"Words are the voice of the heart” ~ Confucius
Last week I attended the funeral of a sixteen-year-old girl who died suddenly, taking everyone by surprise. In my mind, no one that young is supposed to die. This is something no one expects.
I have a dear friend whose daughter was killed at the age of four. On a typical day she dropped her little girl off at the sitter’s, kissed her, told her she loved her and that she’d pick her up after work. The sitter was a seamstress and needed thread, so she took her two children and my friend’s daughter to the fabric shop. On the way home they were broadsided by a dump truck. The truck driver alone survived.
This is a sobering reminder that life is never guaranteed. Not even for the young who are so full of verve, whose future is supposed to be before them.
As I listened to the pastor presiding over the young girl’s funeral, he said her last words to her grandparents were, “I love you.” I know that had to be a comfort to them. Those were the same words my friend spoke to her daughter, the last words she’d ever speak to her child.
When my Uncle James neared the final stage of cancer, he moved in with Neal and me. Late one Tuesday he had the feeling he would die that night. We spent the evening sharing what we loved and appreciated about each other. We expressed our gratitude, said our goodbyes, and the certainty of being reunited in Heaven. He survived the night, but three days later he passed away. The words we spoke that Tuesday night still comfort me, especially when I start missing him.
All of this has made me think about the importance of the last words we speak to those dear to us. Some of us do not have the luxury of time to express our love. For instance, I wonder how many people spoke angry words while leaving for work on 911? Did some leave without a word in icy silence? True, we all get miffed, even outright furious at people. We may storm out of the house—or wherever we are—slam the door and leave. It doesn’t mean we don’t love the person who has evoked such ill will in us. We do. But we take for granted that they—or we—will be around to get things right.
Last week was a painful reminder how fragile and unpredictable life can be. Do we really want our last words to be ones of anger, frustration, or bitterness? Do we want to live with the regret over what we said or do we want to leave these words as our last legacy to the ones we love?
From now on make it a practice to leave those dear to you with loving and kind words. Put your frustration aside. Give them the gift of affirmation.
After all, we never know when our last words will be spoken.