For those who don’t know, the Latin phrase Memento Mori more or less means remember, you’re gonna die too.
And perhaps coincidentally concurrent with my visit to the Vikings exhibition, the funeral home that threatened to cancel my mother’s funeral four hours before it was due to commence sent me an email to remind me that it’s nearly a year since she died.
There was no actual intent behind it. It was just an autoresponder letting me know I could access their tribute website to review the posted photos and messages of support.
As if a 90-year-old Alzheimers patient who had been institutionalised for the last 20 years would have much in the way of electronic tributes.
Though the thoughtless thoughtfulness was stunning in its own right, like a lot of direct marketing is.
Nonetheless, it’s a useful reminder. Mum’s ashes are still on my bookshelf, and it wasn’t my intention to keep her this long. I had intended to scatter her a long time ago. Set her free if you will.
And it did make me think.
If this were the Victorian era, I would be just coming out of mourning. I’d be swapping to grey clothes (not black), and I’d be wearing jewellery again. But my choices would still be limited by social convention. Perhaps a string of jet beads or a nice brooch made from Mum’s hair. (Which is a little funny as among her effects was a lock of my hair). I could attend social events without causing a scandal again. I could live again.
The First World War ended such extravagant displays of grief. (Thank goodness.) Now we can leave our homes, and just get on with things.
Though I wonder if we need a little more focus on death and loss in our modern lives; they hardly pause in the face of death. When my father died, I tried to take my two days of bereavement leave but was asked to go back in early. Is it better or worse to plough back into life without pausing for thought?
Which brings me back to Memento Mori. You WILL die.
Toseland and I were chatting the other day about life. We were discussing some miserable people we know, and I speculated that they were in general unhappy because they had imagined very different lives for themselves as children. And it occurred to me at that very instant, that right now I am doing exactly wanted I wanted to do as a child. I’m writing books!
How amazing is that?
I can die happy because I am doing what I always wanted to do. Even though somewhere along the way of becoming an adult I forgot all about it. And I have the rest of my life to keep writing even more books! Maybe another thirty or forty years writing books! I’m so happy.
But what about you?
Are you what you wanted to be? Would your five-year-old self be happy or disappointed in you?
Are you happy or disappointed with yourself?
And if you’re not happy, are you going to do something about it, or spend the next thirty or forty years being miserable?