Last night, a big portion of the world was shaken by the tragic loss of one of it’s biggest sporting icons and all-round great man, Kobe Bryant. The even more heart-breaking news was that his 13-year old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, was also taken from the world in the crash as well as four others who have yet to be named by the press at the time of writing.
Both Kobe, his daughter and the other victims had so much more to give to the world before they were so unexpectedly taken. For all of them, the day probably started out like most days, except this one didn’t have an ending. The world is worse off without them.
The Stoics have a saying – ‘Memento Mori’ – which in Latin means ‘remember that you must die’.
Everyone has their own petty worries and arguments that occupy too much time in their head as well as their own admirable hopes and dreams. As many of us daydream our way through life, it is unfortunate that it takes horrible events like these for us to realise that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Not for us, not for anyone.
Because icons like Kobe Bryant have affected the hearts and lives of millions of people around the world, their sudden absence is difficult to comprehend. We look at our own hands and bodies. We look at the people that we are closest to, our idols and even strangers and get shocked into remembering something that we so often choose to forget – we aren’t here forever.
This is why Memento Mori is such a powerful message and symbol. Some see it as morbid but it is actually one of the most grounding messages that you can ever absorb. Memento Mori is realising that you don’t know when your time will come, but it eventually will. You don’t know where, and you don’t know how. And you don’t know any of this for anyone. No-one does.
Right now, all that matters is that you are here, you have loved ones here (even if not all of them) and you have a life to live. Right now, that is something to celebrate and cherish. Just like every moment is.
This thought experiment is very difficult and not for everyone. However, I find it to be grounding, liberating and freeing from all of the not-so-important-in-hindsight-bullshit that life can throw at you. The next time you say bye to someone, or they go out of sight for a short while, pretend that that was the last time that you ever saw them. Were you happy with the interaction? The next time you do see them, pretend that they are back and you have a second chance. Hold them a little closer and for a little longer, because you don’t know when the last time that you see each other actually will be.
Rest In Peace Kobe Bryant and everyone else who is taken from us too soon. They teach us invaluable lessons about the special life that we get to live and so often take for granted, every day.