When I was a little girl, my mom sat on the edge of my bed and taught me this prayer:
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.
My mama leaned down, kissed my cheek, tucked in the covers real good up to my neck, and whispered, “Good night, Kathy, sleep tight,” and off she went back into the adult world, gently shutting the door behind her.
This particular prayer comes from the 18th century, so they say, and hundreds of thousands of children over the centuries have folded their sweet chubby hands and fervently added this addendum: Oh dear Lord, Oh dear Lord, please do not let me die before I wake.
I became convinced at an early age that unless this prayer was ritualistically recited, I would die in my sleep. The prayer superstitiously became a talisman to ward away death. Heaven forbid that a child would forget to utter these words. She would simply Not Wake Up In the Morning. She’d be a goner.
Who knows when the scientific method, or logical thought, axed this superstitious belief? I may have reached the wise old age of nine or eleven or thirteen before an experiment ensued. Let’s see if it’s really true. Let’s see if I’ll die. I was ready and willing to take the plunge into death to quit saying the prayer. Let’s see. Let’s really see.
And I lived! The sun rose the next day, and the next and the next. The prayer was ditched into the past, no longer needed, so sorry, Lord.
Last week I happened upon a Sun magazine filled with quotes from Stephen Levine, a pioneer in the work of death, dying and grief. He and his wife, Ondrea, wrote a book with the big title: Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. He’s a guy I read dozens of years ago and thought: yes, here’s an alive spirit who isn’t afraid of dying.
He also penned “A Year to Live”. In 1994 he and Ondrea, decided to live as if it would be their last year alive. In 1995 they would be dead.
How would that impact their living?
It affected their living so strongly and with such amazing clarity that you, too, can read the book and discover.
Several days this past week I decided to live as if that day would be my very last.
Good morning, Monday! Today, Kathy, is your last day. Does that mean anything to you? How will you eat breakfast, decide what to do, interact with others?
Let me tell you, blog readers, this kind of exercise can be very telling. What IF we lived every day as if it would be our last?
I’ll share with you that those days I seemed to live more fully, vibrantly, feeling much more alive and HERE.
I wasn’t counting the minutes, yawning, not sure what to do, bumbling through. I was tasting the oatmeal. Exquisitely smelling blooming wildflowers. Kinder to my husband. More thoughtful. Present. Yes, more fully present, not lost in a million thoughts about what to do, how to fix things. Because, of course, it was imminently clear that nothing remained to be fixed or done.
I was going to die. Today was the last day. Sayanora my beloved friends and earth!
Of course, one must first squarely face any fears that rise. Such as: If I truly look at today as my last day in the Little House in the Big Woods–am I creating my own reality? Will my thoughts, oh no, result in actual physical death?
Just like realizing that the Now I lay me down to sleep fear was not actually true…one can realize that living like one is going to die will not actually create cancer or heart attack. Cancer or hearth attack will come on its own, never you worry. Using death as an adviser, an old pal, actually has the reverse effect. It makes one appreciate life any more.
You can say: Wow! This is gonna be a short life. I need to live each and every moment like a gift, with gratitude. Each day is a treasure. I don’t want to waste a single precious moment of it, do you?
Have you ever consciously pretended today was your last day to live? How did that go? Were you scared to try this? Or have you tried, and found it something which helped you to live more vibrantly?