The blessing of final words: a gift that keeps on giving

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Snow-covered in the autumn of its life, a rose in our garden had one last blessing in store for us that carried us through the ensuing long winter and filled us with hope for the spring.

Yes, this is a postscript to last week’s column on Rick Bergh’s views on end-of-life planning. But before I share with you how I see that rose fitting into the picture, here are two of the responses I received:

Jim Hillson, former pastor (ret.) of St. Andrew’s United Church, Cochrane, writes from Medicine Hat:

“Death is so final. With just about everything in life we can come back later and fix whatever went wrong. We may even allow ourselves the self-indulgence of a bad act today because we are willing to apologize tomorrow. But death changes that. There is no do-over! No cleaning up whatever the mess was we made of things.

“We might be touched by stories of long overdue reconciliations. But more often the reconciliation is neglected too long until it is too late! Keeping the relationship is nearly always more important than proving you’re right! So my advice is to apologize even if you think more of the fault is on the other side. And remember that it is not an apology if it comes out, ‘I am sorry, but….’”

This has a lot to do with the words we use, Cochrane author/speaker David Irvine says. He shared a letter he’d received from a participant in a recent leadership development program of his in Oklahoma. The unnamed college professor speaks powerfully of the long-term impact of a parent’s final words. Here are excerpts from that letter; the whole letter appears on David’s blog for Feb. 2018: davidirvine.ca/words-matter/.

“Twenty-two years ago…the trajectory of my life changed,” the professor wrote. “I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was the night my mother passed from this life into the next. I am fortunate I had the opportunity to spend the last few hours with my mom, …enjoying time together. I still remember the last words she spoke to me, ‘I love you, and I’m so very proud of you.’ Her words are a cherished memory that continues to sweeten as time moves forward.”

Her final blessing “has become the catalyst for personal growth,” transforming life’s turbulence into an uplifting wind “that has enabled me to soar to new heights and…become the person I am,” he said.

“WORDS HAVE POWER! … Parents have the ability to influence and shape their child’s life even in the parent’s absence. Parents, your words will do one of two things: they will provide empowerment or inflict rejection and pain. Choose your words carefully as they will influence the life of your child for many years to come.”

Which brings me back to the snow-covered rose in our garden. Like the final words of the professor’s mother, it left a final blessing of beauty to support its admirers through life’s winter and offer hope, endurance and dreams for the spring.

© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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