After my first year of pastoring I talked with another new pastor. I asked him the most important thing he had learned. His immediate response was, “I have learned a lot about death.”
My friend Dave Williams has a sign in his office: “Memento Mori.” It means “remember that you must die” in Latin. Sounds like a fun conversation starter! Though perhaps not fun, meaningful conversations have taken place because of the sign.
The expression memento mori has Christian roots. The early church emphasized heaven, hell, and life after death much more than we do. Because death was more visible in their lives, the power of Christ’s saving grace to overcome death seemed more relevant.
Cathy and I and many others will be remembering people this Memorial Day. I’d challenge us to consider memento mori. We too will die someday. Death brings with it suffering. And we need to grieve the loss of life. As a pastor, however, I want people to come ultimately to a sense of peace about death. The Bible reminds us:
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV)
Coming to peace with death frees us to live the lives God gives us fully. Recognizing death helps us to “count our days” and maximize them. As we remember the days we had with those who have gone before us this Memorial Day, let us remember that our own days are precious as well.
Carpe diem and memento mori,