Memento Mori

San Gabriel Cemetery,
where my brother is buried

Last night, my wife and I had dinner out with friends and then went with them to watch Men in Black 3.  The movie was fun, though hardly significant and not particularly memorable.  It’s unlikely to change my life much.

Today, my wife and I attended a matinee performance of The Secret Garden at the Hale Center Theater, in Orem, Utah.  (It was superbly done, by the way, with some moments as good as any I’ve seen on Broadway.  Maggie Scott, who played Mary Lennox in our performance, was wonderful, as was — I think — Christopher Higbee, who, despite the program, seems to have performed as Archibald Craven.  And the other cast members were very good, as well.)

I’ve never particularly liked or disliked The Secret Garden, whether in the form of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s original 1911 novel or in film or as a musical on stage, but, today, I found several parts of it surprisingly moving.

Perhaps it’s because many of the people that I myself have loved most are now gone, like the ghosts that surround Mary Lennox and Archibald Craven in the story.  Perhaps it’s because I’m further into my tenure as an earthly father and because — like Colin’s father, Mr. Craven — I want to spare my loved ones pain and trials and obstacles and loss, but, very often, cannot.

As I think about family, friends, teachers, and leaders who have gone beyond the veil, I find myself occasionally thinking, too — though perhaps not as often as I should — about what sorts of memories I myself will be leaving behind in the minds of those who’ve known me.  What will people think about when they hear that I’ve died?  What will they reminisce about at my funeral?  How will the eulogies read? 

At the risk of sounding morbid, this seems to me not a bad thing to reflect upon, sometimes.  And it leads to more substantial questions:  Am I living the kind of life I aspire or intend to lead?  Am I conducting it in accordance with my claimed values and goals?  Or am I deferring the things I really know and care about and believe I should be doing, and risking sudden arrival at a time when it may be too late to have been the man that I wanted to be? 

The Latin phrase memento mori can be loosely translated as “remember your mortality” or “remember that you must die,” and that sentiment, under that name, gave rise to an often distinctly ghoulish tradition in art.  That’s not really what I have in mind.  When I think of death, I don’t think so much of this

as, frankly, of this:

I really am a believer.

But I do also believe that remembering that I, too, will die, is a healthy and wise thing, and that reflecting upon it and upon what it means for how I should live now is deeply important.

In that light, I recommend reading this brief article by Joseph Walker of the Deseret News, and then resolving to keep it in mind and to live accordingly.

For what it’s worth, by the way, I’ve already posted and published some of my previous thoughts occasioned by Memorial Day.

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