Do you ever think about, after a loved one dies, what were the last words that we spoke with them? In October 2001, I was back at the seminary in Washington, D.C., and it was a Thursday evening. My friend, Bill, called me that evening. He was back in Rochester in our house of formation for men who were discerning the priesthood. He called just to chat. However, I had an exam on Friday morning. I really wanted to focus on studying instead of talking on the phone. So, Bill said to me, “Give me some lovin’.” And I said, “I love you, Bill.” “I love you too,” Bill said. We hung up. The next day, Bill died in a tragic accident at Letchworth State Park. I was devastated. I was also feeling a bit guilty for not talking with him on the phone.
However, what I truly am grateful for is how we ended our conversation. With an expression of love. I’m thankful that my last words to Bill were to assure him of my love for him. And I’m thankful that his words to me were love.
To think that any moment, we could be speaking our last words, or someone could be speaking their last words to us. We just have no certainty as to what the next moment will hold. We don’t know what will be happening in 5 minutes, 30 minutes, tomorrow or next week. All we can really be certain of is what is happening in this moment, right here, right now.
We have the opportunity to speak words of love and encouragement in any moment. Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday. Passion is a word that means “to suffer or endure.” As Jesus endures his suffering and crucifixion, he speaks words (without using so many words) of love and compassion. Jesus’ passion is his words of love to us, his last words of love to us while on this earth. His love was sacrificial.
Wouldn’t it be interesting that instead of speaking from a reaction to someone or something, we instead speak from our integrity, our authenticity, our very soul! And we speak words that bring life to others….that bring love to others! We can say “I love you” many times a day. But, do we really mean it? Are those words coming from a place in us that really loves the other person? Does the other person hear just an utterance of three words or do they hear the very heart and soul of us? As the saying goes, say what you mean and mean what you say.
Ironically, Bill and I shared the same birthdate. However, we shared so much more than that too. We shared a deep love for each other, a love for me that is like the passion of Jesus. Bill, may you be resting in the eternal love of God.