Coming in April – Lord, Teach Us To Pray, daily reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

A Good Way to Live

My son Wyatt and some of his closest buddies, in their early 20’s, came up with what they call, “Deathbed Smiles.” A Deathbed Smile means to so live that when you come to life’s end, you will be smiling. When I was a hospice chaplain, I would sometimes see those Deathbed Smiles as I was privileged to talk with people at life’s end about the things that really mattered. I often saw people in their final days and weeks taking care of unfinished business, tying up loose ends of their lives.

It was from some dying Deathbed Smiles that I discovered “The Five Things We Need to Say Before We Die.” I often witnessed beautiful, healing moments as dying people spoke these five things. I share these words with you because, if saying them makes for a good death, then saying them can also make for a good life. We do not have to wait until we are dying to say these five important things: 1) Forgive me; 2) I forgive you; 3) I love you; 4) Thank you; 5) Goodbye. Then I later learned a sixth important thing we need to say before we die: 6) I forgive me.

First, we need to say: “FORGIVE ME.” Our Lord Jesus said that if we know our brother or sister has something against us, we need to go and seek reconciliation, asking forgiveness when needed (see Matthew 5:23-24). How freeing it can be in life to be ready to ask forgiveness! I have seen so many families come apart and churches split just because someone was unwilling to say, “Forgive me.”

The second thing we need to say is: “I FORGIVE YOU.” In Ephesians 4:32 we see God’s command: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” It has been said that to forgive is to set a prisoner free, only to discover that prisoner is you. Is it significant that one of the Greek words most often translated as “forgive” is apoluo, also meaning “to set free”. I have been privileged on several occasions to see a person set free from a bitter spirit by saying the powerful words “I forgive you.”

The third thing we need to say to those close to us are the wondrous words, “I LOVE YOU.” When we leave for work or activities in the morning, say goodbye to a friend, or go to bed at night, we say, “I love you.” Life is so fragile, so quickly ended. We might not see each other again this side of heaven, so we need to have “I love you” on our lips, ready to say.

The fourth thing we need to say is “THANK YOU.” Don’t you just love to hear, “Thank you!” Look at the apostle Paul and how many times in his letters he says, “Thank you.” Saying thank you is such an easy way to say, “I honor you for who you are and what you do.” I do not have to wait until I am dying to say, “Thanks for being such a great wife!” “Thanks for being such a terrific friend!” “Thank you” blesses everyone, including ourselves!

The fifth thing we need to say before we die is, “GOODBYE.” As a hospice chaplain, I witnessed how people often had the ability to forestall the moment when they would die. I saw them holding on to say “Goodbye” to a grandson flying in from Boston, or a dear friend arriving to see them. I think it significant that our word “Goodbye” is a contraction of the old farewell phrase “God-be-with-you.” I like to make “Goodbye” a blessing for a friend or loved one.

Having witnessed people say these five things before they died, I saw the need to say a sixth thing: “I FORGIVE ME.” I see people going through life weighed down by guilt and shame, not knowing God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. What a delight to finally say, “I forgive me for my many sins, my wrong choices, my regrets.” God’s gracious and generous forgiveness cleanses us. And we know that God works all things together for our eternal good. So yes, I do forgive me!

I have been amazed seeing the power of saying these six things before people die. And I experience their power in my own life as I seek to keep saying them again and again! They are great for dying well and for living well: Forgive me. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. Good-bye. I forgive me.


Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.

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