Death is confusing, scary and unknown. As far as is known it is something that we all have to face one day. It seems no amount of money, diet or medicine can keep the grim reaper away. Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief. Many work in facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes that care for the dying. I have worked closely for many years with people facing the death of a loved one. Because of the finality of death there is no easy way. All of us handles death in a different way. Some say that death is the great equalizer that puts us all on the same level. Here are the thoughts and words of some world famous religious figures. They lived their lives to help and support others. They were often bullied and ridiculed for their beliefs and commitment to others. Note the similarities and differences in their final words.
Buddha (563-483 B.C.E.) was an ascetic whose teachings Buddhism is founded upon. The Enlightened One, as he is known, traveled and taught the Middle Way until he died around the age of 80. His last words are said to be “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. “All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” “Beloved, that which causes life, causes also decay and death. Never forget this; let your minds be filled with this truth. I called you to make it known to you.”
Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) was an eastern philosopher, teacher and politician whose teachings focused on developing a just and orderly society with morals and ethics. His last words were "No intelligent Monarch arises; there is not one in the kingdom that will make me his master. My time has come to die."
Jesus (4 B.C.E-30 A.D.) was a Jewish teacher and Rabbi. He was baptized by John the Baptist and crucified by order of Pontius Pilate. He is also known as Jesus Christ who Christianity is based on as the Son of God. His final words while hanging on the cross were, "It is finished." "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
Muhammad (570 A.D. June 8, 632 A.D.) was a religious, military and political figure who united all of Arabia under one religion, Islam. He died in the evening of the twelfth of Rabi’ al-Awwal at the age of sixty-three. He was known as the Prophet. His last words were “O Allah, with the supreme communion in Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered his favor, the prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous, most excellent for communion are they.”
St. Joan of Arc (1375 or 80 A.D. -1431A.D.) Hearing divine voices from God she lead the French Army in several victorious battles in the Hundred Years’ War. She was captured convicted of insubordination and heterodoxy and was burned at the stake when she was 19-years-old. Twenty-five years later Pope Callixtux examined the court records and declared her innocent and named her a martyr. She was canonized in 1925 and is the Patron Saint of France. While she was burning she was heard to have said, "Rouen! Rouen! Must I die here? Ah, Rouen, I fear you will have to suffer for my death!" "I ask you priests of God, to please say a Mass for my soul's salvation. I beg all of you standing here to forgive me the harm that I may have done you. Please pray for me." "Good Brother Martin, I thank you for comforting me, but you must leave this place.., now." "My Voices did come from God and everything that I have done was by God's order." "Hold the crucifix up before my eyes so I may see it until I die." "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!"
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was a clergyman and a civil rights leader in the African American struggle for equality and freedom in the United States. He is recognized as a martyr in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was an activist who led through nonviolent disobedience. In Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 he gave a speech in preparation for a march he was holding to help the striking Sanitation workers. The day after he gave this speech he was dead, killed at the hands of an assassin. He was 39-years-old when he said: “Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”