Turning Fifty: Prayer and Variations

Death-haunted from my childhood,
I approached my fiftieth year
With a renewal of the fear
Of the moment when I will simply stop being.

So I sat with this fear,
Being patient with it for once.
And I was shocked to learn its source:
A sense of entitlement,
That I should live forever.

Where did this entitlement come from?
Perhaps nowhere other than the desire
That it be true.

So I started from the opposite end,
And made a prayer,
A prayer that I have said
Everyday since, with variations:

The Prayer

I do not know where I came from
          Before I was born.
And I do not know where I am going
          When I die.
For all I know, I came out of nothing,
And I will become nothing.

That means that each day is a gift,
Each moment is a gift, and
My life is a gift;
And that means that that this day is a gift,
This moment is a gift,
My fifty years is a gift.


When I say these words,
Waking, walking, or running,
Who am I speaking to?
God? The world? Myself?

Often, I begin by saying, "Lord";
Sometimes, I picture her holding me
In the palm of her Hand.

Usually, each day, moment, life is a gift;
Sometimes, it is a blessing, or a miracle.
Once, at dinner, my oldest son wondered,
If this day was a gift
And there was something wrong with it,
Could it be returned?,
Could you get your money back?

What is the relationship between
My life as a brief episode of being,
          And it being a gift?
Usually, I claim this as a logical conclusion:
          Because: my baseline is nothingness,
          Therefore: any something is a gift.

But sometimes, on defiant days,
It feels more honest to say,
"In spite of this, I claim this day as mine."

Mostly, however, it's a prayer of thanksgiving,
And I use it to guide me
Into a listing of the gifts
I found in the previous day,
And the gifts that are possible today:

A powerful therapy session,
A useful piece of work,
A moving show or story,
An important conversation.

Or: An instructive failure,
A creative understanding,
Making love,
Hearing someone through their pain,

Or: The textures of the trees,
The surface of the road on which I run,
The feel of the air,
The phases of the moon,
The morning star.

And sometimes I think of
          not just my life,
But all of us,
          each person's life
          is a gift
So all of this is all of ours.

And now, having completed
Fifty years, I feel my life
As a significant piece of human history,
A piece I did not necessarily
Expect that I would to live to see.
And this is a gift, it is a blessing.

Finally, some days,
The prayer goes on like this:

And this moment is always eternal,
Is always a coming into being,
          a birth;
Is always a passing out of being,
          a death.

This moment always is,
This moment always has been,
This moment always will have been,
In the constant mind of God.

                              -July 2000

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