You have had that moment, when you say something only to hear a response that you didn’t expect to encounter. I grew up in a household where the last word carried authority and weight. It was seldom a positive moment yet a many times that second defined who won a battle… thus who was the victor. I never was sure why my parents fought nor did I ever understand who won, if either. What I knew was someone always had the last word.
I can still hear those words ring out like a shot being fired from my steel mouth toward my mother as a teen, ‘I hate your guts!’ I think I meant everything in me hates everything in you and me at this very moment, even your bowels. Truth was I just hurt. Hurt that I had learned how to fight as a young child a battle I knew wasn’t worthy of my young warrior heart. I hurt over feeling emotionally abandoned and betrayed by those closest to me. I hurt over being a teenager. And as hard as being a teenager simply is I was a teenager who had moved almost every other year. I felt like a vagabond moving most of my life like I was a fugitive being sought after by the law. I hurt that my mother hurt and her hurt though spoken at times had a depth that was unspeakable. That was the truth no one dared speak about.
I once heard about a daytime soap opera actor who had written into his contract the stipulation that he would have the last word in of the scenes where he appeared. At first, I laughed thinking about how trivial this was and also how smart it seemed. Getting the last word has a claim that you have the last say… so it must be where the strength lies. Or maybe you are saying what matters to you is being the last remembered and therefore if you have the last say … you will have had the most influence.
When I stop and think about the last word, I’m not sure that the last word is always the best word. The last word always seems to be shared from a place of strength as if you are making the definitive statement that matters most. Yet, I tend to think the opposite is true. The person who doesn’t need the last word is the one with the most control. The person who has the most compassion and depth sometimes is the person who is able to see the big picture and know within themselves the best word spoken might be no word spoken. Self control is seldom seen when it comes to matters of the last word.
Years ago, I ended a relationship with a boy and before I headed to my car I said, “I think you can only walk away when it isn’t love.” As I turned to walk to my car, I listened for the last word. There was none that time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted there to be. I was young and yet I knew that there was something more to be had in relationships and I was holding out for that something. In the long run, I was better off walking away from something I believed wasn’t true love even if I was walking toward something that wasn’t right in front of me… something if I were honest I hadn’t actually witnessed. I was walking toward something that I dreamed could be and something if I was honest I wasn’t sure was even real or available. I was walking toward a future where the last word is really overrated. My husband Ron is the one who taught me such a silly notion. He has watched me not only get the last word but has seen me burst into flames, fume over the trival, fight with myself in his presence and say what I think will win me the argument. Early on in our relationship something changed. I changed. I saw what love can do. How love can melt the coldest moment and free the caged prisoner from the walls built by the past. I have seen how gentle silence can speak louder than any last word or clever thought that I believed would steal the show and ensure my victory. I have seen how grace overcomes the awkward and invites us all to bask in the present moment of peace.
My mother always got the last word. And in the end she always won and my dad lost. And in the end she had all the power, and my dad had none. And in the end, the end came and was the end. What I think more than the last word… she wanted something so much more… she wanted love. Funny, she already had it but she couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t see… it never was found in the last word. I wanted and still want my story to be different and I now see how maybe in a small way it could be.
So, I now raise my flag too and beacon to all who would be last word followers.
We are the strongest last word in and of ourselves. Our breathing in those moments… our being aware that neither hate, nor fear, nor power, more desire for approval by our shouts, whispers or simply words could ever speak as loud as who we are and how we were created. If I were honest… more than trying to be right with my stating one more last thing… I am trying to be loved, accepted and wanted. And one last word won’t make it so. I am… simple and true. So next time you and I come across that moment, you know that moment we wanna be right or we just feel we need to say one more thing… just breathe and remember… something might be spoken louder if you don’t speak.