The last words of a dying man. They’re supposed to be profound, aren’t they? Something that will sum up the life they’ve lived, be the conclusion that they’ve reached, the fatal punchline to their joke.
In my experience, there is nothing profound about them. They are always confessions; of love, of murder, of sin, of hope. Questions. A last minute redemption plea. In my job, I’ve heard them all.
You can always see the moment that they realise that they are about to die. Then the terror takes hold, the frantic fear that the secrets they’ve tucked into the creases in their cardboard faces, the urgent words that they never voiced out loud – all these things that are so important will die with them, and no-one will ever know.
That’s where I come in. I will come and stand by your shoulder, watch your time-torn face. Then bring in the king. Enter death as a beautiful woman. Enter death as a scar-flecked monster. The edge of a blade, a bullet to the heart, a needle in the dark. And kneel beside you, performing death’s wake. I am the reaper come to untie your soul.
I am the last person to hear you. I carry the confessions of generations. And your questions, as sweet as they may be, mostly go unanswered.
Except for sometimes, when I just can’t help myself. When you seem so lost and so scared and so hopelessly young that I want to cry, ‘No, this is a mistake – send her back, she is just a child’. It’s times like this when I will embrace you and tell you the story of your life. I will share with you the way that the last confession of your parents was one of love. They died with the words on their lips, just as you do now.
And I will move on, to my next body, to their last words. But the confessions take their toll, and the memories of humans fills my head. It is always the young ones are the ones that hurt me the most.