For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV).
Our reading this morning are the last written words that we know about to Timothy from the Apostle Paul. It is not surprising that they should have remained as a cherished letter for all these centuries. Beyond being the inspired words of God, they were Paul’s “last words.” Personal items from deceased love ones that preserve our last contacts with them and connect us with their lives and their final days on Earth, letters, journals, photographs, and items of clothing are usually treasured as special reminders of both the joy and fragility of those lives.
Although the media through which we communicate may have changed, the poignancy of a loved one’s last words to us have not. A final message might now consist of a collection of electrons beamed to us from thousands of miles away rather than a letter written with pen and paper, but it is the content of that communication as an expression of a unique and cherished personality that matters most to us, not its form. Space Shuttle Columbia astronaut Laurel Clark of Racine, Wisconsin, left many friends and relatives behind, including a husband and an 8-year-old son, when her life ended in the tragedy of February 1, 2003. There is little doubt that these were Laurel’s final words to her family, because they match the description of Laurel’s last message given by her brother, Daniel, in an interview with CNN anchor Paula Zahn the day after the Columbia disaster. In addition to her description of the awesome beauty of space and some of her duties while aboard the shuttle, she ended with the following paragraph:
Thanks to many of you who have supported me and my adventures throughout the years. This was definitely one to beat all. I hope you could feel the positive energy that I beamed to the whole planet as we glided over our shared planet.
Love to all,
They were not extraordinary words, just words of love and appreciation. Perhaps had she known those would be her last words they would have been different. Very few people know the moment of their death. If we did, perhaps it would make a difference in the way we talked to one another. My children will tell you that I have a peculiar habit that I have followed since they old enough to be away from home. I always speak directly to them when they call, regardless of whether they called for me or not. I am never “too busy” to say hello before they end their call home. That practice is rooted in my personal experience. The night before my Dad died I called to say hello. He had a very tiring day and was resting in his easy chair. After talking with my mother, I declined to “bother” him when asked if I wanted to say hello. I’m sure my conversation would not have been extraordinary, or lengthy, but I would have had one more chance to say hello. I wonder if you have been too busy or too tired for those brief snippets of conversation with your family. Your words are treasures. Give them away frequently and lovingly.
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