Memento Mori? How Can I Forget?

burial cemetery countryside cross
Photo by Mikes Photos on

We are flying through Lent, and I have yet to post my acceptance of Mary’s challenge. That is because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in mortality. It’s been overwhelming.

I began this season with a trip to one of the world’s foremost cancer treatment centers. A long-time friend recently had a bone marrow transplant and needed a ride. There were easily a hundred people in the waiting room, from all over the world, all in the fight of their lives. I described it to my husband as “a roomful of fight.” The will to live was palpable in that space.

Then I went to a funeral for a woman who had lived a long life, and who had suffered with difficult health challenges for  many years. Still, her passing came as a shock to her family.

Then my stepdad had surgery, in a state over a thousand miles away. I struggled to focus on my work at home, knowing he was in an operating room, and my mother was waiting there alone. The surgery wasn’t for a life-threatening condition, but it was a reminder that our bodies aren’t built to last forever.

Then a friend’s father passed away. Also in a state over a thousand miles away.

Then a friend’s grandson was born eleven weeks too soon.

Then, the day he came home from the hospital, my stepdad called to tell me that our family dog, Fenway, had died. I have no idea if animals have souls or not, and I am not open to arguing about it. I can tell you that Fenway was family, and it is as true and painful a loss as any other.

Then there was the mass shooting during prayers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. I have cousins in Christchurch who have been sharing their heartache, and their resolve, and their fears, and their beautiful commitment to living as a nation in community.

Then I joined my colleagues getting trained by veteran police officers in how to protect my students during an active shooter incident. I cannot begin to tell you how shaken I was by it.

Then my father-in-law celebrated his 90th birthday with a trip to the ER. Both he and my mother-in-law were diagnosed with the flu. My mother-in-law, was admitted to the hospital for a three-day stay.

Then the last member of my grandmother’s generation, my great aunt Mary, age 95, passed away.

Among the practices I have been doing throughout this season is a daily Memento Mori Examen. I review the day by asking myself these questions:

  • How did God love me today?
  • How did I show others the love of God today?
  • If this is my last moment, how did the loving measure up?

I have not kept up with all of the reading and journaling that I could be doing through this Lenten devotion, but I have not missed a day of the examen. It is a beautiful, powerful practice. Death comes for us all. In light of that, how am I living? It’s a lens angle shift that I am grateful for.

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