LAST WORDS SHOULD CONVEY LOVE
By DANNY MINTON
Browse the internet and you will discover several websites that list the last words of famous people of the past. Most are probably not the actual final words, but more of a final thought during their
last days of life. Some are long philosophical sayings, but most are just a short quip about the end of life. However, I’m guessing that their actual final words aren’t even on the internet.
This week we were reminded of the events of 9/11/01. Most of us know where we were when the tragedy unfolded in the skies over our country. Like many, I watched several shows that reminded us of the terror that took place. We remember the pictures of two massive buildings in New York being hit by two commercial airliners. From the outside, the windows look so small as the smoke billows up over the top 30 floors of the 110-story structures.
One of the programs I was watching was followed by one that brought what happened from a different perspective. It was entitled “9/11: Voices from the Towers.” The program was about the final words that came from the almost 2,000 people trapped above the impact zones. They were trapped in rubble and debris, with smoke engulfing many of the areas. The elevators were knocked out, the stairs were blocked, and there was no way out.
As you listen to the voices, there is one common thread in what would be their last words. There were no long dissertations. There were no wise quips about life. There were no jokes, funny stories or discussions on summer vacations. The theme was simple but repeated over and over in various forms. “I love you.” “Take care of my wife and kids.” “Hug the kids for me.” Behind the tiny windows, the world watched from the outside were voices of people calling and using their last words to say, “I love you.” There were calls from airplanes ending in “I love you!” The words, “I love you” were probably some of the most repeated words of that long day.
When you read the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, you find recorded the last words of Jesus. He expresses love in his appeal to God for forgiveness on those who have been against him. He expresses love and forgiveness to a thief hanging next to him. But the loudest exclamation of his love came in the words, “It is finished.” It is in those words that Jesus fulfilled his love for every man, woman, and child who lived and would be born for generations to come. He suffered and died because he loved us, giving us access to be with him forever. His final words, “It is finished,” is printed in John’s gospel a different way. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”
When my mother passed, the last words I was able to say to her were, “Love you, mom.” I walked out the door and received a call the next morning that she had died. It was in the last days of December that my wife’s mother was dying from cancer. Before we left to come home, my wife leaned over to whisper to her mother, “We’ll be OK. I love you.” She passed a couple of days later. We were fortunate to be able to use our last words of love for our mothers. Each time I leave my 92-year-old dad, I leave with the words, “Love you, Dad.” They just may be the last words he hears from me.
These events are times I knew that it may be my last words to someone. However, in many cases, we never know when we will be speaking to a friend or loved one for the last time. Life is uncertain with many instances where we may part from someone for the final time.
What were your final words to your spouse when you left this morning? What were the final words of a conversation you had with your children? What were your final words over the phone to your friend? What was your last “Facebook” post? What were the last words you spoke to anyone?
A preacher friend of mine from long ago told me to never go to bed angry with my wife. I’ve heard many times the regret from the voice of someone whose last contact with someone they cared about was abrupt or unkind. They wished they could go back and change what was said, but it’s too late.
On 9/11 most of the people who died never had the opportunity to call a loved one and tell them they loved them one last time. They would never again be able to hug their child or hold the hand of those they loved. There were probably those who left the house that morning angry at someone. There were more than likely harsh last words as some left home. I hope that those were some of the ones who were able to call and tell the person they left, “I love you!”
As you read this if there is someone you left with words that you would regret I pray that you will reach out in different words, words that express your true inner feelings. Leave each person you meet with words of love and encouragement. They just may be your last words.
“Jules, this is Brian. Listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know that I absolutely love you. I want you to do good, go have good times — same to my parents and everybody — and I just totally love you …”
Brian Sweeney, United Flight 175.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”–Romans 5:8
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