Funerals, Cancer and Death: Memento Mori

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Lately I feel like there have been a lot of funerals happening around myself lately. Not that anyone very close to me had died, but still, having funerals to attend at the start of the year is not exactly encouraging. I mean, today’s January 14th which means it’s two weeks, and I’ve already went to two funerals- one in each week. I’m not a great believer in omens but still it’s not exactly the most reassuring sign.

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One of the relatives that died was, relatively speaking, not old, when keeping in mind the old age that a lot of people seem to reach these days. She died of cancer. Today, I was sitting at my grandpa’s house and a discussion was going on about cancer too and that made me think of how cancer sometimes seems to be so…random. People who smoke all their lives might never get the disease, whereas others who adhere to anti-cancer rules might suddenly get it. Sometimes it makes me think that cancer is one of those diseases that kills people ‘whose time it is to die’ (you know, there’s always the belief of a predestined fate). In Buddhism there’s the concept of karma, and there’s stories of people who do a certain crime with a certain part of their body, and in time they get cancer that affects that part of the body, and it’s a resounding tale. If fate doesn’t know how to punish you, cancer is an easy way to do it.

It’s not an easy way to die, either. I mean, it sounds inhumane but perhaps being killed with a guillotine might be an easier death than being killed by cancer, slowly dying, ceasing to exist bit by bit. Okay, there’s all sorts of cures for cancer out there, but I haven’t heard of a way that doesn’t hurt, and it happens that chemo is the most common way, and that obviously hurts. (Chemo, while killing the bad cancer-stricken cells, also kill the good unaffected cells). You lose your hair. You’re really pained. And in the end all that chemo might only extend your life for a year or two. Cancer- not an easy death at all. 

And the horrible part about all of this is that it’s so random, as I just said earlier. You don’t know if this will be your fate or not. Perhaps it’s like driving a car. Even if you’re the most careful driver ever you don’t know when some drunk taxi is gonna crash into you..


Cancer and death. Synonymous.

I’ve been reading a book. It’s called The Fault in Our Stars and it’s by John Green, the guy who does Vlogbrothers and Crash Course on YouTube. I’m not exactly ‘excited’, because it’s a novel about two teens in love who both have cancer. I only bought it because it’s like a bestseller on everything and everyone’s giving it five star reviews, so I want to know what the hype is about. I’ve only got through a chapter so far, but it’s already given me a thought. The teens in the book live with death all the time. It’s a bit like they always have a reminder that their death might not be too far off. 

Is that a bad thing?

Does living with death all the time makes you more conscious of living your life to the fullest?

In a Thai funeral, the words spoken by the monks are all in the ancient language of Sanskrit which no one understands anymore except for some linguistic experts (and there aren’t too many of those around). People usually thinks that the words are for the dead, but actually, it’s for the living. I don’t know what they mean but I’ve heard that it’s about how the living should remember that they might die one day too (or something similar, it’s a reminder of some sort). It’s similar to the Latin phrase Memento Mori (remember that one day you will die). It’s the phrase said to Roman generals during a triumph, sort of like a reminder that ‘today you might be at your peak, but tomorrow you could fall.” 

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Memento mori. Remember your mortality.

It’s a good reminder. Live your life to the fullest. Today might be the last day of your life. Don’t waste a minute of it.



Join the Conversation


  1. Ken – first off, thanks for stopping by my blog. As I was reading your article regarding the review of a book I thought who are these critics or reviewers? Why is so much stock put into another’s opinion. That is all a review is correct? The opinion of someone else. When I am going to check out a restaurant or movie I will check out the reviews, but then go and draw my own conclusions. With the exceptions of restaurants – if the bad reviews out weigh the good – then I’m going to go to eat someplace else. If it’s a book or movie and I like what I see in previews or read on the jacket…then I’ll take the next step and check it out further for myself.. Are you able to push your way through a book that is not engaging you? I will give the book til the first chapter although I can pretty much tell within the first couple of pages if the author is one who can keep my interest. If by the end of the first chapter I am not engaged or entertained I will just stop reading it.
    I have enjoyed your articles, they have kept me interested….thanks

    1. Thanks for reading- I’m glad you found my posts interesting. 😀 TFiOS by John Green certainly engaged me very much, it was simply that I had expected more from it. Once again, thank you for reading. 🙂

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