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The Importance of Memento Mori - Elias Jaffa

My first purchase was a Memento Mori stone. As an emergency physician, the whole concept of a physical touchstone as a constant reminder that death is inevitable really resonated with me as I was going through training. I kept it in my white coat pocket, and early in my career after finishing residency training, I got in the habit of standing in the door of my resuscitation bay as my residents and nurses were working on a critically ill or injured patient (basically those times when my job was to stand there and think and maybe call out some directions, but importantly to not physically do anything, which you might imagine is exceptionally hard for someone like me to do) and turn the token over and over in my pocket. It was a constant reminder that while we always do everything we can to push back the Reaper, death is ultimately inevitable, and sometimes it’s simply someone’s time to go. It’s difficult for many of us to accept that at times, and this was my way of coming to terms with that. As it happens, my two older brothers (identical twins; I also have a younger brother and sister who are fraternal twins, but that’s a story for another time) are both doctors as well, one a neurosurgeon and one a neurocritical care physician.  Between the three of us, we’ve seen our share of patients at the ends of their journeys, so I actually bought two more stones several years ago and gave them to my brothers as gifts and sent them along with what I guess would be considered a short essay, essentially on what I described above. I think they both appreciated the stones in the same way I did (and still do).

Since those early days, I actually took the role of nearly full-time nocturnist, working almost exclusively night shifts in the ED for about a year and a half. Sometime after that started, I was thrilled to see the launch of your “Carpe Noctem” coins, as they seemed to once again hit the current theme of my life directly on the head. I naturally picked up two coins for myself, and despite recently reverting back to the “normal” chaotic schedule of an ER doc, I still keep that coin in my shift bag at all times, nestled right next to my Mori stone (I haven’t worn a white coat since the COVID-19 pandemic started up in full swing, and you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve almost lost it from the pocket of a pair of scrub bottoms).

About a year ago, my wife matched into her own residency training program, in a location that very much caught us by surprise, which resulted in me being forced to find a job in less than a month. In what can only be described as pure serendipity, I managed to land a position that was almost custom-made for me in less than a week, though the downside has been my commute, which is either 50 or 100 miles each way depending on which hospital I’m working at on a given day. This has naturally made me into something of a nomad over the last few months, and lo and behold, I get an email sliding into my inbox about a gorgeous new coin about to drop on Kickstarter, literally days after I had very nearly come to the decision to buy one of your Viking travel talismans (you can bet your ass I jumped on this last Kickstarter campaign as soon as it opened - the Viking travel coin is freaking GORGEOUS...maybe even your best work so far).

So yeah, it’s been a weird couple of years. Kinda feels like you’re narrating my personal life journey via commemorative metalwork, or maybe just stalking me and going WAY out of your way to create personal challenge coins for me. Obviously not complaining at all, just pointing out the old saying about how there’s no such thing as coincidence, because the universe would never be so lazy.

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