I WONDER IF I’LL HAVE A CHANCE to say a few kind words to the people I love before I die?
I’m thinking about that because I’m reading in Genesis the story of Jacob in his final days. Jacob did what seemed to have been a custom in ancient times. He called in his family – his sons and his grandsons. And he talked to each one of them.
He blesses most of them, though he gets on the case of his sons who made some tragic decisions.
We run a similar death ritual, usually without the blessing or the criticism. When someone is about to die, we “call in the family.”
The family huddles around the dying person, waiting for the inevitable.
My family did that when my dad was dying. I flew in from 800 miles away to join with the rest of my family who lived in the area. We took turns sitting with Dad – day and night – as he lay in his bed that we had set up in the living room of his home.
By the time I got there, Dad was in a coma. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I’m here, Dad. It’s me.” There was no response. I rested my cheek tight against his and said, “I love you, Dad.” And I hoped the hospice people were right, that the sense of hearing is among the last to leave.
I’m pretty sure I know what Dad would have said if he could have said something. I think his words would have left me smiling and crying at the same time. Dad was a man of few words, but on rare occasions like this he could manage “I love you.”
I wonder what I will say if I get a chance to say anything to my wife, my daughter, my son, and my grandchildren (who are both still growing inside their moms).
Note to self: Do not say what Jacob said to his troublemaker sons Simeon and Levi: “A curse on their uncontrolled anger….I’ll throw them out with the trash” (Genesis 49:7 NLT).
That’s no way to say goodbye.
Granted, many of us have some treacherous and toxic relatives in our extended family who deserve words as stern as that. But let’s hope they are not in the huddle around us when we leave this place. For it would tend to make us leave sooner rather than later. And I prefer later to sooner.
For those we hold dear, it seems to me they would love hearing us bless them before we die. Words like those Jacob spoke to his not-so-violent sons.
- To Joseph: “Your father’s God helps you. God Almighty blesses you… With rain from above… With many babies born to your wives” (Genesis 49:25 NCV).
- To Asher: “Asher will dine on rich foods and produce food fit for kings” (Genesis 49:20 NLT).
- To Zebulun: “Zebulun will live near the sea. His shore will be a safe place for ships” (Genesis 49:13 NCV).
I think it’s a great idea for human beings to do that kind of thing when they know the end is coming.
But why not do it while we live and love and walk the planet with our family and our friends?
Is it not okay to every once in a while tell your spouse, partner, or devoted friend, “How did I get so lucky to find someone as selfless and compassionate as you?”?
Or if we have a flair for the dramatic, we could pull an Abraham: Wait until we reach our 60s or older, and then tell the wife she is so good-looking that we’re afraid someone is going to kill us so they can marry her. So we ask her to tell everyone that she’s our sister.
I think the wife might take that as a compliment.
I think it might be okay, too, to tell the daughter, “You are the worker bee. I have never met anyone who works harder than you. I admire your commitment to your family and friends and career. It boggles my head to think of everything you have accomplished at such a young age—and at how many people likely owe their very lives to you because of what you have chosen to do with yourself.”
And I think it’s probably okay to say to the son, “Whose kid are you? I know I’m Me, but I’m not so sure you’re You. You’re some other dad’s son. A dad who’s smarter, kinder, and more level-headed. That’s who must have programmed your genes. All except the gene for that recessed chin of yours. That much I do recognize.”
Give it a thought. If there’s someone in your life who deserves a blessing, a kind word, or a Hallmark card of appreciation, go ahead. Make their day.
For more about blessings
- Bless your kids dumbstruck
- Kind words win the iPad
- A family worth singing about
- “Blessing,” Complete Bible Handbook, page 91
- “Curses,” A Quick Guided Tour Through the Bible, page 54
Blog subscribers who win books this week
- Philip Briggs
- Chris Moody
I give away free books each week to randomly selected subscribers to my free blog and quarterly newsletter. The Chosen Ones get the option of selecting my new release: A Quick Guided Tour Through the Bible – among about half a dozen other titles.