My Childhood Understanding of Death
I spent the first fifteen years of my life with the notion that animals died but that people seldom or ever did. Maybe I didn’t want to cope with the unknown. My Dad had a few close calls but somehow avoided being swallowed by quicksand, spelunking, having his skull crushed with an ax, and nearly drowning while noodling (hand fishing) for huge catfish along riverbanks. I didn’t even know that newspapers had an obituary section. My closest pets always eventually died but not members of my family. I don’t remember attending a funeral until I became a pastor.
My own death, however, provided me with a lot of sleepless nights. For some reason I feared I would die and be laid to rest on my back. I could only sleep on my side or stomach as a child, and I fretted over an eternity of discomfort lying on my back in a coffin. Thankfully I have learned to sleep on my back as well as come to the realization that the body has no perception of its position in a casket.
The first part of the prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep” brought me great comfort. The last part however caused me pause “If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Why did my parents remind me to remind myself at bedtime that I might not live to see another day?
Other than my own death and the death of animals that I quickly deemed quite natural, death seldom entered my mind. My parents caused my birth. Someone or something will determine my death. Each took or will take a few moments. The in between is what excites me. Over seventy years I have learned not to waste too much time fretting over what will be my last moments. I recognize, however, that my life on this earth lessens with every day. I do find it interested that many people care little what will happen in the eternal after death. Eternal destiny deserves careful thought by all.