Savoring the Present by Pondering Final Goodbyes

Rick Kraft

IF you knew you were going to have a final exchange with a loved one before they passed, what would you say? If you knew that, after decades of a close relationship, you had five minutes to share your final words, what words would you use? 

Think of someone you love deeply. Speak out loud what you would say in your final five minutes with them. Better yet, reach out right now and tell the loved one what you would say. Speak from the bottom of your heart. This guarantees your message is shared just in case you don’t have the opportunity to say goodbye.

Some of you have first-hand experience at this, and have a personal testimony of how a goodbye played out.   

Recently, a friend of mine who lost her husband nine years ago after 33 years together shared how she handled her husband’s slow death to cancer. Her words moved me and are an example of how she approached her goodbye.

She wrote, “First I prayed for him to be cured, then I prayed for him to get well … then I prayed for him to not hurt, then I prayed for him to not be in constant pain. Then I prayed he could walk, then I prayed he could just talk to me … communicate. …Then … I prayed for mercy … just begged God to grant His peace and not make him suffer any longer, to make it easy … And God provided.

“The most beautiful minutes of my life were spent watching my husband journey into Heaven. Pure and sweet, a freedom and peace encompassed his passing, as his soul elevated, quite literally, as witnessed by myself and my daughter, out of his flesh and into a space undescribable by me. But I saw it, and so did our daughter as we felt, watched the earth and Heaven become one, and marveled at his soul rising out of his body.

“And, because of that moment … I promise, neither of us will ever be afraid of death … So sweet, so serene …

“My husband was so brave. The courage in which he accepted his mortality, and death, was amazing. He spoke of the future, what he wanted for the kids, what he wanted for me. For my life beyond our life. How this life is so fleeting, and our time here so priceless. The value of a moment …”

She continued, “If you have a partner in life, talk to them about what they mean to you … acknowledge the blessing you have in the time you have together, for in a moment it can be gone … and all that is left is the knowing in your heart, that you made the most of every second you shared … I am blessed, beyond belief, that my husband taught me this lesson …

“The hardest thing I have ever done was let him go. To ask, to beg God to take him. The next hardest was to tell him it was OK to go, to urge him to go, to want for him to go …

“So now, life … left to the living … the lesson … every second counts … live, love, engage … as though there is no tomorrow … because the second you have now, the moment in which you take this breath and are living, is the only one that is guaranteed. Sometimes … I miss him more than others … I am blessed … So in his honor this will be … For now … it’s amazing how good life can be … when you are happy just to be alive …”

Unless we die young, part of our lives will involve mourning the loss of loved ones. Saying goodbye or experiencing the death of a loved one is handled differently by different people.

In the case of the death of a parent, you’ve lived your entire life with that parent as a benchmark, a point of reference. In the case of the death of a spouse, you’ve spent day after day together with your soulmate, and you now have to overcome a daily loneliness.  

After mourning, you’re forced to redefine your view of the world. 

My challenge to you today is to work backward from your final goodbye, at a date unknown for now, to today. How do you say a final goodbye? Treasure and value the relationship with your loved one to the fullest in the days and years you have together. 

You have one less day today than you had yesterday to experience life together. Recognize that your gift to your loved one is not your final words. Although important, your message to your loved one is how you treasure your relationship today and over time.

You may or may not have the opportunity to say goodbye to those closest to you. What is important is the relationship you are living from day to day between now and your last exchange.

Live your life so you don’t have any regrets. Don’t be left with an “I wish I would have …” state of mind. Do your best today knowing there will be a day when it will be too late.

A good relationship is not like cooking in a microwave oven, it is like cooking in a crock pot.  Good things result after an extended process. Your gift to your loved one is what you do today, not the final words you share.

Just a thought …

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, motivational speaker, published author and attorney. To submit comments, contributions or ideas, e-mail to