Memento Mori Stories
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Memento mori is Latin for "remember you will die", and encompasses the centuries old theory and practice of reflection on mortality.

Memento Mori Stories are reflections on our own and our loved ones’ mortality, and how we are coping with grief and loss. From the depths of fear, pain and denial can come deep gifts of connection, appreciation, and peace. These poignant and personal stories reflect on such questions as: How do we remember those we have loved? What are the things we keep, the phrases we use, the foods we prepare, the places that are special?

Memento Mori Stories – remembering that we will die, and that life is to be cherished, noticed, and lived fully.

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    Clouds and Joy

    My mother was a very joyful woman; she had just a joy of living and she found joy in a lot of little simple things in life. And she would get so excited just like a little child. As she got older and I was taking care of her, we used to go for rides at sunset and look at the clouds, and she got so overjoyed at these sunsets and the brightness of the clouds, and the more clouds the prettier the sunset. And so every time now when I see a cloud, particularly a white big fluffy cloud, I will think of her and think about how joyful she was and how excited she would get over just a simple cloud. And look how fast they’re moving, and oh they’re not moving at all. Look at the top ones they’re moving one way and the bottom ones are moving another way. And she would get so excited.

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    Charm Bracelet

    Having three daughters I think might have thrown him, because you think of so many men really wanting a son, and to do this, it was the gentler side of him. It was a side that he didn’t often show us so maybe for that reason it means even more to me than it might ordinarily seem. He also would tease us and say that if we were ever in desperate need and needed money we could pawn our bracelets. We never have. I never will.

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    Pop's Ladder

    I have a ladder that’s a smaller ladder. It’s probably more like 3 ½ feet tall. It’s splattered with paint; one of the shelf things is just, you know, kind of, the staples have come out and it’s pushed to the side, and it reminds me of him because my memory is of him, you know, always being able to fix something or paint it. We never had repair people, we only had him; and he didn’t read directions. He just was able to intuitively do things and it was so comforting to have him.

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    The interesting thing about this ring is silver tends to tarnish, but either through wearing it since 1975 or so to now, it’s never tarnished. It’s always stayed a bright silver. And when I look at it it reminds me of my cultural upbringing, and those relatives who I met once but have really not seen again. So I would say that it both was given to me as a gift and therefore later on I ended up choosing it as something that would be a reminder that I would keep with me for the rest of my life.

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    18 Arkell St.

    But the reason I wanted to talk about the house is the incredible significance of the structure itself to me, which I didn’t appreciate or I didn’t understand so much until now that it doesn’t belong to our family. What really strikes me now that we’re not in that house is the actual structure and how familiar every nook and cranny of that house is and that it’s no longer physically available to me. It’s been just really emotional to think that that is no longer in my life.

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    Aunt Erma's Ring

    So I loved my Aunt Erma. I loved her intellectual curiosity. I loved that she was so cosmopolitan within her city of New York. And I loved that she was interested in me. So when I was given her ring for my birthday, I was thrilled..... I feel loss but I also feel like she’s close to me. She represents that it’s okay to be a strong and intelligent professional woman, and that’s a huge role model for me so I’ve always sort of felt that she was still around me

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    Friendship Bread

    When I start to think about what reminds me of a loved one who’s no longer here, the answer for me really is quite simple. It’s what I call Friendship Bread. And actually I have a loaf on my kitchen counter right now which I made just a couple days ago that reminds me of my Dad.

    Note: Elinor's book, "The Virtues of Cooking", is available on Amazon:

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    Grandmother's Spode Plates

    It’s a little collection of plates, and they are red and white Spode plates, a platter and kind of like soup dishes, and they were my grandmother’s, and they are actually hanging in my dining room, so I look at them all the time, and which of course always makes me think of her. I love them, No 1, you know, because I love them but because they are so sentimental to me, and they just remind me of her. She had quite a number of different kinds of like plates or bowls, or things. My grandmother was an Italian, a really good cook, and lived with me for many years so I have wonderful memories and these just kind of keep those memories alive!

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    Ring Cycle

    I have a turquoise ring I got, somehow, from my father’s mother. I truly don’t remember how I came to have it – what the exact circumstances were - but I have had it for over 40 years, and have worn it consistently at some points, and not at all at others. I have wondered for some time how this particular grandmother came to have this ring. Did she buy it? Was it given to her? Why a Southwestern style ring for someone from Northern New York? It seems strange to me that I never asked her these questions, or if I did ask her, why I don’t remember the answers.

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    Strength and Removal of Obstacles

    The little carved mahogany elephant is related to my grandfather. When I was a young adult, finding my way in the world, I had a wonderful privilege traveling to Ghana, West Africa. And while I was there I bought gifts to bring home for several of my loved ones, family, friends. But I remember specifically purchasing a set of three mahogany elephants, little carved elephants. And the largest one I gave to my grandfather when we returned. When he died in about 1993, in January, my grandmother gave that elephant back to me.

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