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If I Die Before You Wake

A Grandfather’s Benediction

Heal
<em>Edit Article</em> If I Die Before You Wake

Illustration Credit: Ancient Wisdom by Casey Roberts

At nine, curled up under a Roy Rogers blanket, the cold breath of death blew across my dark dormered bedroom. I shivered and instantly knew this one simple truth: no matter what I would do, no matter whom I would please, no matter how good I could be, I was doomed to die. That knowledge not only made my lower lip tremble in fear but raised chronic decades-long goosebumps on my arms.That night my father sat on my bed and smiled and said that I wouldn’t die for a long, long, long time. A hundred years, he said. And when that didn’t produce the relief he intended, he told me that I wouldn’t die at all—ever.Even at nine, I knew that wasn’t the truth. I knew I was going to die. Sooner or later. So I wasn’t comforted. More troubling, I knew that my parents would not always tell me the truth. They would just try to make things all better. Even things that could never be all better.Even so, I was comforted.Fast forward through adolescence, college, marriage, and kids … to a harder than soft landing in the reflective present, which includes a small tribe of 16 grandchildren who call me Chief. Now 68, with practi …

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