"Memento Mori," Pandemic or Not
Recently, two first cousins of mine, both the eldest siblings in their respective families, passed away a week apart from each other. One died of Covid, the other of cancer. In jest, I said to another cousin that this probably indicates a trend that the eldest sibling in each family will go next. I am the oldest sibling in my family.
My cousin said she could pull my hair for being so negative. She apparently did not get the joke or the possibility of truth in it.
Thinking about one’s eventual passing from this world is not being negative. Being obsessed or afraid of it is. Being aware of one’s mortality is healthy. It can lead us to examine our lives and find out how we can prepare for its coming.
We do not know the day nor the hour for each of us. It can come when we do not expect it. Even those who died from the pandemic virus did not expect their life would end that soon. Death is a constant reminder for living a good moral life. One cannot ask for a second chance at life and promise to live it well the second time around.
Stoicism, an ancient philosophy taught by Greek and Roman thinkers before the time of Christ, emphasized a life of practical virtue and recognized the inevitability of death for everyone. The modern Stoics have fashioned a medallion ("Memento Mori" or Remember Death) to remind adherents and every one of the realities of life, death, and time. The symbols are a lotus flower for life, a human skull for death, and an hourglass for time. The ancient Stoics, however, believed in living a life of virtue although they did not believe in an afterlife. St. Benedict himself kept a skull on his desk to remind him of his mortality.
Recently, too, a sister-in-law shared with the clan a meme that serves as a reminder to seek God and not wait until it is too late. The individual graphics are captioned "Too young to seek God. Too happy to seek God. Too busy to seek God. Too tired to seek God." The last is "Too late to seek God." At the bottom of the graphics is a quote from Isaiah 55: "Seek the Lord when He may be found."
In the same way that we must seek the Lord while He may be found, we must prepare for death through a good moral life while we are still alive. Being constantly aware that death may come anytime makes a lot of sense.
However, neither must we fear death. Christ has conquered death itself by His death and resurrection. For only when we die will we finally see God face to face and dwell with Him in everlasting joy!
No, Virginia, thinking of death is not being negative. On the contrary, It is being practical and realistic. Thinking of death makes us humble and optimistic. It plants our feet firmly on the ground while fixing our eyes heavenward. #
“Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)