Each night before my children drift off to sleep, I pray with them. We voice a familiar 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.
Some may question this choice for my small children. In his book, As I Lay Dying, Father Richard John Neuhaus recalls that he prayed this same prayer his whole life. When he became gravely ill, Neuhaus continued to pray this, and it became his urgent appeal.
Generally we can avoid thinking about death until it touches someone we love or someone so similar to us that it reminds us that we too will die one day. We can be troubled over the deaths of millions overseas due to famine, tsunami, or genocide, but “it is death in the singular,” Neuhaus says, “that shatters all we thought we knew about death.”
This week we remember the most famous death in history, that of Jesus Christ. From the cross, Jesus knew his death loomed. He cried out, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” Each night we can imitate Christ and commend our spirits as well.
In the morning when we rise, our first thought can be gratitude that we have lived to see another day.