Beliefnet

A story from Simple Truths of Life.

I've learned the value of making amends

and how to bury my anger and sorrow,

for I wouldn't want them part of my legacy

should I never see a tomorrow.

Final Words

In stories I have previously penned, I have referenced one of my father's favorite sayings. He used to say in a joking manner, "I think we should all be born with expiration dates stamped on our foreheads...like a carton of milk." And since his death several years ago, I have often contemplated this unique concept, its simplicity and the obvious truth behind his rationalization. He was suggesting that if we somehow knew when and where we were destined to leave not one more footprint on this earth, it would somehow better the days we live on it.

It makes me wonder. If we did know when our "expiration date" was, how would that information lead us to do things differently? How would that knowledge affect the way we live our lives and treat others? Would we live consistently respecting others and showing our loved ones how much we care? Or would we live selfishly, insensitive to the feelings and needs of others, waiting until the closing days or hours to make amends, knowing that our "final words" are what would be considered most significant and therefore, most memorable?

I recently read an article about someone who attended a luncheon with several highly accomplished people. The speaker gave them two minutes to write a response to one question: "If you knew you were dying, what would your final words be?"

Apparently, despite the highly polished resumes of those in attendance, not one of them referenced their notable accomplishments or spoke of their high-value material acquisitions. Instead, each attendee indicated their last words would be focused on their loved ones. That, in itself, speaks volumes regarding what should truly be considered "success" in life. Work, becoming successful and setting personal and professional goals to achieve, are all vitally important aspects of life. However, in the end, our true worth and significance comes not from what we have accomplished or attained, but in the legacy we have left in the hearts and minds of those we've loved and those who have loved us. When all is said and done, what will matter most are those relationships and bonds we've created with the people in our lives with whom we've shared love, laughter and memories.

Death is not known to be an efficient entity. Therefore, the date of our ultimate departure is not likely to be something we can prepare for in advance, or schedule on our busy calendar. There will be no notification email sent out with the subject: PENDING DEMISE. For most of us, it is highly unlikely that we will know our "expiration date" and therefore, be given the opportunity to speak heartfelt and articulately selected, "final words." The thought of that type of premeditation is uncomfortably morbid and truthfully, rather depressing for most of us.

However, after contemplating my own response to the speaker's question, it occurred to me, the days I am living now ARE my final words; not just the "words," but everything I am currently doing and saying to, or for, others. These are the things that will be remembered by my friends and loved ones. The way in which I am living my life, my actions, my relationships with them on a regular, everyday basis ARE my final words, which epitomizes the old adage, "Actions speak louder than words."

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