Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Memento Mori

Memento mori. As Stoics, how many times are we reminded to remember our mortality? A lot, if you consider all the readings. Perhaps too much.

See, there's this issue I've had with reminding myself of my own death. No, I'm not a depressed neurotic (at least, I hope not). It's that I've never actually took the time to actually do it. Hearing that we'll die — reading about it, hearing the phrase, saying to ourselves "I'm gonna die" — all this is meaningless without context.

What do I mean?

My step-father-in-law is dying. Right now. He's got tubes sticking out of him, pumping things both in and out. He's a shadow of what he once was. It's been a long while since I've seen this picture of death. The slow draw. My grandfather was the first death I saw like his, except his wasn't slow. The tubes weren't pumping anything. He was dead before my mom, sister, and I got to the hospital.

But this is different. I've watched this man waste away from cancer. I've seen the hopes given, the hopes denied. I've never seen death like this before. Keeping him alive to ponder everything he'll miss. We all suffer from this terminal illness, this slow draw of death. But his smacked him the face with an end date. What his mind must be thinking. If it can even process this information. And, though the doctors say it will be soon, he's still got time on his hands, and unable to do much with it.

As I was in there, it was the first time I actually understood memento mori. As he was in bed, I knew that one day, I could be there. Tubes running in and out of me, replacing my veins and organs because they just can't do it anymore. Unable to feel anything but pain. Watching a world around me carry on.

I could be him one day. Or I could be like my grandfather. Sitting in my favorite chair, calling out for help as something I don't understand happens to my body. Life fading from my body, not giving me any chance to even regret. Or worse, not get over my regrets.

It dawned on me that I didn't understand at all that I was going to die one day until I saw him today. Seneca says that most of us don't know that we are dying every day, that our past belongs to death. I'm dying. My wife. My son. You. We may not be in a bed, gasping for breath, having our waste pulled out of us. But that doesn't matter.

Memento mori, my friends.

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