Quid Nunc?

Emilio passed away some years ago, but he remains vivid to me. He was long retired when I met him, still full of vitality and passion about all of life. He had been, I believe, an executive in a major Chicago corporation, but that was well behind him.

The snippet of memory that returns most frequently to me is an oft-repeated question. He would cock his head, grin widely and ask, “quid nunc?” My high school Latin told me that meant, “What now?”

Sometimes, when we feel out of sorts, “what now?” means something like “oh no, not another one!” This was not what Emilio meant. For him, “quid nunc” held the taste of exploration, of happy wonder about what was coming next, an eagerness to turn the next corner to a new view, a new idea, a new possibility. His was a constant, open readiness. He even faced his open heart surgery like this. What would it be like? What surprises were in store? Bring them—I’m ready!

Most often, though, when Emilio asked “quid nunc?”, he was in the midst of creating something—a new project, a different approach to a problem, an expectation that more was coming although yet unseen. I remember a conversation that included my then-new husband. We were creating a whole new life and Emilio asked us, “Quid nunc?” By which he encapsulated what he wanted us to be reflecting on: what now? What are you bringing to this new circumstance? What openings are you seeking? What do you offer to each other that is different, challenging, expansive? What will you become now? “Quid nunc?”—grinning as he said it.

It seems to me that Emilio had found a phrase to articulate a question we all have at myriad junctures in our lives. Maybe we are stuck, maybe we have finished something, maybe we’re restless and looking for novelty, maybe we are contented and seeking new meanings. Quid nunc? When it’s conscious and happy, it’s a door-opener within our hearts and externally, too.

I was geographically distant when Emilio approached death at ninety eight. I’ll bet that until the last moment of awareness on this plane, he was asking, “Quid nunc?” And rejoicing in the adventure of it all—as indeed he always had.

Quid nunc? What now—for you?



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