Memento mori is a Latin phrase that literally means “everything must die.” This is used in stoicism as a philosophy with which to live life. It may sound morbid at first, yet what it really means is to live life more fully. When we accept death, we live life more. How ironic, is it not?
Discussions of death are considered taboo in many cultures. It means inviting untoward circumstances to happen, they say. What has been more accepted is the Yolo (you only live once) philosophy. It has been a force that has urged people to live life with abandon. Depending on how one interprets it, both may be opposite extremes, or may mean the same.
The way I see it, both have the same positive intention of encouraging living life more fully. The first seems to come from more meaning and purpose, and the latter more of a dare to live on the edge.
Death could mean many things. It could be the death of one’s relationship, a life stage. It could even be the death of oneself, leading to the rebirth of a new version. It could also be the end of one’s breathing. Whichever definition is relevant in one’s life, fearing the idea of death gives it more power over us.
What if we accept and embrace end of life as a possibility? If we were to acknowledge that all of us, including our loved ones, can and will die, how will that change how we live?
Brene Brown says that in her research of people losing loved ones, it is the simplest things that they wish they did. “I wish I hugged her that last moment,” “I shouldn’t have spoken such harsh words.” Prince Harry, in his book “Spare,” talks about how he regrets being short with his mom because he was busy playing. It turned out to be their last conversation.
There have been some articles about caretakers sharing the deepest regrets of the dying. The most common were about working too much, not enjoying life, not spending enough time with loved ones.
What if we could use memento mori as a reminder for us to do the most that we can today?
- We’ll spend more time outside of work. People work so hard to provide for their loved ones. They want to secure their future. What if they won’t be there anymore by the time you look up from your desk?
- Live a life of kindness and compassion. At the end of it all, nothing will matter. Not the brand of your watch, not the accolades you’ve received. Who will be there in your last moments? What will your last thoughts be?
- Let your loved ones feel your love. If each person in your life had their last day today, how will it change the way you treat them, be they your parents, your kids or your partner? When was the last time you expressed how you feel toward them?
- Live a life of meaning. If you had a month left to live, would you let fear of criticism stop you from doing what you really want to do? Don’t let other people’s opinions determine the kind of life you’ll have.
- Become a better version of yourself each day. Every day is a new day to choose your thoughts, your words and your behavior. Many people dislike themselves for things they feel and do. While the days still get refreshed for you, take that chance to be who you want to be.
- Contribute to the world you want to have. With so many things happening in the world—the war in the Middle East, climate change, politics—it’s so easy to get discouraged for the future. Ask yourself what better world you’d like to have. Make steps to make it possible in your own little world.
- Allow yourself to grieve. If there’s been a loss, honor that loss by giving space to grieve, to remember the happy moments and to choose what to take with you. When we keep with us what is meaningful and valuable, it will feel less of a loss.
- Learn to let go. We all need to let go of some things—ideas that no longer fit, fear of what may happen, standards that are too high for us. What do you need to release so that you’ll have more time and energy for what counts in your life now?
Accepting the idea of death will allow us to embrace life more. Knowing that we can lose something makes it all the more precious. Take some time to reevaluate your life. If you were to die soon, would you still be doing the same things? —CONTRIBUTED
The author is an executive coach and an organizational development consultant. You may reach out to her through email@example.com.