Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by Viswamitra, Nov 22, 2019.
Famous last words. From Orson Welles' acclaimed film 'Citizen Kane'.
The topic is intriguing for me from a scientific point of view. There have been a few books written about the last days of people, and some of them describe the words of the dying and what those felt like to those around them. But personally, I'd rather the going is sudden for me and mine. Finalizing and updating some long due paperwork, I am composing letters for a few people to open after I die. These letters will get updated every 1-2 years. I would rather be remembered with those words that I can take time to write.
On a general note, I am curious about the last words of those who are atheists and actively eschewed religion and God all their lives or in the latter part of their lives. People who did not follow rituals even for the sake of family or relatives. When death becomes imminent and their words are more involuntary, do they echo their more coherent selves? Or maybe one can never tell as their words can be interpreted in many ways.
It is good to read the topic discussed like this. Not many are fine with talking about it. Along with those letters, I am looking into the nitty-gritty of cremation, funeral, etc. and find that practically no one I know in real life is comfortable talking about these. The overall plan of least impact to environment and pocketbook is clear enough, but would be nice to talk about these with someone I know well enough.
From: Glenn W. Most**, writing about the last words of Socrates.
“From earliest times, this fascination with last moments has come to be concentrated in particular upon last words: situated at that most mysterious of borders, between life and death, they seem to look backwards and forwards at once, judging the speaker's own past life from the vantage-point of a future realm he is about to attain and hinting at the nature of what awaits us all from the perspective of that past life he still - however tenuously - shares with us. A moment earlier and there is no reason to privilege any one discourse of the speaker's above another; a moment later, and his lips are sealed forever. Only in that final moment can he seem to pass an unappealable judgement on himself, to combine in a single body two incompatible subjectivities, the one suffering and extremely mortal, the other dispassionate and transcendent. If he is a thinker or a man of action, this is his last chance to summarize a lifetime's meditation or experience in a pithy, memorable aphorism. If he is a celebrated poet, he can be imagined to have composed his own epitaph; if he is a Hellenistic poet, he may even in fact have done so.
All this aura surrounds Socrates' last words, but they also have an attraction of their own: here the philosopher who did not write speaks to us for the very last time; the thinker for whom philosophy was a preparation for death utters his dying words; the man upon whose life Athens passed sentence now passes his own.”
And what were those words?
"Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don't forget."
**The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 43 (i) 96-111 (1993).
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/639455
There is also an interpretation that is unprintable in IL Forum. I was referring to Citizen Kane only earlier.
Just now I read your snippet on last words.
Incidentally my husband's sister's husband aged 86 passed away a few days back and only yesterday 13 th day rituals were over. On the 13th day sastrigal was narrating about the last journey and about the significance of dhanas etc.Though he was 86, and had lived a full life, Death was sudden,though he had dementia for some time.I thought of sharing a few lines in Tamil.
The previous night he had some breathing problem.Family doctor was summoned.The doctor gave some medicines and asked them to take ECG and Echo and meet him with the results the next evening.Next morning he took coffee .He told his son that he has already reached the lab, taken the tests. Strangely enough he said that he has failed in the test and should re write it again. The son convinced him that they are at home only and they have to start to the lab. He repeated that he has already gone .So saying he went to the bathroom and collapsed immediately.That was his last breath.
My MIl was in the hospital for a day. She took hold of my hands and asked me to take care of her son( my husband)She blessed me and my husband with raised hands. That was the end.
My mother who suffered stroke for nine years, was able to lift her hands and walk a few steps on her own on the last day .She was narrating very clearly( though she lost clarity of speech 9 years back)Her talk was about how she was sitting on a swing which was moving fast. She said that she was catching hold of the side chains.She was narrating how to make aromatic vathal kuzhambu in a kal satti. It was being addressed to my sister aged 15( in reality my sister 50 at that time and was in Delhi.She took time for extracting tamarind juice, heating of kal satti, seasoning with mustard,fenugreek etc etc, not forgetting curry leaves.She extended her arms as though to get a morsel of vathal kuzhambu rice .Suddenly shouted and asked some one to open the door. It was the end. Breathing slowly stopped.
