‘No’, both my Love and I responded. And I continued: ‘No, we didn’t do that before. We do that since, eh, since one and a half year, I think.’ I wanted to say: since Amanda, but somehow I did not want to say it out loud this time, though her name echoed loudly in my head.
I kept thinking about this small conversation. We went out for dinner with one of my sisters and her family. We talked about the ijscoman, a Dutch word for a bus that drives through neighbourhoods to sell ice-cream. The ijscoman comes in our street every day in the summer and we actually never bought ice-cream from him. I considered it a waste of money when I also have ice-cream in the freezer, and usually he comes around the time that I already have dinner ready.
But we changed. We sometimes do buy ice-cream from the ijscoman now, we order pizza’s and do more things spontaneously, even when it costs money. It is nice and strange at the same time. How we have changed.
When I was still at school I learned: ‘memento mori’. It means: ‘remember dying’, always live with awareness that this live is not all there is. Be aware of your mortality. The opposite of this, as I understood then, is: ‘carpe diem’, which means: seize the day. At my school this was explained with some disapproval as a way of living that does not take the future and/or other people into account.
But, since ‘mori’ entered our live, we tend to ‘carpe diem’ much more than we used to.
Since we know what it means to lose a child, we realize much more how precious life is and how important it is to enjoy what God gives today. We are much more aware that life is a gift, that living children are a gift. So we seize the day much more than we did in the past. We enjoy the little things more than we used to, we are more grateful and spend money easier on the children that are alive today.
Since her birth I always count Amanda in. I still unconsciously count to five when we go out as a family. And every time there is a moment of panic: ‘O no! There is a child missing, we are not complete’, only to painfully conclude again that I counted Amanda too, but that she is not here anymore, that things are all right, we are all there, and we can leave.
I think that is my ‘memento mori’. And it makes me want to buy ice-cream for my other children: ‘carpe diem’. We don’t know how much time together will be given to us. It is not a ‘seize the day because we don’t care what will come’ but a ‘seize the day for I am grateful for who is alive today.’ Carpe diem.
First written in Dutch August 28, 2018