Letter: Great grandma’s prayer
From time to time I recall a nighttime prayer my mother taught me as a child in elementary school. It went like this: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to sleep; and if I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.”
As I grew up, I thought there was an underlying character fault in my mother that had come out in such a morbid prayer.
In 2019, I was doing some research on public health history for a book. Then the pandemic hit in 2020. I put two and two together, and had an “ah hah” moment.
My mother grew up in a time when childhood epidemics took away brothers and sisters, cousins, friends, and neighbors well before their time. These uncontrolled disorders included measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and pertussis (whooping cough). If children survived these, as young adults they were confronted with tuberculosis, venereal disease, pneumonia, and influenza. Their own parents and grandparents spoke frequently to them of the horrors of scarlet fever, pellagra, yellow fever, typhoid, dysentery, typhus, and even cholera.
In fact, for Americans born early in the twentieth century, it was not an act of morbidness but rather sheer desperation for children as well as adults to fall on their knees and ask for mercy in order to live through the night.
About that time, the new “germ theory” of disease enabled research that led to the development of “antitoxins,” our first vaccines. Vaccines have become perhaps the most sophisticated and humane technology ever devised in the history of planet earth.
These vaccines, mandated in order to reverse the decimation of America’s great society, enabled hundreds of millions of Americans to grow up without fear and see their own children and grandchildren grow and develop, instead of dying excruciating early deaths. My mother made sure her children got every vaccine at every opportunity.
One quarter of Americans in 2021, not knowing much if anything about this public health history, have rejected vaccines and are leading the charge back to biblical-style plagues of the first born. God help us all.
Kimball Shinkoskey, Woods Cross