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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    Lynn's Necklace

    The necklace, I would have to say, I chose because it was a special connection with my brother and I thought of him when I had it on. I just felt like his presence was with me. So everywhere I would go if I had that necklace on I knew my brother was with me, kinda watching over me. This memento made me feel as if I was being protected, watched over. This loss was my older brother and we did a great deal of different activities together, like tennis and driving in his special sports car; sometimes we’d even double date. So the feelings this brings up are memories of my brother and just how protective he was. He really was a wonderful brother and he watched out for me, and I just felt as if I had that necklace on he’d still be watching over me and kind of taking care from a distance, if you want to call it heaven.

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    Sno, Dog Ambassador

    He was also a dog, that I think he took very seriously his mission of being a Dog Ambassador. By that I mean, if there was ever a person who came to see us who either didn’t like dogs, was afraid of him, wasn’t sure they wanted a dog in their home, he would win them over. There was a party that I gave one time for my book club, and Sno came and he found the two women out of 12 of us who did not have dogs, one of them was a little bit afraid, and he was so sweet – both of those women now have dogs and they’ll be the first ones to tell you it’s because of my dog. He was just so outgoing and sweet and not intrusive, but of course he would let you rub his head. So that’s a large part of the memory of him is he did impact a lot of lives that way.

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    Visiting Grandpa

    We would go to the beach as well, and my older sister would tan very well; me not so much. My grandfather didn’t realize that at first, you know, how strong the sun was, when we first went down there. Of course my grandparents felt awful about how sunburned I got, and I actually had like blisters on my nose. They would lather me up in Noxzema, all over my face and my arms and my legs, and I would sit there with them, cause every evening we would play a card game which was so much fun. It was called S.O.B., which means, you know, Son of a Bitch. We just had a blast. We would play cards for like maybe four hours. It’s like that time warp, you know, where you feel like it was just like yesterday, but we’re talking, gosh, forty years ago now. I’m looking forward to seeing them again, being with them. I know they are always with me, too, I know, you know they’re so dear to my heart.

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    Anita's Ring

    When I look at the ring, I remember Anita as in the past, as she was, but it reminds me of the joy she brought me in the present. I can be having one of those crappy days where I’m missing her terribly, and I look at the ring and it just gives me a warm feeling of remembering her. It’s a symbol of her being with me always, as long as I’m wearing it. It reminds me of what an amazing person my daughter was, and how she showed me to appreciate life. It’s a rather glitzy ring, something I wouldn’t normally have worn, but I think because it’s so shiny and bright, it makes me see life kind of through Anita’s eyes, that life is wonderful. And it just reminds me of that.

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    Many Memories

    Memories are so visceral and subjective and what the observer remembers and their place, I mean it’s just so complex and complicated, and it’s how one chooses to hold the memory. So there are both good memories and bad memories in life, and the good memories – like when I looked at the linen tablecloth, it was joyous! And I felt more loved and more appreciated for who I was. She was never trying to make me be someone I wasn’t, and there are other memories I have with objects that I might see or whatever that would trigger not so great memories about other people in my life. It’s about choosing your relationship to the memory and how you hold the memory and whether you allow it to have power over you or whether you can transform your relationship to the memory without negating the memory.

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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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    Ancestors

    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: https://www.amazon.com/Virtues-Cooking-Elinor-Allcott-Griffith/dp/1320535194/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Elinor+Griffith&qid=1550031290&s=gateway&sr=8-1

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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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    Three Objects I Love

    I would love to share the story of the three objects that I love and the meaning they have for me.

    First of all there’s a gold and silver bowl. I happened to see it in a brochure someplace and I just had to have it. And the reason I had to have it is it reminded me of a song from Girl Scout Camp, which was: Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

    The second object I selected that is meaningful to me is a painting that my Aunt Rose painted. It was her first oil painting, her first painting. But when I saw or heard about this painting that she had given to her neighbor because the neighbor’s friend had passed so Rose gave her this painting.

    The third object that I selected was some wallpaper. I recently moved back into my childhood home. The house is entirely painted but the house had always had wallpaper in the dining room. So I was looking for a wallpaper and as soon as I saw this particular wallpaper I said that’s it. It’s a picture of pussy willows but they are filled with, they have green, a red – a pink/red, and gold, which are the colors I love. Since I do Feng Shui it was also a reminder of having life force energy in the house, and the energy was joyful, whimsical, lovely, fun – which is about the life that I’m living, and want to continue to live, as I live in this house and go beyond. And since it’s a little different, people respond to it and everyone seems to like it.

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    Auntie-T's Cookies

    I never had a grandmother but I did have Auntie-T. Auntie-T was the closest to a grandmother I would ever have, she was my grandfather's sister. She was THE best hostess. The cookies were huge, soft and puffy, nothing like the kind I had ever eaten from a store.

    Years later, Auntie- T died. Her death was the first in my family that I experienced. It was a huge loss for me. But Auntie-T came to me in a dream. She was in her kitchen, smiling. She looked up and said, "Everything is going to be alright." I woke up and felt a sense of peace.

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    Birch Trees

    I am someone who has always loved nature, even as a child. And as an adult, I particularly have become interested in gardening, and plants, and trees, etc., And one of the trees that I really love are birch trees. The bark peels off of them and they are delicate, elegant clusters of trees. And one of the reasons that birch trees appeal to me is that they remind me of my Grandmother DeMers, my father’s mother, who, in her apartment, had two pictures of birch trees. I think they were photographs, and I actually have those pictures.

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    Silver Heart

    I think the way this little ring memento, the shape of it and the feel of it, makes me feel pretty presently in love with my own life right now. My mother had some issues in her life, all of us do, pretty serious things that she had to overcome, and that I resented from time to time. So I think that the fact that I see this, the heart shape, it reminds me that she was thinking of me which was important for me.

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    Gallivanting and Wunderbar

    My father’s mother was a self-described “Gallivantor”. In her retirement she would work as a nurse, save up money and then go on trips. And the Norwegian American line was her favorite cruise line....And my mother’s father I only got to meet once for a very brief time. Because he was German; my mother was born in Berlin. She left Germany during the war and he stayed so I didn’t get to meet him until afterwards. He was an architect in Berlin and on that visit the family got to spend time with him and toured him around New York City, and I‘ll never forget his expression of Wunderbar, Wunderbar, seeing all the architectural delights of New York.

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