Last week, an announcer on the local classical music station that I listen to while I am writing in my ersatz writer’s loft, related an interesting tidbit of information about the final words of the great composer, Ludwig von Beethoven. Beethoven would have been 186 years old on March 26th, had he not passed from complications due to one or more chronic ailments back in 1827. It seems that history is somewhat murky on exactly what caused the death of perhaps the greatest composer of all time, and there is even some discussion about his last words, but the consensus seems to be that he spoke the words described here.
Understand that whenever someone mentions “last words” to me, they have my full attention. I have always had a morbid fascination with last words of the famous (and sometimes not-so-famous). Last words are made even more fascinating when one considers that few of us really know that our last words are our last. For those to whom death comes quickly and unexpectedly, there is little time for proper composition. Often the last words of accident victims are little more than half a dozen profanities strung together, such as those last garbled utterances found on cockpit voice recorders recovered from downed aircraft.
So unless we have the misfortune to be strapped to an execution gurney, most of us give little thought to our last words. What pearls of wisdom might we bestow upon the living in those moments before we embark upon our final journey? Ludwig von Beethoven was probably unaware that his final words would be his final words either, but he must have had an inkling that they were damned close.
Upon being told that twelve bottles of fine wine had just arrived, having been sent to him by his publisher (some accounts have the wine sent by an adoring fan), the composer is reported to have replied, “Pity, Pity – it’s too late.”
Such words made me pause from my writing task. Of course, the great Ludwig was referring to the wine that he would not be able to enjoy (ironically, cirrhosis of the liver is one of the likely causes of the composer’s demise at age 56). But, when one considers these simple five words, they are perhaps the best advice for the living that anyone could impart.
I began to assess my own life, thinking of these profound words left so many years ago by Beethoven. Would I find myself echoing Beethoven’s last words someday (hopefully not about a late wine delivery)? Am I too busy writing, blogging, tweeting, working, driving, paying bills and doing all of the other things that encompass my daily life to recognize that I am missing something – the proverbial case of wine that was the source of Beethoven’s deathbed despair?
I have the following quote by English writer and clergyman, Sydney Smith, on a yellow sticky note above my computer:
“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”
Perhaps living by these words will help me to avoid saying one day:
“Pity, pity – it’s too late.”
Last week, when I was at my grumpiest, I posted in this blog that I was unhappy with the Miami Dolphins new logo, because the dolphin in question did not have an eye, and therefore looked too detached and logo-like. My wife pointed out to me that the new Dolphin logo does indeed have an eye, albeit not a very cheerful eye, but it’s there nonetheless. She says the new logo might not be as bad as some of we traditionalists once thought. You can see it here and judge for yourself.