Memento Mori – Always remember you will die.
I do not have any tattoos (and do not plan on ever getting one), BUT I’ve decided that if I were to get something permanently imprinted upon my body it would be this phrase.
Dramatic? Perhaps a little. Morbid? Far from it. In fact, I find it to be one of the most beautiful sentiments the Saints have handed on to us. Why? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading.
This past September, my beloved grandma Joan went home to God. She had lived 95 beautiful years. For the last fourteen of them (from the time I was a freshman in high school) she lived with our family. One day, a few months before her death, I was sitting beside her when she took my hand, turned to me, and said, “you know, I’m not afraid to die?”
“No?” I asked, swallowing the lump rising in my throat, “why’s that?”
“Because,” she whispered, as she squeezed my hand, “life on earth has been wonderful, but my home is in heaven and that’s what I’ve lived for.”
Truer words have never been spoken. She lived her life beautifully, not for the sake of living, but for the sake of returning home to God. To witness this was a gift. Why then, when she died, did I feel such heartache?
Truthfully, I felt selfish. She had lived 95 years, she had died a peaceful death beloved by all who knew her, she had been in my life for 28 years. Time had not been robbed of her, she did not have to go through tremendous physical suffering. To feel such grief seemed wrong. “Why am I so sad?” I asked my fiance. His answer was simple, yet profound – “death is not natural, it is not how God intended for things to be, I think your heartache is a little bit of a reminder that we are made for more than this world.”
It is true – God is Love, the source of all life. Death goes against his very nature. As we are reminded in our First Reading, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; . . .For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” And so, because of sin, pain, suffering, and death enter the world (For more on why God allows death/suffering to exist click here). But God does not allow death to have the final say. Instead he conquers it.
In today’s Gospel Jesus and his three closest disciples were taken to see a dying young girl. Everyone in the room was wailing loudly at the time, for by the time they arrived she had died. Jesus said to them: “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”
No one believed him, they ridiculed him. Jesus had everyone leave the room except the girl’s father, her mother, and His three disciples. Before this intimate crowd he performed his miracle of healing:
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” And from her slumber she awakened, death was temporary, new life was given. The miracle in today’s Gospel, foreshadows the miracle of the Resurrection in which Jesus triumphs over death and evil once and for all and the gates of heaven are opened to us, the promise of eternal life is given.
If we live not for this world, but for heaven, when the our hour of our death is upon us, God will take us by the hand and tell us to arise. Then we shall awaken and see him face to face.
And when we feel heartache and grief from the loss of a loved one, let it serve as a reminder that we were made for more than this world.