Momento Mori

Memento Mori (Latin: ‘remember that you must die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. It is sometimes associated with photographs of the deceased and those photographs are often the subject of heated discussions. 

My mother’s death was not unexpected. We knew that sooner or later we would have to face her passing and attend her commemoration service. She had wanted to be cremated and with that in mind my brother arranged that we would hold a small service for her at the care home where she had lived out her last days. There is no way of knowing in advance how many would attend, and we did not expect too many to be there. Actually 3 people were to be commemorated on the day, and we were glad to be able to commemorate them too on this day and incorporate them into our service. Too many of the aged occupants in homes pass on without family or friends close by to remember them. 

The service was led by Kathleen Johnston, a non denominational pastor who ministers to the aged and who understands the process and grief. To me the most touching part of the service was when 6 of the nurses sang for us, the first piece being an emotional African song followed by the Lord’s Prayer. I felt very touched by this. It reached deep down into my emotions and I battled to hold back the tears.

A strange thing had happened to us on the afternoon before: we were sitting on the patio discussing the service when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a white feather drifting down from the ceiling. Many years ago somebody told me that white is the colour of angels, and  a white feather is seen as an angel feather, and is a sign of protection and faith. Seeing a white feather could be a direct communication from the angel to pass a message from your deceased loved ones that, they are well and safe in heaven. Believe what you like but I felt that we had both been given a sign that only the physical remained and mum was somewhere else. Incidentally, the patio is roofed and there were no drafts that could have moved the feather. 

The small box of ashes was part of the service and when we were done I carried it when we drove home and we placed it in my brothers house. The ashes were interred at Christ Church Mayfair on 28/10/2019 as she wished way back in 1981.

Both of us feel that a huge weight has been lifted from us and mum is at peace, 

Which brings me back to Memento Mori and photographs of the deceased. My brother had a viewing of her and he took a photograph which I looked at.  The important thing is to remember context; I would not be able to have that viewing, and this was the closest I would get. I did not feel that it was “weird” or “creepy” which are the words that are often brandished when these images come to light. Often they were the only reminder of those that had passed on and were part of the grieving process. Unfortunately they have now fallen victim to the internet and it’s hordes of tombstone tourists and those who embrace death as part pf social networking. That photo which my brother took will not appear anywhere on the internet, it is too personal, and having been given this unique piece of Memento Mori I have a better insight into the meaning of these images of Death. Just imagine yourself as being one of the parents of a young child that passed on.

That small feather that came from nowhere was equally important to us and we both derived much comfort from it and at that moment we both needed comfort and re-assurance. The reader can interpret it in as many ways as they like, but in the context of events around that service it was just what was needed.

DRW © 2019. Created 19/10/2019

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