Out in the Open

Sometimes, last words are overrated

When Luke Allnutt found out his father, John, had just months to live, he desperately tried to have that profound final conversation you see in the movies with his dad.

Luke Allnutt desperately tried to have a profound, final conversation with his dad before he died

Luke Allnutt (Courtesy of Luke Allnutt)

Luke Allnutt says he desperately wanted that final conversation, those last words with his dad.

Luke's father, John Allnutt, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given just a few months to live.

"There was no issue that I needed to find some resolution to with him… And yet I still wanted and still felt like I needed that conversation," the author says.

Allnutt tried to make that conversation happen several times, including one morning when his father was in the kitchen, making coffee.

"I said to him something along the lines of, 'I'm very sorry that this is happening to you and you've been a wonderful father.' We hugged...He said thank you but didn't say very much. He shuffled off and continued making the coffee," says Allnutt.

"At the time, it upset me a little bit and it frustrated me."

It was difficult for Allnutt to figure out how his father really felt because a potential side effect to having a brain tumor is emotional detachment. 

Three months after the diagnosis, Allnutt's father died and those last words never came.

Allnutt says he was obsessed with that final conversation partly because he felt it was something that was supposed to happen, a box one is meant to tick off, thanks to the influence of movies and books where those weighty talks with a dying loved one are often depicted.

He also thinks many of us yearn for those final words because we think it will help us grieve the loss of a loved one. It will give us some closure.

"But, I found that grief wasn't really like that…[Grief] was much trickier than that and actually I found that having the final conversation, looking back on it afterward, was actually not as important as the weight I put on it beforehand," says Allnutt.

Instead, what stays with Allnutt about his father's last few months are the wordless moments he spent with him.

"I remember him sitting with my son and showing him his CD walkman, and my son wasn't even one at that point, and having him on his knee and showing him all of the buttons and how it works...Those are the things that I now look back on with much happiness."

This story originally aired on February 18, 2018. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Last Words".


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