Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take…

Maybe it’s the bad news every day, maybe it is the fact I am in my forties and have outlived one spouse, maybe its bad gas, but I have been visiting the idea of my mortality lately. It’s a habit I acquired around the 41st year of my life. That number is significant because my grandfather died of cancer at 41 and my husband was killed at 41.

Thankfully, I am older than 41 with no serious medical conditions and foresee a long life mostly in part because only the good die young.

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Talking to my girlfriends lately, I find that many mature women go to sleep at night with these same mortal thoughts of death and dying. Why are we so obsessed with the end? Frankly, it must come from our “must take care of…” mentality where we believe if we don’t do it then it won’t get done. How can our family exist without us?

Who is going to take care of our children? Our spouse? Our house? Our laundry? We worry about silly little details like that. We worry about death.

We worry about the pain of death. Such as, how are we going to meet our maker? We all desire the “go to bed at night and then wake up at the Pearly Gates”. Hopefully, you won’t wake up and smell something burnin’.

I know that the way we approach death depends on how we believe what will occur after the event. But, my focus today is on death itself. I have seen painful dying and I do not want to experience it. If I can put my order in, I would like the instant variety.

We like instant grits, instant photos, and instant gratification, why not instant death. OF course, we want instant death on our own time schedule as well, like Tuesday morning at 10 am is good for me.

The whole point of death is supposed to be a closing of a door so we can go through some window, right? Or is that divorce? I get that confused. Well, if our death is to have some meaning, then it means our life has to have significance. What did we do while we were here? What is our legacy? Did we make it count?

I find while dwelling on death that I evaluate my life. That is when I think about that scary prayer that we use to say as children, “Now I lay me down to sleep…..” Maybe my sleep and death connection began as a child with that prayer we recited.

“If I should die….” Isn’t that a little frightening to teach kids? Just in case, son, you die in your sleep or a meteorite crashes through the ceiling and wipes you out in your bed, just say this prayer so you can go to heaven.

When I lay down at night, I think what if today was my last day? Did I do it good? Should I be proud or embarrassed? I think in my bed at night is when I have always been more open to God even as a small child. In my busy crazy lifestyle now it seems to be a great point of the day to stop and talk.

We associate sleep and death, like death is some peaceful state. Certain days we embrace death because it seems like a better existence. To end it all, to be away from the struggle of today does sound like a better deal….but that all depends on what you think the whole death experience is going to be like. It all depends on what you believe. Are we nothing after death or do our spirits keep going? Some might consider the choice of life could be much better than death.

To feel better about death, we should make our preparations while we are breathing. Like many, I keep putting that detail off. I mean to do it but dirty clothes and toilets seem to take precedent. Plus, some people are so uncomfortable with the death thing that they “don’t go there” and hide their head in the sand. Then the time comes and no one knows what song to play at the funeral.

My great-grandmother knew to prepare for death by purchasing a burial insurance that she paid every month for fifty years. At her death she could afford half a casket and a dozen roses.

By preparation, I don’t necessarily mean your mind set or your religious commitments, but the legal ease, financial stuff that give you peace of mind. Wills, funeral plans and life insurance should be something we all discuss with our loved ones and act on rather than forcing our loved ones to “react” once we are dead.

Parents should lay out their important papers and plans for their spouse and/or children. Just like the boy scouts, be prepared even for death. Do you know where your parent’s money is? What dress your mom wants to wear for the big event?

I know I want to keep Ms. Ann happy because when I arrive at McDonalds, she has to make me look good. I hope at least I might could have a good hair day!!

It is all about death this week, so if you don’t like the subject then you probably don’t like to prepare for the process and pain of death. You are not lying awake at night wondering is this all you get. You run from this subject and really, it isn’t so bad. We all will die and we all will pay taxes.

Just think, we can die at any moment. We can go to bed and never wake up. Life is a precious gift that can be gone in a split second. What will you do today to make today a good day to end it on?

I find the more I think about death, the more I try to make the most of life. So, this death thing isn’t such a bad mind set to be in. I appreciate life so much more knowing it could be gone.

Otherwise, I will try to cheer up for next week and write about celeb stupidity or some other wild hair thought that comes my way. Try not to die until then, but if you do before you wake…..wait a minute, how can you die before you wake? No one wakes if they are dead!