Charles Manson, one of America's most hated murderers and the mastermind cult leader behind the barbaric slaughter of nine innocent people, is dead. He and his followers committed the series of ritualistic murders that included pregnant actress Sharon Tate at four locations in 1969. He was 83 when he breathed his last only days ago.
The question many raise when a high-profile person dies is, "I wonder what were his last words?" It's understandable to be curious with such a demonized individual as Manson who perpetrated such a jaw-dropping massacre.
I spoke with one of his followers, Susan Atkins, before she died at the age of 61 in prison. This once-deceived woman found redemption in her conversion to Jesus Christ, and her last public words were, "My God is an amazing God!" You can read her story in the book she wrote, entitled Child of Satan, Child of God.
Although I prayed for Manson's repentance and conversion before his death, like you, I will have to wait to discover the exact answer to the above question. I can offer that in an interview with Charlie Rose that won an Emmy years ago, the "Helter Skelter" butcher did reveal something of his cryptic, confused and calloused heart.
Mr. Rose asked Manson how he'd respond to the public's perception that he was a "monster?" He retorted, "What you see is what you get." [Google YouTube video of Nightwatch with Charlie Rose and Charles Manson]
Dying declarations can have a profound effect on those who "have ears to hear." It's the time when people are usually most honest and what they say matters the most.
While we wait for some statement from the now-deceased Charles Manson, let's consider some of the sad statements left by others who apparently led lives apart from Jesus Christ. These people speak to us from beyond the grave to live wisely and not foolishly. Remember, "Only one life, that'll soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
• Pop megastar Michael Jackson desperately pleaded for relief from the drug propofol, on which he fatally overdosed. "More milk! More milk!" he begged as he drifted into eternity.
• Music legend Kurt Cobain of Nirvana committed suicide after writing that he was a "miserable, self-destructive, death-rocker... hateful towards all humans in general."
• Freddie Mercury was the flamboyant frontman for the supergroup Queen and died a torturous death of AIDS. He experienced excruciating pain when clothing even touched his skin. His parting statement is best captured by the title of his final video, "These Are the Days of Our Lives" exposing the reality that the gay lifestyle isn't really "gay" after all.
• Actress Joan Crawford rebuked her housekeeper who began praying as she lay dying, "(Expletive)... Don't you dare ask God to help me!"
• Lecherous Henry VIII pleaded for spiritual support in beseeching, "All is lost! Monks! Monks! Monks!"
• Occultist Aleister Crowley shrieked, "I am perplexed! Satan get out!"
• Author of the dark side, Edgar Allan Poe, cried, "Lord, help my poor soul!"
• Frank Sinatra, who "Did It My Way" with serial affairs, lavish escapades and four wives, succumbed sorrowfully, uttering, "I'm losing it ..." then breathed his last.
• Finally, Elizabeth I, the Queen of England, lamented before dying, "All my possessions for a moment of time."
I wonder if we will ever learn what the prince of pleasure and champion of sexual promiscuity, Hugh Hefner, said in his dying declaration from the Playboy mansion?
Time for Reflection
Here's the deal: Listening to and learning from individuals' deathbed confessions is not morbid curiosity but rather a healthy exercise so we always live in light of eternity. Have you ever paused to ponder your grand finale and what you would say?
The Bible tells us, "The years of our life are seventy, and if by reason of strength eighty" (Ps.90:10). Moses, who penned those words centuries ago, went on to advise us, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom" (Ps. 90:12).
God equates wisdom with the stewardship of our days on earth.
Are you wisely investing your time for His glory? Are you living a sincere ("sun-tested") life that draws people to Him because observers know you're the real deal? Are you passing your days with eternity in mind, ever conscious of life's brevity?
"The shoes you tie in the morning can be untied by an undertaker that very evening." Sobering, isn't it?
There are two Sauls in the Bible. One's exit statement was a pathetic, "I have acted foolishly and have seriously gone astray" (1 Sam. 26:21b).
The other Saul, whose name later became Paul, departed in triumph. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, and I have kept the faith. From now on a crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Which Saul reflects your life and the legacy you'll leave? One day as you lay on your bed ready to "pass through the valley of the shadow of death," may those gathered around you affirm that the apostle Paul's words were reflected authentically by your life.
As someone once said, "What you see is what you get."
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