Wednesday, August 2, 2017

To Sleep, Perchance...?

When I was a little girl, I had to say my prayers every night. Even when I was a wee tiny thing, I could rattle them off by heart, although I didn't understand what all the words meant.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
Ifoshodie before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

It wasn't until I learned to read that I realized "ifoshodie" wasn't an actual word.

(Don't get me started on all the "goblesses" I had to recite.)

I also frankly couldn't understand why I was praying that the Lord "keep" my soul, only to ask in the very next line that he "take" my soul. Why would he have to take it if he was already keeping it? This bothered the hell out of me, even at the tender age of four. It made no sense, man.

Thus the seeds of religious disillusionment were sown early. Not to mention pedantry.

One thing that flew right over my tiny blonde head, however, was that every night, the last thing I did before going to bed was to contemplate aloud the possibility that I might die in my sleep. Which, by the way, seems to me the very best way to die. When you consider all the possible modes of death - cancer, heart attack, driving off a cliff, stepping into an elevator shaft, being eaten by a crocodile - simply falling asleep and never waking up again sounds merciful, brief, and painless.

I guess that's why I never really grasped the implication of the prayer. "If I should die before I wake" is much more subtle than "If I should get mowed down by a runaway bus because I jaywalked, just like Mom warned me." That probably would have had a bigger impact on me. It probably would have kept me up all night, terrified by thoughts of mortality I was far too young to understand.

So it's undoubtedly a good thing I never grasped that I was praying about my own potential demise, night after night after night.

I prayed every night until well into my adulthood. I made Precocious Daughter say her prayers each night, too. I don't think she ever thought "ifoshodie" was real word, though. She's a smart cookie.

I don't pray very often these days. The second last time I prayed was to not get a flat tire when I took PDaughter to the airport. That didn't work out so hot. The last time I prayed was for PDaughter to return safely from New York. Mission accomplished.

I might pray more often if God could give me better odds than flipping a coin.

If I did go back to saying a nightly prayer, it might go something like this.

Now I lay me down to rest
I pray I toss an hour or less
If midnight comes and I'm awake
A sleeping pill I'll have to take.

I pray for peace, and that my brain
Won't start in singing the refrain
Of random songs I used to know
Or arguments from long ago.

If I should die I would prefer
To be asleep when it occurs
If I don't get a good night's sleep
Then off my soul your damn hands keep.

Night-night, everyone. Gobless.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect that prayer (which I also said as a youngster) was probably written at a time when the risk of dying in one's sleep was higher. You know: "You're going to sleep? Good luck tonight, dude!"

    Your update seems a much better fit for modern times. If I had a kid, that's the one we'd say.


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