Sunday, April 28, 2024

#119 / Wrapping Your Head Around A Deathly Idea

Joe Lieberman, February 24, 1942 – March 27, 2024

Joe Lieberman, a former United States Senator and once a candidate for the Vice Presidency, has died. Here is a link to his obituary in The Wall Street Journal

Any death is an occasion for us all to remember what I think of as good advice: "Memento Mori." This Latin phrase is generally translated as, "Remember you must die."

I believe that I first mentioned that "Memento Mori" phrase in my blog post titled, "Two Deaths." At least, that's the earliest reference I could find, after searching through all of my former blog postings. I do think the phrase is giving us a helpful heads up, if we can do our "remembering" in the right spirit - if we can properly get our heads around the idea. 

How do we do that? Well, a recent article by John Buskin, also published in The Wall Street Journal, made me consider that question. Buskin, who is identified by The Journal as "a writer in upstate New York," titled his article as follows: "For Years I Denied My Mortality. Then I Had Chest Pains." Buskin has recovered, after a triple-bypass operation to his heart, and is now willing to admit that he "thinks about dying every day." Probably, he says, he always did. 

While Buskin doesn't say so, explicitly, it seems to me that Buskin's "Memento Mori" thoughts are filled with the dread of his death impending. His thoughts are harking back to the demolition and reconstruction of a funeral chappel next to his house, which occurred when he was very young. After the demolition, he found some human remains in the rubble, and he thereafter knew, or thought he knew, that the smoke rising from the newly constructed building nextdoor was from the "burning of dead bodies." "Memento Mori," certainly, but not, as I am reading it, an occasion for any happy thought!

It is possible to make the occasion of thinking about dying an opportunity to recollect all the wonderful blessings we have had - and the blessings we have right now, because we are, and have been, alive. Instead of directing our thoughts to what we realize is going to disappear - what we can decide is going to be "taken away from us," we can, instead, turn our thoughts to all the wonderful aspects of having been alive in the first place, something we did not ever ask for, at least not as far as we can recall. 

Memento Mori? Remembering all our past and present blessings. Unasked for. Undeserved. All on the "upside." That's how I am trying to get my head around that deathly, "Memento Mori" idea!

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