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Last Words: Reflections on Talking

Words flow from our lips like water. We say what we’re thinking, we say variations on what we’re thinking, or sometimes we speak without thinking very much at all. Because so much of what we say is said in the context of everyday life, we do not afterwards give it much thought either. And so we go — thinking, talking, moving along.

Then it happens. You discover that someone, someone with whom you’ve spoken, is gone. They’ve left this world and you didn’t expect it. Your mind races back to those last words you spoke to them. What did I say? Was I nice? Were my words ‘good enough’? Did I smile? Did I look them in the eye? Did I pay attention to them? And then we weigh our words — could I have said that in a better way?

And we have to forever live with whatever those words were, and how we may have said them. And though any sudden death will make us reflect on our last interactions with that person, death by suicide causes a freeze-frame effect like nothing else, and leaves the survivors to replay and replay the words they said and the words they didn’t say.

We usually speak as if we’re going to be able to continue the conversation, as if we’ll have another chance to correct the misunderstandings. And we also refrain from offering words from our heart. Those special words, “I love you,” “I miss you,” “Your friendship means so much to me,” or even, “I look forward to seeing you again,” are so rarely spoken. We hold such words in reserve, to preserve their specialness and to save them for that momentous moment.

But perhaps now is the momentous moment. Perhaps today is that special time. The conversation that we have with him, or with her, well – that could be the last conversation that we have with that soul. Those could be our last words.

[11 March 2015]