new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

Memento Mori

• Colin McRae, his son, his son’s friend, and another family friend – killed in an helicopter accident.
• Two young men from Derry in the plane crash in Thailand – one killed, the other survived.
• A couple from Mayo killed in a car crash in England.
• Four killed on roads in the north over the weekend.
• Four young lads drop dead at football training.

As I watch these events unfolding, one thought keeps running through my head – For all our technology we can be swept away in a moment. It is a sobering realisation; yet rarely do we think about how precarious a position we are in. Death is the one subject that we don’t think about.

Yet we are mortal.

When a victorious Roman general was being paraded through the streets of Rome with the crowds cheering, a slave stood behind him in the chariot repeating the phrase “memento mori” – “Remember you are mortal.” In other words, don’t get carried away – you’re still flesh and blood and one day you will die.

That’s where our word ‘memento’ comes from. We use it to mean a souvenir that reminds us of a holiday. But in Elizabethan times a memento was a reminder of death. It was common to have a skull sitting on your desk as a memento, to remind you that one day you would die. Artists incorporated a skull into their paintings for the same reason. Clock makers usually had some Latin phrase on the clock face to drive home the same message.

Events like this should cause us to pause and think.

What person thinks about dying? It seems such a remote possibility that we push it to the back of our minds. If a young person thinks about death they are rebuked for being gloomy, and yet perhaps they are saner than all the rest.

Only four of the fifteen fatalities listed above were over 40. Of the eleven others, eight were under 16 years old. Death is the one great reality that we can’t escape; not think about it is the height of folly.

For all our advances in science and medicine our life still hangs by a thread. And one day we will die, and stand before God needing to explain what we did with our one precious God-given life.

It’s something we need to think about more. Perhaps it’s something we should say to ourselves each time we watch the news – Remember you too are mortal.

That’s why the song writer in the Bible says, “Let me know how fleeting is my life” (Psalm 39:4) and Isaiah writes, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field… The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

It’s why Solomon writes, “Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps... For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7).