Texas State University professor researches final conversations

Texas State University professor researches conversations in the final moments (KXAN Photo)
Texas State University professor researches conversations in the final moments (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN ) — Text messages or voicemails left by the victims of acts of violence give us an understanding of what they endured in their final moments. As hard as they are for those left behind, one Texas State University professor says those final conversations could mean everything to the family.

While shots rang out in an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning, a son inside the nightclub woke his mother with a text. “He said ‘mommy I love you, in the club, they are shooting,’” said Mina Justice. After a string of texts, that was the final conversation Justice would ever have with her son Eddie. “I got the text after I talked to him and he said call the police and so I called the dispatch and reported that there was a shooting at a club,” said Justice.

At Texas State University, Dr. Maureen Keeley has spent the last 16 years researching how people handle their final conversations. “Being brave and participating in communication at the end of life, you are not only helping the person who is dying but you are also helping yourself,” said Keeley.

She says the conversation Eddie had with his mom through text is a perfect example of how communication is needed and how those placed in a terrifying position lean on words of comfort and, most importantly, love.

“To be able to reach out in that kind of space of fear, and to reach out to someone you love, it had to give a little bit of peace and comfort to the person who was in that night club and trying to hide,” said Keeley.

And technology is making it easier. No longer do you have to rely on a letter, now a simple text can travel hundreds of miles in seconds. “In any shape or form, if we can have a final conversation, it gives us some sort of peace and comfort. You’re given a virtual hug through the text, through the technology. I’d rather have that any day and know what happened than to have pure silence and not see anything,” said Keeley.

For the victim, it gives them a chance to say goodbye. “A final voice, a final word, a final message to say I love you or to say I’m not afraid or I am afraid,” said Keeley.

And for those like Justice, she has those words, the final texts of love from her son for the rest of her life.

“I hope its bringing comfort to whomever is getting it, because hearing I love you one more time is better than not hearing anything at all,” said Keeley. “Communication is never a waste, if you can ever reach out and tell someone you love them, it’s an important thing. Tell them why they are important to you. We should be doing that every day, we never know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

Keeley co-authored a book called Final Conversations. The book details Keeley’s research about all the different ways people tend to communicate when they believe they’re going to die and how others can communicate with them.

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