowbrush said...

I’ve thought a lot about how to respond to this.

First, I am, of course, sorry for your loss.

Second, did her husband like it that she spent what he knew might be her last days cooking for him? If I knew I might die, there are things that I would want to do for Peggy, but they’re things she couldn’t do for herself, and the list wouldn’t include cooking. Third…

“Some of you are openly hostile to anything having to do with the Christian faith. That is certainly your right.”

If you included me, you are wrong, because while I often criticize religion, it remains more central to my life than, I suspect, it does to most churchgoers, and that includes Christian music (before he died, I loved the NRP program of church music that was hosted by Richard Gladwell—the program still exists, but I don’t care for the selections of the current host).

“But I dare you to listen to this simple song and not be affected.”

I wasn’t moved, but I was pained that our tastes are so different, yet, perhaps, what we feel is much the same. Nothing would bring me greater joy than to sit with you and listen to Christian music, but I don’t know if we could agree on what to play. If I were about to die, the first of these selections is what I would give to you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so8s-pQkW2c

rhymeswithplague said...

Snowbrush, perhaps Bob didn't know the first thing about cooking or preparing food. That is not uncommon in men of a certain age. I don't know and haven't asked.

You are not my only atheist reader and I wasn't referring to you specifically. I simply hoped that people who wouldn't buy in to the concept of Christianitywould appreciate how believers might be comforted by the sentiments expressed in the song.

I am familiar with Taize but theirs is not my favorite music. I'm wondering, though, given that Dona Nobis Pacem means "Give Us Peace" or "Grant Us Peace," just who or what might be doing the granting in your opinion?

I think all of us, not just you and me, are probably more of a bundle of contradictions than any of us realize.

I'm glad we're still reading one another's blogs!

All Consuming said...

Re - "I'm glad we're still reading one another's blogs!" - I think it's testament to the kind of wonderful, open-minded, and thoughtful people you both are that this is still the case after all these years, (what is it forty now? *laughs*). You don't have to agree on everything to be friends, and accepting that, and enjoying the things you do have in common, (sometimes more clear to others than ourselves), builds the kind of relationship that lasts. Not saying you'll both be found snogging each other round the back of the bike sheds anytime soon, but you are friends, and that's really good to see. *smiles and hugs them both*.

rhymeswithplague said...

Not being British, I had to refer to a slang dictionary to find out what "snogging" means, and I am so relieved to learn it is only kissing. Not that I would want to do that with Snowbrush either, but I trust you get my drift.

All Consuming said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Hilltophomesteader said...

I had to look up 'snogging', too. What a word! I think I'll have to toss it in a conversation, just for a reaction ;-)

I turned 56 on my birthday just a few weeks back. I'm not sure if it's my 'advanced' age, chronic illnes, the fact that I'm a care-giver for my cancer-fighting mama or what, but I have definitely felt more finite than ever before. Faith in Jesus is what keeps me sane and I feel for those who have no faith as this life can be a very difficult path to trod without the blessed hope.

When I was in high school, I learned the difference between atheist and agnostic. Most atheists are really agnostics. If you ask them if they know everything, they have to admit that they do not, in which case they would have to honestly admit that it is possible that God/Jesus exist outside of what they know. Now they're actually agnostics..... Food for thought.

Snowbrush said...

"I had to refer to a slang dictionary to find out what "snogging" means"

Thankfully, it has nothing to do with nasal secretions.

Snowbrush said...

“"I'm wondering, though, given that Dona Nobis Pacem means "Give Us Peace" or "Grant Us Peace," just who or what might be doing the granting in your opinion?””

Ooops, I should have done this in one comment. As for your question, it’s a song, it’s lovely, and the words don’t matter. For example, I might sing some song about loving Melinda more than any woman in the world without even knowing Melinda. I also make up songs about Peggy and Brewsky in which I just string together sentiments that rhyme (you know that rhymes mean, I would wager), and the songs are often insulting, but I’m not expressing beliefs but just making up songs. Wouldn’t it be an odd world in which none of us sang songs without personally endorsing the beliefs and sentiments they express?

Snowbrush said...

"Most atheists are really agnostics. If you ask them if they know everything, they have to admit that they do not, in which case they would have to honestly admit that it is possible that God/Jesus exist outside of what they know"

Does this mean that you're an agnostic regarding the tooth fairy and whether an invisible green cat named Suzy lives in your freezer? It would also be true that the same reasoning could be applied to theists. In other words, if someone says they believe in God, you might ask if they know everything. If they say no, then you can just as logically point out that they've so much as admitted that one of things they don't know could be that there is no God.

Mary Z said...

I can't seem to get to your page for today's post (24 July) to leave a comment. I was able to read it on my Feedly page. In any case, my sympathy to you, yours, and certainly the family of Skip Wells. It's been a horrible week here in Chattanooga. The first of the fallen was buried in the National Cemetery here today, with a huge local presence. I don't know when Corporal Wells' services will be. Petty Officer Randall Smith lived in North Georgia, and his services will be Tuesday - with burial also in the National Cemetery. It'll be a long time until Chattanooga returns to anything like normal. But we are "Chattanooga Strong", as we honor the fallen.