Every year, around Halloween, I am haunted, not by thoughts of the dead, but of when I can get to the store and buy Halloween candy half-off. But this year was different. This year I really have been haunted by thoughts of death. Much of this has to do with my podcast, The Final Say: Conversations with People Facing Death. But the bigger reason I’m obsessing about death this year is because of the wars in Ukraine and Israel and Gaza and the shooting in Maine and the shooting in Tampa and the shootings that have happened and will keep happening all over the United States. I am disturbed.
When I think about The Final Say, I can’t help asking, but what about people killed in wars, accidents, earthquakes, storms, fires, shootings, starvation? What is their final say? It can’t be the last words they utter before dying. Those may be swear words, screams, gasps or words of surprise. Maybe they don’t even have last words because they are killed instantly.
In that case, is their final say, how they lived their lives in their last part of their lives? That could be months if you are very young, years if you are very old. Or should we look at someone’s entire life span and try to average things out? Because we all have done things or said words we hope will not be counted as our final say.
Perhaps it has nothing to do with actions, but is more about being than doing. This seems right to me. I know people who are blazing bright Lights to the world who aren’t able to get out of bed.
I couldn’t help thinking about how my podcast guests have the luxury of a final say. They know they are facing imminent death.
Or is it completely ridiculous to even think there is any such thing as a final say? It seems that many people, long after they have died, keep speaking. We constantly find new truths in the words of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, biblical prophets, Rumi, Confucius. Or is it simply that we continue to reinterpret them?
I’ve come to the conclusion that since most of us don’t know when or how we are going to die, we have our final say simply in how we live our lives. That can be kind of frightening since it feels like we are making mistakes all the time. Gah! Thank you, St. Peter for giving us this direction: I Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
It does indeed.