Friday, June 7, 2013

"If I Die Before I Wake"....republished from 5/2009

“Time for bed”, shouted Billy’s mom. It was 8:30 PM and a normal, rainy Tuesday evening. Billy finished brushing his teeth, put on his Spider Man pajamas and came into his room, a very clean & organized room, a factor due to his mom’s fetish for neatness, not Billy’s.

Billy automatically knelt beside his bed, next to his mother. Prayers before bed was another of mom’s heartfelt nightly rituals. Tonight, he figured it was his 300,000 nightly prayer…or at least it felt that way to 4-year-old Billy.

Folding his hands, just like mom, he recited the 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

Lately Billy was starting to wonder about what that prayer meant. What was a soul? Why would he die during the night? What would kill him and take his soul? He kept these doubts to himself. He didn’t think his mom would like the questions, let alone provide an answer. So Billy thought in silence. He was starting to get a little worried about that prayer, maybe even a little scared.

Billy lay in bed, in the dark, wondering, worrying, and getting nervous. He had just remembered something Grandpa told him weeks ago when he broke a vase, by accident, at Grandpa’s cabin. Grandpa had told him the “Boogie Man” would come in the night to take bad little boys. Yeah, that was it, the “Boogie Man”. Maybe he came to kill you and take your soul?

The old house creaked and settled, making familiar, but still scary noises. Billy could not sleep. He imagined “Him” waiting in the dark, perhaps hiding under the bed? Or maybe in the dark closet, whose door Billy was sure, was closed only a moment before.

His soul, where exactly was it? If he could hide it, or protect it during the long dark nights, maybe he would be safe. Perhaps he would not die or have his soul taken by the ”Boogie Man”. A tissue dislodged from the headboard bookcase by an errant breeze, fluttered down and landed on Billy’s face. It felt like the caress of bony dried fingers, the fingers of “Him” coming to take his soul! Billy screamed. He screamed like his life depended on it. He screamed until his mother rushed into the room and turned the light on. The light saved him. That was the key, light! Light to drive out the darkness and the fear. Light to keep the “Boogie Man” at bay.

From that night on, wearing his Spider Man pajamas, and safe with his Spider Man Night Light illuminating the shadows, Billy was no longer afraid for his soul, of dying in the night…nor of that stupid, scary prayer.

Yes, Billy is safe….safe until the power goes out during a thunder storm, or the bulb in his Spider Man Night-Lite stops working! Good night Billy, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite!” Bed bugs?

No comments: