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There’s no such thing as a risk-free life

Lorraine Murray
Lorraine Murray

Don’t let fear keep you from living a fulfilling life.

Every night I say the classic prayer that ends, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Some versions replace the reference to death with “Thy angels watch me through the night and wake me with the morning’s light.”

The other day, I called a state agency with a question about my pension. As the nice lady was answering, she stumbled over the words, “When you die” and then apologized profusely.

“That’s OK,” I reassured her. “I know I’m going to die.”

Admitting our mortality is difficult in a world where old people are coyly called seniors and we are brainwashed into believing “60 is the new 30.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred many people to reflect on something they avoided before, which is death. A simple action like grocery shopping now seems as risky as stalking alligators in the Okefenokee swamp.

Still, we are beset with risks constantly. My house is surrounded by huge oaks and pines, so there’s a possibility one could crash through the house as I sleep.

When I work in the yard, I might get a mosquito bite and die from West Nile virus.

Driving to the grocery store, I could be in a fatal accident with a vehicle that speeds through the red light. Walking to the mailbox, I could be felled by a lightning strike.

Perhaps I could lessen the chance of these calamities by giving up driving and yard work. Maybe I could arrange things so I never leave home at all, which means the main threat to my life would be a health catastrophe.

But would a risk-free life be worth living? It could entail surrendering cherished activities such as gardening, visiting friends, attending church services, doing volunteer work and taking walks.

The decision is highly personal, because people vary greatly in the amount of risks they’re willing to take.

Newspapers feature stories about medical personnel who courageously tend to COVID-19 victims. These Good Samaritans push through their fear out of compassion for others.

Arthur Caballero was recently fishing in a river, when he saw a child struggling to swim through the rushing water. He took a risk by reaching out to grab her, fell from his boat and drowned. The girl’s family rescued her.

Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, which seemed like a death sentence, but obviously wasn’t — and I’ve considered all the years since then as an amazing gift.

In fact, every moment is a gift, which is why a lovely morning prayer is “Thank you, God, for another day.”

A pastor in a bar asked how many in the crowd wanted to go to heaven. Everyone raised their hand, except one fellow in the back.

“Don’t you want to go to heaven?” the pastor queried. “Oh, sure,” the man replied, “but I thought you were getting up a group to go right now.”

We’re all going to die at some point, whether it’s from an illness, accident, lightning bolt, mosquito bite or heart attack, to name just a few possibilities.

Is this a depressing thought? Yes, if we’re allowing our desire for a risk-free life to prevent our living each moment to the fullest.

Yes, if we think death has the final word and there’s no after life.

No amount of fear will extend our lives, but fear often accomplishes something else, which is diluting our enjoyment of the here and now.

The Lord’s Prayer says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

I would add, “Lord, protect us from the temptation of trying to extend our lives indefinitely.”

“And please, God, deliver us from the evil of removing so many risks from our lives, that we are no longer truly living.”

Lorraine is the author of “Death in the Choir” and two other cozy mysteries. Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com