Memento mori is a Latin phrase that translates literally to “thou shalt remember to die” or, more loosely, to “remember you will die.”
Since antiquity, the mantra has served as a reminder of the fleetingness of life and the inevitability of death — a prompt to make the most of every day.
Often accompanied by images of bones, skulls, coffins, and clocks, the trope feels very cool, very badass.
Yet, truth be told, it works a lot better in theory than it does in practice.
Our own death is a very difficult thing to grasp. And while it could be lurking around every corner, we know that, statistically, it lies several decades out. Taken together, our demise is too abstract and too far off to influence our day-to-day behavior.
Fortunately, there are concrete deaths happening all around us that occur on a more imminent timeline. Things where we know it is, or could be, the last time we do something.
The last time you’ll go back to school.
The last time you’ll hug a living grandparent.
The last time you’ll be a twenty-something.
The last time you’ll pick up your child.
The last time you’ll celebrate Christmas with kids who believe in Santa.
The last time you’ll hang out with a soon-to-be moving friend.
The last time (this year) you’ll soak in the fall foliage before the trees go bare.
Adopting a carpe diem state of mind is less about contemplating the fact that you’re passing away, and more about reminding yourself that everything else is, too.
If thou, oh man, would truly suck the marrow out of every day, then remember, remember that IT — this season, that age, these circumstances — will die.