Last Words

Do you remember these commercials?  Someone's about to get "offed" and is asked, "What do you want on your tombstone?" 

It's common to ask people in their final moments what they have left to say.  I've sat with several people just before dying and heard them speak a final time to those that they love.  Sometimes they share immense amounts of wisdom, sometimes grace and love, and sometimes even anger or resentment.  Whatever those words are, they seem to bear more weight than anything we say in casual conversation at any other time.  They also seem to be the things that we've held back from saying, assuming that there will come the opportunity to say them later.

Have you given much thought to what your final words would be?  If you knew that your time was coming (and it is), what would you say?  And to whom?  If you could go back to the last moments that you spent with a family member or friend, what would you hope they'd say?  What would you ask them?

I'm doing a study with some of the adults at Mt. Bethel right now, entitled "Remembering Your Story: Creating Your Own Spiritual Autobiography."  It's been one of the most interesting groups I've spent time with, mainly because we've shared so many stories.  I've learned alot about some of these folks that I wouldn't have otherwise.  Most of them have decided to put effort into telling their story.  A couple of them have talked about writing down some of the memories that they'd been sharing, so they'd be remembered after they're gone.  Another has mentioned writing letters to those she loves, sharing important information and feelings.

Unfortunately, for every one of those people who have had the opportunity to have one last conversation with those around them, there are probably dozens who never get the chance.  The world would be a very different place if we knew when that moment was coming.  (We might even have some of those long-lost dessert recipes our grandmothers took to the grave with them.)

Tomorrow is Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday.  It's the day that we remember Jesus last meal with his disciples.  He knew it would be his last and he made the most of every second.  From that meal, we get the sacrament of Holy Communion.  We also get a collection of the last instructions of Christ.  Within all of that conversation is one command or mandate (thus "Maundy" Thursday).  In Mark 13, Jesus says, "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this, all men wll know you are my disciples, if you love one another" (v.34)

As Easter nears and we remember the weight of a person's last words, let's meditate on those last words of Christ.  Love each other.  Love those who are hard to love.  Forgive those who have offended you.  Jesus' love for us went all the way to the cross.  Love like that.