Saturday, November 25, 2017

Famous Last (and First, and Middle) Words

I Think I Loved Him
I lost one of my main teen crushes this week, with the untimely death of David Cassidy. I was a huge fan of The Partridge Family, and little me imagined that Cassidy’s musical statement: “I Think I Love You” was dedicated to me. As the years passed, fickle me moved on to other 1970’s heartthrobs, and I lost my passion for David. But I did note his later career events, including Broadway turns in Blood Brothers and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and always wished him well.

Now he is gone, lost at age 67 to early-onset dementia. Today I read Cassidy’s last words, quoted by his daughter: "So much wasted time." I have no idea of the wasted time to which he referred (I guess substance abuse may have played a part), but I was really struck by the poignance of that final sentence. We all of us only have so many earthly hours (the exact amount of which we do not know), and we all waste a lot of those hours, chasing rainbows and watching TV reruns (The Partridge Familyanyone?) Our goal should be time well spent, and sometimes it takes famous last words to remind us of that.

Other last words of note include those of Gustav Mahler (my favorite composer, who was conducting a phantom orchestra on his deathbed): “Mozart!”; Richard Feynman (an amazing physicist, writer, and traveler): “This dying is boring,” and Vladimir Lenin: “Good dog” (his dog had just brought him a dead bird. How lovely.)

But equally notable are first words, our entry into the world of language. Those are not as exactly recalled as the swan songs, as they happen gradually. We think one of Aiden’s very first words was “hot!” as he touched the oven; Peter’s may have been “hi!” (said while waving), though it may also be “perhaps” or “Nana” (gets my vote). Their father Sheridan’s were definitely “yum yum” ( his enthusiastic response to baby oatmeal); Rose’s first words were “yakity yak” (even as an infant, Rosie critiqued her fellow tiny talkers: “Whatever, yakity yak, can’t you do better than that?”)

Rose: Still an A #1 Talker
But, far more important than first or last words, are the words we say in the middle. The words of enthusiasm, the words of inspiration, the words of compassion. The words we say to each other, every day we live. Babies have no control of their first words; most of us have no control of our final pronouncements. But in between, we can control our every utterance. So may we choose our words with care, as carefully and intentionally as we live our lives. May we cherish every moment we are given, and try hard not to waste our precious time.

David Cassidy brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. I hope and pray he was able to remember that, and didn’t die with much regret.

What do you hope your last words will be? More importantly, what will your next words be?

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