About two months ago we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday. When I arrived at my parents’ home the night before the event, my mom handed me a typed page that said at the top: “Dad’s Final Words.” It was rather startling. I wondered if I had missed some family news!
What the page contained were Dad’s remarks for his birthday celebration the next day, which he intended to be the “final words” of the event. He asked me to edit them, which I was happy to do. Before I began, I asked him his goals in the remarks, and he quickly listed three of them: 1) to express thanks and gratitude to everyone in attendance; 2) to make a Christian testimony, especially as he experiences cancer which has spread to the bone; 3) to express a lighthearted tone. Knowing his intentions, I was able to help him tighten words here, and add words there. The end result pleased both him and my mother.
Since then I have reflected frequently on “final words.” People often pose the question: How would you spend today if you knew it was your last day? That can be a helpful question. Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer, but it is also helpful for me to consider this: How would I choose my words if I knew I was writing my final paragraph?
Life has many “final” moments. I can think of two big ones for me right now, in each half of my professional life.
As a writer, I have finished my memoir manuscript. Soon I will be able to show you the cover artwork and you will be able to preorder it. Amazing! After five years of sustained effort, that major writing project has come to an end! What will come next?
As a pastor, I’m supplying the pulpit at Faith Chapel until it closes its doors after the final worship service on December 20. Last Sunday there were 7 people in attendance. That congregation has served God for 130 years but its natural life has come to an end. What will the final words of that congregation be?
How about you? What moments feel final in your life right now? And in what way is it life-giving to consider them?