This is a copy of my article in the SEPTEMBER 2015 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’ which can be read here
It’s no secret that many of us like to have the last word. What’s more interesting, perhaps, are the words we’re choosing. According to a new poll, the majority of our deathbed utterances are about matters of the heart. Because, when it comes down to it – nothing matters as much as love.
Of 2,198 adults surveyed, 62% said that relationship advice was the most common subject when it comes to parting words of wisdom. A spokesman from Perfect Choice Funerals said: “Relationship advice is very common in this situation … this is the final chance to let your loved one know what you think and many take the opportunity to share their thoughts.”
Much of this deathbed advice, we can assume, is from a generation that lived through the Second World War. A generation that saw loss on a mass scale and understands, perhaps better than any other, the desperate, life-and-death significance of personal relationships. But will it always be this way?
I can’t help but wonder what the deathbed advice of ‘generation selfie’ will look like. What wisdom will they want to pass on? In a world that can so often seem scripted (usually in 140 characters, thanks Twitter) will they be able to achieve the heartfelt spontaneity that mark out the very best deathbed words? Or perhaps they’ll be deathbed tweets instead? After all, you can now appoint someone to be your ‘Facebook heir’ who will maintain your profile after your death.
I’m sure many of us would like to imagine we’d come up with some sparkling wit in our final moments – intentional or otherwise. Oscar Wilde famously quipped: “This wallpaper is disgusting. One of us will have to go.” Does Bing Crosby’s famous: “That was a great game of golf, fellas” work for you? Maybe writer Anton Chekov’s: “It’s never too late for a glass of champagne” is more your style? Or perhaps you’ll be caught out unexpectedly, just like American Civil War General John Sedgwick, when he said: “They couldn’t hit an elephant from this dist …” just as a bullet shot him in the head! More recently, Cilla Black is reported to have said how she wanted to be remembered as a singer not a TV presenter. What last words might you want to pass onto your family and friends?
The survey mentioned earlier suggested that love was the most important theme in people’s last words and love was the theme of Jesus’ last words on the cross – which included an amazing statement/prayer: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus put forward, what we might call, a legal argument concerning ‘extenuating circumstances’ – the fact that his persecutors didn’t realise they were mocking and torturing the Messiah, the Son of God. Surely he should have raged at those who nailed him to the cross? Surely he should have raged at the evil in the world? But love, rather than anger, are to be found in his last words. Jesus interceded on our behalf before the Father with the love that called him to be born into a stable; the love that touched the hearts and lives of friend and foe alike; the love that brings incredible, unbelievable grace and mercy into our lives.
Because of what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf, whatever we face – even the grave itself – we can commit ourselves securely and confidently into the Father’s hands. May that be true for each and every one of you.