A good friend of mine sent me an archive of last words spoken by executed criminals today. There were hundreds of them in the file, and after about five I began to feel strange for reading them. But I couldn’t stop.
I was struck by the fact each of them felt so similar in tone.
They spoke of God.
They spoke of lasting love and unity for their friends and family.
They spoke of forgiveness.
It’s easy to recognize fear motivating these words seconds before your execution. I’m sure they were scared. But it reminded me I'm a terminal being myself. I have seconds too. Just a lot more of them. Hopefully. As I’ve thought about this I’ve wondered if the relatively short span of our lives, criminals and saints alike, doesn’t serve as a great humbling. An indelible reminder that there’s ultimately nothing to compete for, to divide over or any real reason for which to give in to selfishness. We will die. It’s just a “when?" So we might as well live focused on the goodness of God, enjoying opportunities for unity and closeness with others and forgiving ourselves and others for the ways we thought we could cheat death with selfishness. the things death row inmates speak of in their final minutes.
Perhaps we need death clearly in view to be able to clearly see everything that matters. And maybe this seeing is the beginning of resurrection. That is, the beginning of living forever once death has done its humbling.
May God grant you many, many seconds, and eyes that see forever.