What We Say As We’re Nearing Death

empty stairs
Photo: Leo Wieling

If Someone You Love Is Dying Now

If you are facing the death of a beloved right now, I invite you to write down the words you hear — even those that seem to make no sense — without editing, fearing, or judging them. As you transcribe the words, and as you read through these chapters, you may discover that the very changes you hear in your beloved’s language, which may seem scary and confusing, may ultimately bring you comfort and meaning.

Jewels often emerge as we listen closely and write down final words, and the transcription process can help us feel more connected to our loved ones and even closer to Source. Many times the dying say things that don’t make sense at the moment. But months or years later, you will find hints of prophecy or answers to questions in those words.

brown and white area rug
Photo: Tim Arterbury

Here are some suggestions for you to use as you courageously and compassionately witness final words.

~ Enter the world of your beloved. Imagine you are visiting a new country. Keep an open heart and mind. Record in a final-words journal what you hear, see, and feel; it will be your private travelogue about that other place. You may be surprised later by the pearls of wisdom you find there.

~ Have eyes for the sacred. If possible, imagine that the territory you have entered is sacred ground, despite the terrible loss looming before you. Be open to the possibility that something transpersonal is occurring, and that the words you hear are tracking its course.

~ Validate your loved one’s words and experiences. Repeat back what your beloved has said, to let the person know you heard it: “Oh, your modality is broken. I would love to know more about that.” Avoid telling your beloved that what he or she is seeing or saying is wrong or “not real.”

~ Be a student of the language. Since you are in a new country, learn its language. Study it. Practice it. Speak it. Listen for the symbols and metaphors that are meaningful to your beloved and then use them when you communicate. For example, ask, “Would you like me to help you find your passport?” When you hear things that sound nonsensical, simply think, “Oh, that’s how they phrase things in this country!”

~ Ask questions with authenticity and curiosity. It’s okay to let the dying person know you are confused and would love to hear more of what he or she wants to communicate. “Could you tell me more about…?”

~ Assume your loved one can hear you even when unresponsive or quiet; let the dying person know how deep your love goes. As we die, our sense of hearing is the last sense to go. When you are in another room, and especially when you are speaking about your beloved, speak with lots of praise and gratitude. Speak words that will bring joy or comfort to the person.

~ Savor silence. Sometimes it is better to just sit with your loved one. When words don’t build bridges, know that the dying may be much more attuned to telepathic or other nonverbal communication, much like the kind of communication we experience when we pray. Speak to the person you love as you would in prayer.

gray concrete stairs with gray concrete railings
Photo: Ivan Aleksic

Healing Grief

Your listening to and honoring final words will make the dying process easier for your beloved. At the same time, transcribing the words can be healing for you as you move through the loss of someone you love. Make a journal out of the words you’re writing down. Remember that the words that don’t make sense are as important as the ones that do. Notice metaphors or symbols that are repeated, and paradoxical phrases. Are there certain colors or shapes that are repeated? Are there references to people or places you do not see? Meanings may not be clear at first, but when you write down the words you have heard, you may find comforting or healing associations.

What might seem senseless to a stranger may hold deep personal meaning to you. Final words can be like dreams. We learn so much by reflecting upon these words and free-associating with them. In your final-words journal, write down the words you hear, and allow yourself to free-associate. Imagine the words are those of an oracle, or the wisdom of dreams, and let them evoke images and reflections in you. You may be surprised and moved by what emerges.

My mother and I created raku-fired plaques of my father’s final words in honor of his memory. Art is a powerful healing tool. Many times, the best way to process grief is without language. Taking final words and building art with them and through them brings us to a greater understanding of their meaning and of those we love. Integrating final words with art is one way to keep the portal open between the living and the dying, and a way to honor those who left before us.

 

Lisa Smartt is the author of the bestselling Words at the Threshold  (2017 New World Library) based on the findings of her Final Words Project (finalwordsproject.org), which she established with Dr. Raymond Moody. She has authored several other books including Diet for a Broken Heart, Lessons in Lullabies, Veil: Love Poems from across the Threshold, and Cante Bardo. Lisa is also a book coach and delights in being a midwife to new ideas and authors. Find out more about her book coaching here: https://lifeafterlife.com/book-coaching/