It was late afternoon in the prison classroom, and we were discussing topics for the GED essay when a hand went up in the back of the room. It was an elderly inmate who asked me this question: “If you knew you didn’t have long to live and could only write one last essay, what would you write?”
It’s now many years later, and I’m still thinking about that question as I recall the lyrics to a song called “The Last Song”…”If this is my last song, if this is my final day, if tomorrow I’ll be gone, what do I want to say? Have I left a little kindness? Have I eased a little pain? If so, then I’m glad I came. For that, I’m so glad I came.”
As we think of that last essay, that last song, we’ll know that it’s not the end of what is real; it’s only the end of this body, the end of the grand performance. We’ll know that our true self doesn’t grow old and die. We’ll feel gratitude knowing that we live in eternity, without beginning or end, forever and always now.
When we look back over the meaning of our life, we’ll see that all that really mattered was the way we cared for each other and that life’s greatest expression was in helping others. We’ll see that when we enter the sacred realm of the heart, the one thing that can never be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go. We’ll see that the most eloquent answer to death’s “no” is love’s “yes”.