The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Last Words

Eddie’s Last Words

“How do people choose their final words? Do they realize their gravity? Are they fated to be wise?

By his 83rd birthday, Eddie had lost nearly everyone he’d cared about. Some had died young, and some had been given a chance to grow old before a disease or an accident took them away. At their funerals, Eddie listened as mourners recalled their final conversations. ‘It’s as if he knew he was going to die. . . .’ some would say.

Eddie never believed that. As far as he could tell, when your time came, it came, and that was that. You might say something smart on your way out, but you might just as easily say something stupid.

For the record, Eddie’s final words would be ‘Get back!'” (13)

Albom, Mitch. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Hyperion: New York, 2003.

What do you think is the significance of Eddie’s last words?

Famous Last Words

The first “famous last words” that came to my mind were from the Bible. On the cross, Christ knew that He was making His final statements to His disciples and each is significant (although, I’m not going to take a lot of time to explain that right now). According to the books of Matthew and Mark, Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46, Mk 15:34). According to Luke, His last words were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46). And according to John, He declared, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30).

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20). I love this final reminder that Jesus is with believers as they spread the Good News.

Because I was already thinking about last words and the significance of them, I decided to look up some famous last words (see here and here); some realized they were dying, but others did not.

For example, P.T. Barnum said, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”

Author of Peter Pan, James M. Barrie said, “I can’t sleep.”

And Lord Byron said, “Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight.”

Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, said, “I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”

Right before dying, people have said all sorts of things, ranging from the prosaic to the profound.

Our Last Words

WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature recently linked to Mostly Bright Ideas, and one of his posts, “Arrivals and Departures,” was about the countdown to death he and his siblings are going through as they face the loss of their brother to brain cancer. You really should read the entire post because it’s a touching and poignant story, but here’s an excerpt that relates to our discussion of The Five People You Meet in Heaven and last words.

“What I’d really like,” I said, “would be to pull into the rental car place just as the Low Fuel light was coming on.”

And then Michael asked, “Do you think we’ll ever see Joe again?”

After a few long seconds of silence, Jackie said this:

“You never know if you’ll see someone again. Whenever we leave anybody, there’s a chance it’ll turn out to be the last time.”

We had been disagreeing and fooling around and acting like a bunch of immature children all week. But now my sister had said something true and perfect. Death sometimes announces itself months or years in advance. At other times it shows up without notice, and in a blink someone who’d always been there is gone. We may have just seen them a week ago, but we didn’t understand it would be the final time. We didn’t realize that good-bye was the real thing. Sometimes we don’t know. Is the tank half full? A quarter? Are we burning the last few drops? There’s no gauge to tell us how many days we have left.

The lesson, of course, is that we should treat every time spent together and every parting as though there may not be another. We hugged Michael several times before he hurried off to begin his journey home. Who knew when — or if — we would see him again? Or if he would see us?

I appreciate his point that we never know when might be the last time we see a friend or family member, so we should make the most of every opportunity we have with our loved ones. We don’t know when we might be saying our last words to someone, so we should take care to speak words of kindness and love.

Recap of discussion questions

What do you think is the significance of Eddie’s last words?

What is your response to Mostly Bright Idea’s post?