The command to honour your father and your mother serves as a divine memento mori. It necessitates looking backward. You must honour your mother and father who came before you, and who created you. And they must honour theirs who did the same, and they theirs, and theirs, all the way back to our first mother and father, and then, the terminus of the trip back (or the origin), to honour the One who created them. To obey the fifth commandment is to run quickly into death; almost everyone in that line of honour is dead.

I recall a particular time in my life when I broke this commandment. I don’t even remember the context, but I do remember the unwarranted confidence, arrogance, and the feeling of omnipotence (which is patricide)—that I felt in my heart as I went at my father. I, his son whose heart’s desire was to climb the social ladder, was going after him for his failure to “do more with his life.” The impertinence! I’m ashamed even now to write it, but I was hectoring my own father for not being what I thought he should be. I asked: “What is your goal, Dad?”

“My goal is eternity.” That’s all he said.

I was looking for my father to become someone whose death was worthy of announcements in the papers, of public honours. He was looking, and living, for something very different. I wanted fame and fortune in this country; he desired a better country ….

Brian Dijkema, Memento Mori