Memento Mori


The curse of self-awareness is the foreknowledge of our death. It is the one thing we can know about the future; we will die. Some try to avoid this unpleasant truth with dreams of medical immortality or even the hard upload into mechanical selves. Still dreams. As we like to say, human immortality is only fifty years away and always will be. The awareness of death is certainly central to all religions and explains all those wishes for an afterlife. There must be something more than these three score and ten.

The price we pay for the privilege of getting older is measured in the currency of memento mori. With each year we are doled out constant reminders that the abyss is approaching. Parents age and die, friends grow enfeebled. Eventually everyone goes – live long enough and you will certainly be alone.

Why so glum, chum?

It’s been a rough few months. One friend had to cancel a long-planned visit because of sudden health concerns. My mother-in-law broke her hip and while she is on the mend, at 90, her life will never be more than a shadow stretching forward. My wife’s sister has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and several friends are struggling with their own versions of that illness.

Then this morning Liz woke up with a terrible pain in her lower leg. She couldn’t even get out of bed the pain was so intense. She’s no weakling but it made her cry. We called 911 and ten minutes later the paramedics arrived and took her away to hospital. There were no other symptoms so it is hard to say how serious it is but I can’t help but feel worried. We are quantum creatures: tough and fragile in the same breath.

The clock is ticking for us all. But surely midnight is a ways off yet.

And that’s ten minutes.


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