Some Wisdom from Richard II

There is a superstition that people close to death have prophetic insight. In the Merchant of Venice, Portia’s confidante Nerissa tells her, “Holy men at their deaths have good inspirations.” Why is this so? Perhaps one reason is that they have so much alone time to cogitate and put things together in their mind; because they are good men, they have a great will to leave others in a favorable over-all position after they are gone. These people at their end have an acute awareness of things happening around them and rightly so; their insight is all that will soon be left of them as their physical bodies will soon be extinguished. Sometimes prophecy is simple such as, “His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, for violent fires soon burn out themselves.” Other times it is bloody, “Mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quartered with the hands of war—” At any rate, someone at the point of death knows they will live on in the minds of others much longer if they offer insight that has  profound impact on others’ lives. This is why they think so hard and so long in their final days. They want to give you the best advice possible. It is their gift to you and their gift to themselves that you will remember them. So before you decide to ignore someone’s words in their final days, remember:

“Oh, but they say the tongues of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony.
Where words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain,
For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.” (Richard II Act 2 Scene 1 lines 5-7)


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