Most people spend a good portion of their lives engaged in conversation with others. We share our day’s highs and lows while gathered around the dinner table. Lovers exchange words of encouragement and affection. Parents instruct, reprimand, and encourage their children. Friends may meet to share a laugh or relieve each other’s burdens. Some people may be fascinated with the words others utter in their final days. They may question whether these words carry the additional weight of insight gained from a long life or the nearness of death. To that end, several books have been written on this topic.

8. Linguistic Patterns Noted by Lisa Smartt


Lisa Smartt, of the Final Words Project, was with her father in the weeks before his death from prostate cancer. In his final three weeks, he engaged in what she calls, “a new language, one rich with metaphor and nonsense that spilled from my father’s lips.” This experience prompted Smartt to collect data through the internet, phone calls, and in person, regarding the words spoken by individuals approaching death. Smartt, a linguist, then organized this data according to linguistic themes. Smartt’s book, Words at the Threshold: What We Say as We’re Nearing Death is available on Amazon.

7. Arthur MacDonald and Karl S. Guthke


Arthur Macdonald was an anthropologist who studied the last words of Americans in a desire to understand the mental state of those nearing the end of life. His article, “Death-Psychology of Historical Personages”, appeared in the American Journal of Psychology in October 1921. Meanwhile, in the book Last Words, German author Karl S. Guthke explored the fascination people have with the last words spoken by others. In his book, Guthke considers the authentic last words spoken by individuals as well as the last words spoken by characters in works of fiction.


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