Memento mori: “Remember you must die”
I had the privilege of listening to associate pastor Father Keith Higginbotham’s homily on the first Sunday of Advent at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers, where he talked about the beauty of death.
The way in which he preached about witnessing one dying on their deathbed felt both peaceful and jarring. By putting all of our focus on the present moment, we experience a sense of peace as everything else going on in the world loses its importance for the time being. Then, Father Higginbotham asked the congregation to think about what things would cease to matter when we are all living our last moments.
My mind was instantly flooded with things that hold so much meaning to me now that should not have my attention at all, but the most reoccurring thought I had was on fear. There are multiple things I fear right now that would not matter to me at all in my last moments of life.
Getting out of my shell and going to talk to other people can be scary for me at times. I fear being humiliated, or failing in front of a crowd. I thought of these fears in Mass after the homily and realized how silly it was to have been caught up in these worries.
If I were about to die, I would try to do so many new things regardless of the possibility of failure. I would be rushing to talk with as many people as I possibly could, as my time with them would be more scarce and feel more valuable. Does time really become more valuable in one’s last moments, or would our last moments remind us how valuable our entire time on Earth is?
Remembering that death is unavoidable takes courage, but courage can also be gained by remembering that we will all face death. Knowing that there are many ways to die that are not peaceful is a terrifying thought, but by facing that uncomfortable feeling now through prayer will ease the fear of a difficult death.
The Hail Mary can be extremely helpful here as it asks Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our deaths. Praying about our fears and handing them to God will in turn give us courage to take on the smaller but still potentially scary things in day-to-day life.
Balance is key when recognizing what is or is not important and worth caring about. A nihilist is someone who believes life is completely meaningless. While people can have layers as to why they believe what they believe, a common point among nihilists is that the reason life does not matter is because we will all pass from this earth some day. We will all meet the same end; we will all die. One who truly believes this can disregard any aspect of life they want as they do not feel any pressure to live a good life that death will inevitably erase.
While nihilism is a close-minded belief, there is something about the belief to pick up on. To come to the realization there are certain things to stop caring about entirely can be a liberating idea. For example, nitpicking every little wrong decision we make is not something to care for. To be afraid of embarrassment, looking bad or failing is only going to be a hindrance and does not deserve our attention and worry. None of these feelings are going to matter on our deathbeds, and God has no care for these lies either.
If it is possible to step outside of fear and remember what does matter in life, so many new doors will open up. There will be significantly fewer missed opportunities that we only missed out on because of our own fear. The fear of living a timid life would be pacified.
It is not normal for one to be constantly thinking about what their last moments will be like, but the value of time should always be kept in mind.
Memento mori is a Latin phrase that means “Remember you must die.” By keeping in mind this short phrase or a similar one, remember that the value of time becomes easy and our decisions become more sensitive to what is worth caring about.
Gianni Squillace is a senior at Ozark Catholic Academy in Tontitown. He attends St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers.
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