All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

8/28/2014

Memento mori

I just returned home from serving as pallbearer.

It was a nice service.  The whole affair was tastefully done.  The kids and grandkids were gathered as were folks form out of state that made the trip.  Only one of the grandsons was unable to make it.  He is in Okinawa waiting for deployment to some place else.  His LT would allow the visit home but the plane ticket would be over $1,800 and there was no guarantee he could be back in time to make movement.  If he missed deployment it would create serious repercussions for him.  Other than that it was a good funeral if there is such a thing.

I think I first encountered the idea of memento mori in Mr. Rogers English class.  We discussed the idea as it related to the poem in Shropshire Lad, Is My Team Plowing?  The concept came up in other early educational venues as well.  Being young I mostly ignored it unless it was related to some great battle.  Then I glamorized it and promptly forgot all about it.  Latter on I saw the movie about Jim Morrison, it started off with a line that included:
"The movie will begin in five moments," the mindless voice announced. All those unseated will await the next show. We filed slowly, languidly into the hall. The auditorium was vast and silent. As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued, "The program for this evening is not new. You've seen this entertainment through and through. You've seen your birth, your life and death. You might recall all the rest. Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?"
"Memento mori as a literary technique, cool", I thought. Being young I forgot all about the concept and went on living.

Today I stood wearing my pallbearer carnation on a sunny hill top.  I was lined up with the other pallbearers standing at parade rest.  My position was at the head of the casket that we just positioned over the grave.  The preacher was to my right at the head of the casket delivering the graveside invocation.  My mind wandered.

The cemetery is almost at the center of our town.  It sets up on one of the highest hills.  You over look the whole area.  I could see the grain load outs, the coalmine and power plant, railroad tracks, the state highway and interstate, the old high school as well as the new one.   If the mesa wasn't in the way I might have even been able to see my house.   Hundreds if not thousands of people below us were rushing about their lives on a beautiful summer day.

Memento mori.  Remember your death.  Remember it all the days of your life.  Live accordingly.  One day this life ends.  It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment.  In the days of my youth I was taught this.  The thrill of living was too new, the rush of blood in my veins to strong, the smell of my lovers hair and the taste of her lips too sweet.  I was taught but did not understand.

Memento mori.  One day your friends and family will gather round.  There will be pretty flowers but you will not see them.  There will be kind words, but you will not hear them.  Hopefully they will laugh at some funny anecdote or quirk of yours.  It will last about an hour.  Then you get to run all the red lights and stop signs on the way to the grave.  A little devotional service, flowers placed on the coffin....

Someone said, "Amen".  Reflexes kicked in and I said "amen" just a tad behind everyone else.  Back to a lunch of fried chicken and pie.

Memento mori.

8 comments:

WaterBoy said...

Back in my AF days, I was on the base honor guard that provided the 21-gun salute at funerals for deceased vets. We'd load up the van and head to the gravesite, talking and laughing and carrying on, paying no heed to the service ahead. As soon as we got there, we'd hush up and go about our duty all professional and business-like, then load back up into the van and pick right up where we left off, and argue about where to stop for lunch.

Were I to do that now, there'd be a lot more memento mori going on than there was back then.

Somber is wasted on the youth.

Res Ipsa said...

Two vets were setting at the VFW having a beer. The bartender asked them about their service. One man proudly said he was an honest to gosh CWO with medals for his efforts in the Pacific in WWII. The other man who was a lot younger said he never saw action. He served his time stateside for 8 years during Vietnam. He never progressed in rank above an E3.

The bartender had served in Korea and kinda smirked and made a remark about cherry service. Someone asked about MOS. The answer, Graves and Registration.

The gunner came to attention and offered his hand and thanked him for his service. After that he wouldn't let the Cpl buy his own beer.

I don't know if you remember when the VFW refused to let Viet Vets in because they weren't in a "real war". I never really knew about that till I was older. I used to like going in with my grandfather because I had a short hair cut and they'd always let me buy a beer or two.

Service guys will kid each other but it always has amazed me that they respect the guy who drew harder service than them.

Rabbi B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WaterBoy said...

It was never an official thing that Vietnam vets were excluded; it was more of a social ostracization because -- as you noted -- the feeling of the older vets that it wasn't a "real war".

Ironic, then, that it's the Vietnam vets in charge, now. How times have changed....

I am ineligible for VFW membership, because I never served overseas in a war zone. But I still donate to them occasionally, because they do a lot for the Wounded Warrior program. There have been a lot of soldiers from Fort Carson here in town coming back injured.

ajw308 said...

Memento mori.

I'm old enough to get it. Res, thanks for the lesson. Often I leave here with a chuckle, occasionally there's a nugget of wisdom, but it seems I always leave with something.

Susan said...

Youth truly is wasted on the young. That was why the concept behind the Mork and Mindy series was so facinating to me.

When born, you started out as Johnathan Winters, and the older you got, the closer to Mork you got. The idea being that the rest of the citizens would take care of somebody who looked as frail as Winters did.

Carpe Diem. Once gone, you can't ever get it back. One of your most thought provoking posts Res. Truly.

Res Ipsa said...

Thank you everyone.

I just made my annual west slope trip over the weekend.

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