Memento Mori–Remember your death.
Death is a topic that most of us are wary to discuss. We’ve spent centuries studying and inventing new methods of health and safety, working hard to prolong life and to cheat death as long as possible. But the reality is that somehow, someday we all have to die.
I had my own “memento mori” moment this past weekend during a short ”mommy vacation” in St. Francisville, Louisiana. After spending a day touring plantations and literally basking in the beauty of God’s creation, I traveled to the historic Grace Episcopal Church. There, under the shade of monumental Oak trees and surrounded by the peaceful quiet, I gazed upon the tombstones of men and women dating back to the early 1800’s.
As I walked from one memorial to the next on that first Friday of Lent, I couldn’t help but reflect on man’s inescapable fate; the inevitablility of death. Yet, rather than bringing dread or despair to my heart, my reflections ultimately brought about peace and even joy for with that knowledge came the hope of Easter and the Resurrection just around the corner. Though a bit prematurely, I could almost hear the jubilant chorus of Matt Maher’s song “Christ is Risen” echoing in my heart.
As a mother, this phrase “memento mori” holds special meaning to my heart. It’s a kind of motto, a reminder of what I am called to do each and every day. When my child wakes up (again) at 5:30 in the morning and all I want is another ten minutes of sleep: Remember you must die. As I hear “Mommy I need you,” for the hundredth time, interrupting me just before I take a bite from my lunch or enjoy a moment of rest: Remember you must die. When I look at the living room littered with toys and the kitchen scattered with dirty dishes: Remember you must die. When I’m changing yet another dirty diaper: Remember you must die.
By choosing to die to myself a little bit each day, I gain a new victory. I earn the right to sing, “Oh death! Where is your sting?” as I unite myself in little ways to Christ’s salvific act on the cross. To me, this is the spirit not only of Lent but of Christianity itself; a constant practice in self denial not out of pointless asceticism, but from our desire to sacrifice for those we love just as Christ does.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” -John 15:13
Motherhood by definition is a life of sacrifice. Each one of us has a choice, however, to turn that sacrifice into something that has everlasting meaning. To offer it up for the good of our souls and that of our children’s, or to give into a spirit of grumbling and complaining; to do it joyfully or to do it begrudgingly; to sacrifice out of love or merely perform our duties. Yet it’s important to note that dying to ourselves doesn’t mean losing ourselves, but rather discovering who we were created to be. Christ tells us clearly, “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
We as women have been given a great gift–the ability to uniquely imitate Christ by bringing about life through sacrifice. We do this physically when we bear children and then emotionally and spiritually in hundreds of hidden ways for our husbands, children, and loved ones. This is what makes us so special; this is part of our feminine genius that the late John Paul II wrote about so often.
So to women out there, memento mori. Embrace it wholeheartedly every chance you can, and together we can change the world.