It’s a pity Latin is no longer taught in school; I would have loved it. In college, my favorite class was Etymology.
I shared what I learned in that class to every group of students I ever taught. To my delight, even fourth graders gobbled up the way word roots, prefixes and suffixes can be deciphered.
Here are a few examples:
Ter, Terr, Terra: of the land or earth. Terrace and territory are obvious, but terrier is a ground-hunting dog, and tarantula, is a ground-dwelling spider. From this root it’s an easy leap to figure out where we get the word extraterrestrial.
Mar or Mer: of the sea. So we have marine, marina, mariner, merchant, maritime, marsh and mermaid.
And then we come to Mort, Mori, and Mors. I’m not nearly so fond of these: Mortal, mortuary, mortician, morbid, moribund, remorse.
Yesterday, as I scanned the local newspaper, I was shocked to see a long-time friend’s name and short paragraph under Death Notices. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to the peninsula, and just last month, we had reconnected after 30 years.
“I bet you don’t remember me,” he’d said as he approached my Church Bazaar book-selling table.
I looked quizzically at him. “Say that again.” I closed my eyes as he repeated his admonition that I wouldn’t know who he was.
The voice was certainly familiar, but the memory was tucked far, far back in the foggy recesses of my brain. I ventured a tentative, “Jack?”
“You got that?!” he was delighted that I’d remembered. “I’m living in Naselle now, and I’ve been keeping track of you. I’ve read every single one of your blogs,” he boasted.
“You’ve read all nine hundred and sixty-something posts?” I asked incredulously.
“Every single one.” He nodded, then lowered his voice. “And I’m worried about you.”
I understood his concern. I, too, was worried about me, unsteadily working my way through a nasty period of depression.
“We need to get together for coffee,” he continued. “No excuses. The sooner the better.”
So on the windiest Tuesday of December, we did, indeed, meet for coffee. As people do, we first talked about old times, then caught up on the intervening years, and finally proceeded to current events.
In an hour and a half, we were pretty much up to date. “Let’s stay in touch,” he said. “No sense waiting another 30 years to meet again for coffee.”
I agreed, and we parted company, running through the wind and rain to our respective vehicles. A few days later, he forwarded an email about being happy with who you are. On December 19, another forwarded email arrived, sent to a number of “undisclosed recipients” with the title “Is Santa Claus Real?”
I had no spare time right then to reply, and he’d sent no personal message to answer, so I let the moment pass, not knowing it would be the last contact I’d ever have with him.
The moral to the story is pretty obvious, even in Latin: Carpe diem. Mort, Mori, Mors. End each day with no regrets.