This column first appeared in the February 2, 2020 PRINT edition of The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers:
It might be depressing to think about what our dying words or wishes will be, but that’s where my head is right now.
I didn’t know legendary basketball star Kobe Bryant. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I respected his accomplishments and I was always impressed with stories of his financial success post-basketball.
The day before his death, Bryant was passed on the NBA’s all-time scoring list by Lebron James. Bryant took to Twitter to react to James’ achievement:
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother” followed by the hashtag #33644 to represent the number of points it took James to pass Bryant.
Last words from celebrities and other personalities can be uplifting, but some are peculiar, and others are disputed for authenticity.
Did so-and-so really say that?
Unless we are there, we’ll never know for sure.
We rely on witnesses to share last words. One can only assume that some have been altered to preserve some dignity for the deceased.
Most last words make complete sense to those that hear them, especially if you know something about the person who spoke them.
For example, Nostradamus reportedly made one final prediction with his last words, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.”
Other obvious last words come from death row, often filled with apology and regret. Some are more bit more sarcastic.
When asked if he had any final requests, convicted murderer James W. Rodgers said, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest” before being shot to death by a firing squad.
On a more spiritual note, some last words make us wonder what that person might be sensing or wondering as they pass on. According to his sister, Steve Jobs’ last words were, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.”
But what if no one is there to hear them? What if no one reports those words?
What’s probably most true about our last words is that no one will remember the last thing we say.
When my dad passed away 10 years ago, I wasn’t there. So I asked family members if they heard the last thing he said. “I think it was, ‘Get me some tea,'” my mother reported.
This made me smile because my father was obsessed with iced tea. Did he really say that, or did my mother tell me this because she knew I would smile?
The last thing I remember my father saying was, “I love you, too” as I left him for the last time at a nursing home.
The beautiful thing about social media is that we can use it for this very purpose — to capture our thoughts, inspirations and reflections on the world around us. We can use Twitter and other platforms to uplift and praise the accomplishments of those around us.
We can use it to share our love of life.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.