“Remember you will die.” That’s what Memento Mori means in Latin and while it seems quite morbid at the onset, it can really be a beautiful phrase when you give it a chance.
Many of us avoid thinking about death- death of ourselves or our loved ones. We push it out of our minds as if it is something in the far, far distant future or perhaps something that will never even come. Many of us are even afraid of death, avoiding certain situations that may increase the risk, or are plagued with thoughts as to the when and how.
But here’s the thing- death is inevitable. It will come for us all because that is how our life on this earth was designed. We were never meant to be here for the long run. And praise God for that!
Let your future death be the fuel to live the life you need to for God, inspiring your best behavior.
St. Gerard used to keep a skull on his writing desk as a reminder that this earthly life was not long and he would soon face judgment. (St. Jerome did too.) Dark? Perhaps. But he had the right intentions. We are not meant for this earthly life, but are called for a heavenly one where we will be held accountable for our actions. That skull was a daily reminder to them to make the right choices. Pope Alexander VIII had Bernini sculpt a mini marble coffin for his desk to remind him that he would pass away someday and give an account to the Lord about his ministry.
We are reminded of our mortality on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when a cross is traced on our foreheads in ashes and the minister declares, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Again, it is a sobering reminder that we are fallen. We can’t cheat death no matter how hard we try. We need Jesus, plain and simple. By admitting to our faults and limits, we come to know a Father whose love is unconditional and power is limitless. That is not something to fear, my friends.
Instead of fearing or hating the prospect of death, I encourage a reframing of our thoughts as difficult as this practice may sound… instead of “His/her life was cut short,” what if we said, “We were blessed with the gift of his/her life for ___ years.” That’s what life is, right? A gift. I’m not trying to minimize the pain or grief caused by the loss of a loved one in any way; I’m trying to point out the gift we’ve been blessed with by that person’s presence and the opportunity we have to pray for their soul as s/he journies to heaven.
Now, I can also take a very pragmatic approach to this phrase and ask you to consider how prepared you are for your death. Are your affairs in order? You’re not too young to do so, especially if you have children. Write a will (and ask the hard questions); have you saved for retirement; what about insurance? Make sure your passing doesn’t further destroy those around you with unanswered questions and responsibilities.
We’re all familiar with the phrase YOLO or what about the guy who tattooed “NO RAGRETS” across his chest? While I am a proponent of living the life you want because we all realize at some point or another that life is short… I try to live more by the phrase “Do what makes you
happy holy,” because in trying to be holy, you inadvertently will become happy. So, reach out to that friend who hurt your feelings, do something extra special for your spouse, say sorry to your kiddos, help a neighbor who needs assistance, find a stranger to pay it forward, confess the sins that are weighing on your heart, and definitely make time to have conversations with the Lord.
Maybe this is the year to put a little skull on your desk to remember your mortality.
And if you feel like remembering your death by way of some bling, I have several pairs of Memento Mori earrings in my Etsy shop. 😉
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” -Luke 12:25 (NIV)
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” -2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)