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Words at the Threshold: What we Say as We're Nearing Death

  • Broadcast in Spirituality
Energy Awareness

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A person’s last words often take on an eerie significance, giving tantalizing clues about the ultimate fate of the human soul. Until recently, however, no one had systematically studied end-of-life communication by using examples from ordinary people.

Linguist Lisa Smartt changed all that with the Final Words Project, which she established in conjunction with world-renowned afterlife expert Raymond Moody. The project chronicles the linguistic patterns and themes behind the words people speak as they leave this world behind. 

Smartt’s research was initially inspired by what she saw and heard in the three weeks her father spent dying from complications related to radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Within four years, she had collected hundreds of utterances analyzed for their linguistic patterns and themes. Words at the Threshold: What We Say as We’re Nearing Death shares the findings of her research into this uncharted territory.

Smartt collected accounts and transcripts from health-care providers, friends, and family members of the dying. She gathered over fifteen hundred English utterances, which ranged from single words to complete sentences, from those who were a few hours to a few weeks from dying. Her book, which offers stories and data from her research, aims to help readers better understand how to engage with those they love in their final days. It also offers a rational exploration of the question of an afterlife.

“My hope is that Words at the Threshold offers insight into sometimes incomprehensible utterances of those at the end of life, and that it will give you a vocabulary for speaking not only about dying but also about consciousness,” writes Smartt. “The more at ease we are with the language at the threshold, the greater comfort we can bring to those who are dying and to all those dear to our beloveds.”