Memento Mori

This afternoon while Hans climbed up and down the jungle gym at the park, I noticed a dried-up bird wing near the sandbox. Honestly, my first reaction was great interest; I live in an urban setting so my interactions with animals are few, living or dead. The forensic ornithologist in me wanted to examine the feathers, the bone structure, perhaps try to piece together how it became separated from its unfortunate former owner.
Then I reacted with disgust. It's decaying, it's probably germ-ridden, it's depressing, what if he tries to eat it, I thought.
I kicked some sand over it, trying to bury it without actually touching it. That failed; I'd be kicking all day before it was covered. So I gave up trying to bury it.
Then I thought again. There must be a reason why I can't rid this thing from my sight, I thought. There is a message here, what is it?
Memento mori, it came to me.
Memento mori is a Latin phrase which means "remember that you will die." I heard this phrase for the first time many years ago, and its plain, flat matter-of-factness really struck me. The fact that I couldn't hide this dead thing, I couldn't pretend that I didn't know it was there, reminded me of this phrase.
In light of the challenges I've been facing in the last couple of months, including the death of a family member, I've been thinking a lot about the simple fact of death, and the process of facing it and accepting it.
So then the feeling that I always get when I want to capture something with my camera came over me. I wanted to get a shot of this wing, to remind me of this moment. I went to my bag for my camera when I realized Hans is climbing up and down on the jungle gym.
Immediately my attention shifts to him. Parents understand that there's a couple of milliseconds of worry between first wondering and finally confirming the safety of one's child; not a good feeling. But even in that, I saw more insight.
Memento mori reminded me that life is in front of me now, and needs my attention now. Rather than focus on the fact that someday I and you and all else living will end up broken and decaying like the bird wing, I can focus on watching my son laughing and playing at the playground.
All of this happened in the span of about thirty seconds, by the way. I just wanted to get this written down since I couldn't get a picture of the wing :o)

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