Memento Mori

Yesterday, I attended a meeting and sat across from a young man with large black tattoos on his forearms. One arm said “Memento” and the other “Mori.”

Translation: Remember that you will die.

In other words, recognize your own mortality and live accordingly.

I was transfixed by his arms and curious about the person who believed so strongly in the mantra that he branded it on his body. I thought about asking him about it, but in the end, I felt awkward and slightly embarrassed to do so.

But I was thankful for the reminder to appreciate the life I’ve been given. In fact, I’m living these last few months in Okinawa with an overwhelming sense of finality. Some days it makes me sad that I’ll probably never return here. But most of the time, it pushes me to do things I’ve been putting off.

I’ve got a whole list, and each time I cross off an enjoyable out of the norm experience here, I wonder, “What took me so long?”

I’m curious about you. Do you live intensely aware of your limited time living? Does it guide your choices, actions, and relationships? What travel or life goals have you been putting off?

So what else is on my list before I leave this tiny island?

I want to paint a mural on the seawall under the cloak of darkness one night

I want to introduce myself to an elderly man I see walking every morning

I want to eat squid ink soup

What’s on your list these days?


7 thoughts on “Memento Mori

  1. I’m Mandy. I found your blog recently, and with this post I wanted to comment. I’m struggling with the time issue, too – how long am I supposed to live in Taiwan? How long should I live abroad? What would make me happy?

    There are definitely a lot of adventures I want to have before I leave SE Asia. On my list: hike to the peak of Mt. Fuji. Tour the Killing Fields in Cambodia. Paint something I want to frame and hang on my wall. Ride an elephant.

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Good luck with your list!


    • maryrichardson

      Hey Andi,
      I hear you. I think the point of his tattoo is exactly that though- to focus on the present and make full use of it.

  2. Oooh, I love that mantra. Thanks for sharing. I too, am curious about that character.

    I love tattoos. I have one of a tree with the leaves blowing off that covers my entire back. It represents the rooted light of my faith.

    What would you paint in your mural?

    • maryrichardson

      Thanks for your comment Becca! Oh your tattoo sounds great. I am really interested in them lately too, though I don’t have one.
      As for the mural, who knows? I’m not exactly artistic, so it might just be a poem or homage to the island.

  3. Roy

    Great post. I don’t know if I would say that I’m intensely aware of my mortality, but one mantra I like to live by is to “do it now – while you still can”.

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