LAST WORDS

Pierre Fontenot Wednesday, December 4, 2013 0
LAST WORDS

I was in conversation recently with someone who had lost her father to cancer. He was a loving family man, southern style, like we raise our boys to be daddies and grandpas, and when he went home and hospice came there began the vigil of the family, watching, being there, trying to snatch one more moment where he was he, and we were we.

He was out of it, out of it, for days, and then one day, for just a moment of a moment, he was lucid and he looked at the faces gathered in his room and he said, “Am I in heaven?”

Not bad.

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One thing you need to know about me: I don’t take life cheap. Not always so.

Once upon a onceupona, I was a different me, and I thought myself larger, more important, and no surprise, I got cured of that real, real good.

Where once I thought I was owed my life; I came out of the lesson trying to keep my birthday a secret, play it down, because I truly believe the most appropriate thing I should do on my birthday is hit knees and thank Him for a life unearned, an investment with such mixed results, and mostly I thank Him for not rescinding it yet. As pitiful as I was yesterday, as rude as I was last week, as insensitive as I was last month, as meandering as I was last year, yet I remain, this day, this right-now…and precious, precious, precious it is.

There are something like seven billion people out there on the pretty planet. I’m a sand grain with a soul.

 

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Back when I could say twenty-something and fit the description, I often would kill time in bookstores and I have a specific memory of finding a compilation of Famous Last Words, a perspective aspirin, famous people, famous lives, and then it ends, but not without last words…

Sometimes they die thinking about money, like P.T. Barnum, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”

For my age group John Belushi is beloved, and as funny as he was, he had a sad end, saying, “Please don’t leave me alone.”

There’s a lot of unintentional humor. Jack Daniel, yes, that Jack Daniel, his last words were, “One last drink, please.” Thomas Grasso chose to bitch about his last meal before lethal injection, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” Thomas, now we know.

A script writer for the soap opera Days Of Our Lives, his last words were, “And now a word from our sponsor.”

We wonder, don’t we, about what’s it like, right there at the cliff of life. Alfred Hitchcock, “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.” Here’s Steve Jobs, Apple, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!” Mozart said, “The taste of death is upon my lips. I feel something that is not of this earth.”

The guy who wrote Amazing Grace, his last stanza was, “I am in the land of the dying and soon am going to the land of the living.”

I was caught by Queen Elizabeth’s last words. To the history impaired: rarely in the history of the world has any female been so powerful, globally, ever before and unto now, as Queen E, and hear her, “All my possessions for a moment of time.”

A Union soldier in the Civil War, dying, alone, wrote in his diary, “June 3. Cold Harbor. I was killed.”

Conrad Hilton, he of hotels, and forefather to you-know-who, his last words were, “Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.”

“Ch bin Heinrich Himmler.” I am Heinrich Himmler. And how did that meet-the-Maker thing go, Heinrich? Lot of people wonder. Another World War II notable, the English general Bernard Montgomery, “Well, now I must go to meet God and try to explain all those men I killed at Alamein.”

Remember Agnes Morehead from Bewitched? “Mama.”

Funny people should go out funny. Bob Hope’s wife asked him where he wanted to be buried and he said, “Surprise me.”

Freddy Mercury, from Queen, probably deserves a do-over: “Pee-pee.” Anybody part of Bohemian Rhapsody deserves better than that.

I get a kick out of the irony of an old school mobster named Andrew Mutton. His car was notorious for having trouble with the starter, and when it cranked up on the first go he says, “Well, this is certainly a pleasant surprise,” right before the bomb rigged to the ignition exploded.

Martin Luther King wanted them to play Blessed Lord, “Play it real pretty.”

If I was facing a firing squad, as Pedro Munoz Seca did during the Spanish Civil War, I’d like to think I’d be quick on my feet and say, “I am starting to believe you are not intending to count me amongst your friends,” to his firing squad. Next time I tipple I’m toasting you Pedro.

Right there at the end, no matter your station, you can get away saying anything to anybody. Wilson Mizner told the priest, “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.” Ain’t got the faintest idea who you were, but if that’s all you ever said, you said a lot.

I realized some years back that Judaism, Islam and Christianity can all be wrong; but if one of them is right then the other two missed it. A lot of people pray at the end. Here’s Muhammad, “In the company of the blessed: from the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous, O Allah, the highest companions. O Allah, the highest companions. O Allah, the highest companions.”

Here’s a Christian in Latin, “In manus tuas domine confide spirtum meum.” That’s Mary I of Scotland and she’s saying, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

Here’s a Mexican, Jose Maria Morelos, fighting for Mexican independence, about to get executed, and he hits pretty close to home for me, “Lord, if I have done well, You know it; and if badly, I take refuge in Your infinite mercy.”

 

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This stirs me up inside. Sometimes that’s a good thing. You the reader and me the writer, we’re all together now in pulse, and we all know the pulse ends, and the gift ends. The thing to take from this is not to start rehearsing some notable quote for the great moment, but to pull back from the everydayness of life and to re-realize that one day there will be no tomorrow, and should we die saying something dumb is less important than did we live well, and right, and clean and to insert one of my father’s favorite lines, “saved for life now and eternity later.”

To make a point I’ll end with this quote, “You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you.”  The last words of Alex, an African Grey Parrot, that was used in psychology research at Brandeis University, said to his handler at the end of the day, and found dead in his cage the next morning.

 

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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where we think a little reflection never killed anyone.  Uncle P can be reached at  HYPERLINK “mailto:81creativity@gmail.com” 81creativity@gmail.com.