Being the kind of person I am, last words meant a lot to me. I thought so many times, about what I would want to say on my deathbed. I was preparing this grandiose speech about life, love, and God. I had a script in my mind about what I would say to my son, or my daughter. The kind of advice I would want to leave them with, and remind them of how important they were to me. I thought about the last loving words I would say to my wife. Telling her how lucky I was to have her, and how loving her had made all the difference in my life, being so grateful that I got to marry my best friend. I always hoped that I would have the kind of death that would allow for these moments. But, I’ve learned recently that the harsh reality is that some of us may not get those moments. We may not have time for goodbye. We may not have time for heartfelt speeches.
“I love you baby.”
Those were the last words my grandmother said to me the last time we spoke. Words I have been grateful for every day that she’s been gone. But, I got to thinking about whether I would have felt the same if we didn’t have that last meaningful talk. Would I be as comforted if I never got to pray for her and tell her that I loved her? Would it be harder if our last words to each other were just meaningless rambles about the weather?
That’s when I realized something about all of this. Last words would mean nothing without a life that gives them weight. My comfort didn’t come from her telling me that she loved me. My comfort came from knowing in the deepest parts of my heart that she truly did, and more importantly, she knew that I loved her as well. Even if neither of us thought to say it we both knew, because of the time we spent together throughout our lives and not just when her time was ending.
The last words that we admire, and inspire us on countless occasions would rarely mean much if they were said by a person who spent all their time thinking about what they wanted to say, instead of how they wanted to live. From presidents to cultural icons, whatever their last words, held influence not because of some meticulously well constructed combination of adjectives and emotions, but because they were people whom at any point in their life could look back and know with full certainty that their life gave those words the weight they needed. But, what I’m learning is that last words or not, our lives should speak for themselves.
When I die, whether I get to give my speeches or not, I want the people in my life to know that I was a man who believed in love and had the perseverance it required. I want them to know exactly what I was passionate about. I want them to know I was a fighter. I want them to know I was a man of God who believed there was hope for any and everyone. So, whether my last words are ramblings about how I never got to visit Windermere, Cumbria or the well thought out farewells that inspire the people I love to live better, I hope that my life says more than I ever could. I pray that whatever I do from now until my dying day would bring people hope and inspire them to let their lives do the talking. I hope that whatever I say only echoes the life I lived.