“No one gets out of here alive.” Matthew McCullough (Author of Remember Death)

I recently noticed a tattoo on the arm of a good friend of mine.  This particular friend doesn’t seem the type that would get a tattoo, let alone one on a place that could very easily be seen.  It read “Memento Mori”.  Unfamiliar with the term, I asked what it meant.  He explained that Memento Mori is Latin for: Remember that you will die.  It’s an ancient practice of reflection on our mortality that traces its roots back to Socrates.  The term was then adopted by warriors in the Roman Empire as they fought to gain momentum in their expanding Kingdom.  As they approached battle, the men would shout “Memento Mori!” as a way to approach the battle bravely and without hesitation.

The French painter Philippe de Champaigne expressed this sentiment in his painting titled Still Life with a Skull.  The painting showed the three essentials of existence: the tulip (life), the skull (death), and the hourglass (time).  The artwork features symbols of mortality which encourage reflection on the meaning and fleetingness of life.

Fast forward to the modern version of this quote, and how my friend uses it, it serves as a personal reminder to live life to the full…now…don’t wait.  You see, we all die.  As Matthew McCullough reminds us, no one gets out of here alive.  So, shouldn’t we live our best for today?

Lest we miss the point, meditating on your mortality can be quite depressing.  To us moderns, this sounds like an awful idea.  Who wants to think about death?  But what if thinking about death, instead, was a bit of a mind hack.  What if being scared and unwilling to embrace this truth did the opposite?  What if reflecting on death was a simple key to living life to the fullest?

If your mindset is right, thinking about your mortality can, in fact, serve as a tool to create priority and meaning.  It can be an instrument to create real perspective and urgency. It serves as a reminder that our time is a gift and to not waste it on the trivial and vain.  Death doesn’t make life pointless, rather, it makes life purposeful.  And, we don’t have to be in a Roman battle or have a near-death experience to tap into this power.  A simple reminder like Memento Mori can bring us closer to living the life we want.

So, what life do you want?  What does living life to the fullest mean to you?  It’s different for everyone.  Some might answer they want peace and tranquility.  Some might answer they need to get moving on repairing a relationship.  Some might say they need to quit their job in favor of pursuing a passion.

Whatever your definition is, remember: Memento Mori.

And may you live life to the fullest today.