Neighbour mami passed away a few months back. Just a few minutes before death she insisted that all the doors are to be closed as some smoke was coming inside.Within 5 minutes the entire house was pervaded by some gas of pungent smell.The attending doctor nearby asked us to get some 20 face masks to cover our faces.The entire house for a few hundred yards was covered with some strange odour and the lady passed away. It took nearly 25 mts for the gas to vanish. Even in Chemistry lab, I have not experienced such a bad odour.the doctor said that it was a way of losing one's life.
Viswa, have you got any idea of this?
Very often we discuss about this topic in the house even when my MIl was alive and we meant no hesitation or inauspiciousness about this.
Your narration was excellent and informative. I think we should have some information on the subject,which nobody can escape in life.
Thank you Viswa.
But, you went into puzzle mode!
Thank you for your meaningful response. Like you, I am a big fan of talking about end of life without any inhibitions and I get a lot of push back from my family and friends circle. Like what Smt. Jayasala said, isn't it inevitable situation we all will encounter at some point in our lives? What is the point in sweeping the fear under the carpet?
Frankly, I never thought of writing notes for my dear ones periodically reviewing it for changes, if any. You are way ahead in thinking clearly. I can understand your thinking that what is the point in people around you interpreting a mumble of words from you the way they like to think? What can be better than what is available in writing with your articulated thoughts?
The only question I have for you is whether what is relevant when we are live and kicking would be the same when we know that we are imminent? When we become imminent or don't have consciousness or suffering dementia, where are those mumbling words come from? Apparently, it is not coming from our mind. Perhaps, we may have a big picture at the time we are ready to leave than little things we may right for our kith and kin.
My son explained some of the life-time legacy videos he had taken for those who are in death-bed giving instructions to their family members. With intermittent memory losses, they get energy to articulate things in a few words with lot of intervals in between. He described those moments as selfless moments thinking from the shoes of those kith and kin and probably flowing from their pure and unsullied consciousness but not very coherent conversations. How it is being interpreted by the living family members is a totally different topic altogether.
Does end of life give us a different view of the world? The question I ponder often but without any answers.
Dear Smt. Jayasala:
Well, what can I say? I can't find words of gratitude for your summation of various experiences of yours with dying people. I wish I have a crystal ball to understand what their words really mean. Thank you for your kind words of appreciation.
"I failed the test"
"Watch for the smoke"
"Here is a recipe for Vathal Kuzhambu"
"I am on a fast-moving swing".
Are they normal words of a human bidding good bye or abnormal wisdom of consciousness of each one telling their story of how they are going to reach their end?
"I need to get down there"
"Someone is standing next to me"
"I need to get ready to catch my ride"
These are some words of dying people in the US.
My FIL said, "I need to go and do my service" before he passed away. My wife was wondering why he said that as he spent a lot of time providing service at Sundaram, Sathya Sai Organization.
There is one thing that is clear to me. As you know, the last thought one has before they pass away has some significance for their next life, according to the Scriptures. That is why people suggest we need to develop habits that is likely to be repeated and freeze when someone passes away into their consciousness. Namasmarana is intended only for that.
Now looking at it more practically, I believe the last words of dying people are not coming out of their mind but from their pure and unsullied consciousness without any selfishness as I had indicated in my response to Rihana. They would have high wisdom for the living provided we learn to decode those words. The research is being carried out in this area to study at least the pattern from various deaths. At least, it would be helpful how to respond to dying people by understanding them correctly.
I answered your puzzle response "Rosebud" with an answer, "is that a memory of a child or something else?" meaning there are more interpretations of the publisher's last word.
Once a philosopher always a philosopher. It is interpreted as cure for the long life is death and therefore he suggested that rooster needs to be offered to the God of health which was the tradition those days.
Soka may say, "See me after class" and I may say, "Is there life after delivery?". They may seem normal but may mean something significant if it is coming out of consciousness of each one of us.