Thursday, October 23, 2008

Momento Mori

Out walking the dogs at noon and my neighbor two doors down stopped me. Had I heard about Diane whose house was between ours?


Well, she died yesterday.

Shocked me, the revelation. She was seventy, and once upon a time, that seemed a goodly age, but not so much when you are less than a decade away from it yourself.

Been sick for a while, went into the hospital, got better, came home, went to a nursing facility because she needed skilled care, and passed away unexpectedly.

We weren't close, but she was next door when we moved to this house more than twenty-five years ago. We smiled and spoke when we saw each other, our dogs barked at each other through the back fence. We went through having old and ill dogs, and lamented about that to each other. She had lost a husband just before we moved in. Met a man she liked, and they got married a few years back. Had two grown sons.

And now she's gone.

In ancient Rome, so the story goes, the victorious generals who marched through the streets to celebrate their triumphs on the field of battle had special servants whose job it was, now and then, to step up close and remind them that they were going to die. Momento mori, it was called -- a reminder of death.

Whatever is going on in the stock market or one's personal life, all it takes is for somebody you know to keel over dead to put it into perspective, and render up the validity of another Latin phrase: Carpe diem.

Seize the day. You have only a finite number of them, and that number decreases from the first breath that you draw ...

On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness

The tusks which clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.

The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is Ferric Oxide, known as rust.

The grizzly bear, whose potent hug,
Was feared by all, is now a rug.

Great Caesar's bust is on the shelf,
And I don't feel so well myself.

-- Arthur Guiterman

1 comment:

Jon said...

Sorry to hear about your neighbor. It really is a reality check though with all the things that are going on.

As my [other] uncle says, "10 out of 10 people die. Details vary."

Carpe diem is right.