Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Memento Mori

I have a photo on my wall of a young man. He wears a serge uniform and a sam brown belt and stands in front of the engine of his SE5a fighter aircraft. Every now and again someone asks me who he is and I tell them. Only twice in the fifteen years he's been up there has anybody come in and told me who he is before asking me why he's on my wall.

He's no relation, though I would have been proud to claim him as one. He is my "memento mori". His presence reminds me that whatever I do, or do not do, time will march on. However much I triumph or fail in this life, in a couple of generations, or less, none of it will amount to much. In his day poor Albert was rock-star famous. The picture I have of him is one of a few iconic images that are well know to aviation historians, and yet, in fifteen years, and with all the thousands of people that have passed through my room, in that time only twice has he been correctly identified.

He tells me that all you have to do is keep turning up, climbing into the hot seat and doing the best you can until time or circumstance take it away from you. And he tells me that however important, famous or extra-ordinary I might feel, were I to come back in 50 or 100 years people would have a problem remembering I'd even been here.

It's perhaps a bit of an odd choice, but this aviator of the last century helps to keep me grounded, and at the same time, in a very small way I help to keep his memory alive. But even when neither of us are here and none can recall us, life will go on for those that come after. And this can sometimes be a comfort.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

I usually find when I need that kind of comfort its because life is particularly stressful in some way. Hope you and those you love are all well dear Dr J and that whatever is troubling you is resolved asap.
Best wishes, BG Xx

Doctor Jest said...

Bendygirl-- you are too insightful by far. I broke something terribly precious yesterday and I feel awful. But this too shall pass. Sorry not to have been in better touch lately, but how are you now after the flu and all (I was sort of paying attention-- honest).

Z said...

I was worried too - reminded me of when the saying "Life's a bitch and then you die" was the most comforting thing I could think of. But you said it with grace and charm. I hope the awfulness passes soon.

By the way, my doctor wrote to thank me for writing to thank him.

Doctor Jest said...

Z-- thank you, as ever you are too kind. Glad to hear the doc wrote back.