Familiar words to so many children, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee Lord, my soul to keep.” And then we reach a certain age, maybe about the time we come to realize there is no sandman, tooth fairy or Santa Claus. And that is when we say the prayer one last time.
To most children, that moment when we lose our innocence, when we come to the realization that all those stories of magical fairy god-mothers are just that, stories, is when we gain an understanding of how tough life is going to be.
New thoughts take over our subconscious mind, and we begin to wonder at the enormity of the sky above us. And we wonder for the first time about our own mortality. It can be very frightening to lie in bed at night, unable to fall off to sleep, listening to the beat of your heart, wondering what it will feel like to die.
Holding conversations in your mind helps to keep the fear away, talking to your best friend, getting the answers to the questions you cannot ask in person. It’s a type of defense weapon, except we don’t know to call it by that term.
That particular period of time lasts a long time, years, actually. It goes on at least until puberty takes over our bodies, when building hormone levels mess with our thoughts, and new feelings begin to emerge. And the prayer of our childhood is now all but forgotten.
I remember very well that period of time after about the third grade, and before puberty. I was one of those kids that lay in bed and counted the even beats of my heart, wondering how it kept it’s rhythm, how it could beat without stopping.
I was also fascinated with the sky, the heavens and the stars. I couldn’t figure out how big the sky was. We’re taught that things have a beginning and an end, at least when we are young, and if that was so, then my childish mind reasoned the sky had a size and a shape.
It’s funny to say, but this perception I formulated so many years ago has stuck with me for a half- century now. The difference in then and now is that I know we are not spinning around in a huge box, controlled by a giant looking over us. It was this man that arranged the stars, and turned on the sun every morning. He is now a part of my memories.
Something else has changed, as it is wont to do as we age. The prayer, it has meaning for me again, and it tells me that I never, ever really lost my love for those words. There is new feeling when I say, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord, my soul to keep”.