“Last Words” is entwined with my relationship with the movie Ghost and its hypothesis that the “essence” or “beingness” of people remains after death until unfinished business is resolved and only then transcends to where it came from (unless you are evil).
There is a line in the movie Ghost that I quote directly in the play, with attribution, when I say “because I think they will be our, Susan and my, last words to each other, and I do believe that 'the love inside you -- you take it with you'.”
What then are “Last Words?” My imagined scenario was telling Susan in some unique way that involved our souls communicating that “I love you, and I will always love you” – meaning eternally.
This past Tuesday something else happened. I had lunch with my friend Jim and his wife. I’ve known Jim for about 35 years. We have done some very meaningful work together. I think we each helped the other do things that changed the lives of people in our families and even the larger world around us. Jim is moving into full Alzheimer’s His current mental status is hard to define. He listens but has a hard time speaking. He can articulate just a few words at a time, and often mainly to let us know he understands the conversation. It can be uncomfortable at moments for everyone, and frustrating for Jim. It is clear though that Jim is leaving us as the animated person that has been Jim.
His wife served as a great facilitator, much more aware of the small physical cues to indicate Jim’s attention and needs. We spent a good amount of time going over the highlights of our work and times together. We were also able to bemoan the current political environment, with Jim’s facial expressions communicating how he really felt!
As Jim’s eyes began to drift shut indicating the need for a nap I knew it was time to leave. I stood up to go and suddenly Jim did too, with more energy than before, and he walked me to the door. Perhaps sensing what was about to happen his wife, who follows close behind to assure he doesn’t fall, stepped back a safe distance to give some privacy. I turn to face Jim and shake hands. We stood for an eternal moment staring each other in the eyes as Jim clearly said: “Thank you.” Transfixed in our stare, I don’t recall exactly all of the rest of the words as he expressed how much he appreciated what we had done together.
With a clarity that is rare and unmistakable, I knew that Jim knew that these were going to be his “Last Words” to me. That is, his last words as "Jim". All I could say back was “Thank you, Jim. I love you.”