The son was in the Emergency Room with his dying father. He sat in a chair by the bed. Every couple of minutes he would look closely at his dad, and then he would look at me. Eventually, I asked him, again, how I could help.

“Is he going to give some last words?” he asked.

I realized that the son had watched so many media representations of death that he was expected the final speech, the words of wisdom that capture a life and chart a course for the future generations.

I shook my head. “I don’t think he’s going to say anything more.”

And he didn’t.

Last wordsI told that story last week in the last session of a class I was teaching. It was the last course of a Master’s degree for four people in the class. I said, “I’d like you to give us your last words at the end of this degree, at the end of this process.”

I pointed out that there is a tradition of this kind of summary in Scripture. The book of Deuteronomy, for example, is a final speech for Moses, a retelling of the whole story of God’s work during his time in leadership. And then God guides Moses in the composition of a last song. And then Moses gives a final blessing.

Paul calls a group of leaders and gives them a last speech. (I talked about this last week.) Paul will also give a summary of his values to Timothy. He gave a couple of other summaries in Acts and at the end of 2 Corinthians.

And John gives us an account of Jesus’ last teaching to the disciples. Although he knew he would come back, Jesus saw the end of this phase of his life and ministry as a perfect opportunity to summarize everything to this point.

So I’m curious. As you are wrapping up with a season of life, a job, a part of a relationship, what if you spent some time telling the story of that part of your shared life? The process of telling is likely to shape you and the ones you are talking with.

And you won’t leave people waiting, unfulfilled, for your last words.