Memento Mori is an ancient monastic expression that has had a bit of a gothy rebranding and promotion in the Catholic underground. Of course, the nomenclature is timeless and sound–we are all going to die, and we should live as if we understand that; to paraphrase St. Robert Bellarmine, those who live well, die well. I’ve had a life-sized skull on my prayer kneeler for a number of years now to “keep my death ever before me” as an aid to meditation. In an age that seeks to avoid death at all costs, we would all do well to meditate upon our mortality from time to time.
But I also turned forty-one last week. It was uneventful, in all ways but one–for the first time, my mortality and the sobering realization that I am actually now officially ‘middle-aged’ hit me. The fact that it happened at forty-one and not forty didn’t seem to make sense at first, until I reflected on it a bit. Forty is kind of monumental in the sense that you’re not in your thirties anymore. Forty one is just tacking on another year to a challenging time of life for men that you realize you are going to have to live through for the next decade.
I should have died a few times over. In my twenties, I took a lot of risks, stemming from the common lack of awareness of one’s mortality during those years without thinking of consequences.