by Ken Rolheiser
La dolce vita and memento mori

A young minister was obliged to call upon the widow of an eccentric man who had just died. In his attempt to console her he said, "I know this must be a very hard blow, Mrs. Vernon. But we must remember that what we see here is the husk only, the shell. The nut has gone to heaven."

We are all attracted to the good life and we have a natural fear of death. We can joke about it, as in our opening lines. Some of these anecdotes have a ring of truth about them.

It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens. Woody Allen

How young can you die of old age? Steven Wright

Personally, after my death I want my face book message to read: Is visiting with his ancestors. And that is the truth I am looking forward to.

Our lives are a book. The last chapter is the key. If we could read that
chapter first, it would give everything a perspective, especially our attitude toward suffering, pain and hardship.

We all travel the road of life and we seek ways to enrich our journey. We need words of hope and peace, and only God can provide these.

Aleteia (World wide Catholic News) of January 3 said, “Memento mori [remember your death] is not a morbid fixation on death; it is a rich and ancient spiritual practice that can lead a person to a life of virtue and eventually to a life that ends in eternal salvation. In short, thinking about your death will lead you to life.”

Monks used to greet each other daily with “Memento mori”. Saint Ambrose wrote: “Death must be active within us if life also is to be active within us. . .  [Death] is a passover from corruption, from mortality to immortality, from rough seas to a calm harbour. The word “death” must not trouble us; the blessings that come from a safe journey should bring us joy. What is death but the burial of sin and the resurrection of goodness?”

Aleteia goes on to suggest some memento mori daily practices:
1.Get a skull for your desk - tweet about it every day. 2. Read a book about last things. 3. Make a resolution focused on holiness. 4.Plan your own funeral. (This is as practical as having a will in place.) 5.Spend time with older, wiser people.

Memento mori should counterbalance the dolce vita, the sweet life. Poet Horace expressed la dolce vita as nunc est bibendum or “now is the time for drinking” . In our lives there is certainly room for both the joy of wine and the wisdom of reflection.

Creatures who do not enjoy the creator’s blessings show evidence of ingratitude. Joy and happiness make life more precious. Learn to appreciate God’s goodness while in this world as a happy preparation for what is to come.

Heaven starts here, on earth, and we take the best of love and our good deeds with us when we die.

And so, dear reader, if we live our lives filled with hope and laid down in service to family, spouse, friends, community and world, there is no fear of death, but only gratitude for life. Finally, God will gather us all in tender hands, loving and forgiving.

(563 words)