In all cultures, the last words of a dying person are considered sacred and powerful. Last words carry the force of the spirit. Not many are lucky to say those last words before they leave this earth. But for those that are lucky, it is always memorable and consoling. I recall my friend, Justin who is the firstborn of his parents. Before Justin's Dad died, he called Justin and said: “My son, I do not think I have much time to live. I do not have any properties to leave for you and your siblings. You know I wasn't a lazy man. I did all I could; and yet, we struggled to make ends meet. I do not begrudge God, you know I was contented with what I had. I didn't steal and I was not envious of other people's possessions. You are my first child. Please, take good care of your mother, and be there for your brothers and sister when they call on you. Remind your mother always that I love her. Do not envy anyone, and do not take what is not yours. Work hard and leave the rest to God, who knows how best to bless you. I am so proud of you, my son; be a man of peace, for everyone knows me as a man of peace. I will not be around when you get married and have children, but tell your wife and children that I love them. Make me proud by being a contented man, for nothing is like contentment. Be a man of peace and teach your wife and children same. You will be wise and respected by everyone. I give you my blessings, my son. May God watch over you, as you watch over your mother and brothers and sister.”
Justin cried through that last session with his Dad. He wrote everything his Dad told him – those last sacred words and rereads them from time to time. He never forgets his Dad's last words – blessings, promises and requests! He has since grown and has children, and his Dad's last words are like a guiding light on his path of life. He is a bank manager and his wife is an attorney. They have four children. Last time we spoke, we recalled those last words and he told me he often reminds his wife and kids that his Dad bestowed many blessings upon them. He takes good care of his mother. Since his Dad's last words are so sacred to him, he often remembers them. So good to be in his company! I remind him of how blessed he is.
Before leaving this world two years ago, a woman also called and recounted to me the beautiful life she had lived with her husband for close to 67 years. Her life, she told me, was such a profound blessing from God, and she had no regrets. She asked me to make sure I tell everyone at her funeral that she was blessed and was grateful to God, who meant everything to her. I should also make sure that I sang the song “Blessed Assurance” at her funeral, for that is the story of her life with God. She blessed me and thanked me for coming to her parish. I cried as she told me these things. With such a beautiful smile, she turned and said, “Do not cry, for there is no need to cry. I am at peace!” To this day, those last moments with her and her husband remain so fresh and sacred to me.
Last words often are unforgettable because they are spoken from the borderland between heaven and earth. So, when the time came for Jesus to return to the Father, he assured his disciples he was not going to leave them orphans (Jn. 14:18), and asked them to love one another. Jesus is God, who knows that love is the essence of human life, and only through love can we live fully. Above all, the disciples of Jesus are never alone; yesterday, today and forever, the Spirit of Jesus is with them. Like Justin, we should keep these words of Jesus alive in our hearts and draw strength from them especially in difficult moments. May His parting words fill your heart with strength and assurance! Amen