In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Memento Mori

Oh Death where is thy sting? Oh, and are you free for lunch?

No one wants to be friends with Death. Now its counterpart, Life, is very popular around town. Most people are familiar with Life and consider it their best friend. But Death is the odd one out. Death is not necessarily bad luck, misfortune or suffering. Death is death; the period at the end of the last sentence.

I was thinking about Death this last month as I watched a good friend of mine struggle over putting her dog down. Anyone who has had to make that decision would testify it’s an extremely difficult and emotional time. Pets usually get a dignified death. The owner finally acknowledges that their pet, who they love, is suffering beyond an acceptable amount and makes an appointment with their vet. Lucky dog. Most humans deal with death to the very end. No early release. We die when it’s our turn. Just like being born.

The phrase Memento Mori is Latin translated as "Remember your mortality”. An ancient Roman general made it popular, by having his servant whisper it in his ear during victory parades. The general wanted to be kept humble and reminded that Life is temporary. While being showcased down the streets of the city, citizens singing his praises today, Death could be waiting for him tomorrow, perhaps at the next battle. The phrase says enjoy Life while you have it, because you never know for how long it is yours. Is it ever ours to begin with? That’s another conversation entirely.

Life & Death: Two times in a humans life that must be the most spectacular and the very two that you never get to share with anyone!

Birth: different for everyone yet all leave the womb, the safety of Life’s cradle where all our pieces were knitted together. Pulled & pushed from that watery world into the world of air and our first breath of it. What if the baby exclaimed on arrival, “Did you guys see that? I just got born! Let me tell you all about it…” Never happens. Too young to talk, and when we can form words, we are too old to remember. Only through the deepest state of hypnosis could a person remember, and even that testimony would be questioned.

Death: The moment of dying is just as personal. I’m not talking about the pain or suffering that sometimes leads up to that moment, but the moment its self. …The body, stopping its internal motion, the spirit leaving a familiar form. That has to be incredible. Again- you’re not able to share it with anybody, any LIVING body that is.

Are these two moments our greatest hours?

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