02/14/2014 02:10 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014

Having the Last Word

We've all heard the term "famous last words." But what about the having the final words?

Sex educator-counselor Barbara Musser, author of Sexy After Cancer, wrote an article whose words resonated with me. She said, "Had I known that my last conversation with my mother was the final one before her sudden death, I would have chosen to say other things to her."

It's ironic how often I choose my words so carefully when I write and so carelessly when I address the people in my life who matter. Do you do this? Do you brush someone off when they phone you, nag a spouse, criticize someone or make an offhanded remark, or speak sharply to someone when you feel rushed or stressed? Do you listen and think before you reply? Do you really listen or just half listen while multi-tasking?

I was taught to count to 10 before replying, I was also taught to count to 10 to control my anger. It's 10 seconds of attitude adjustment that many of us need to practice more often

My mother told me that every night she and my father would have the same exchange, One would say, "I love you," The other would respond, "I love you more." These were their final words to each other before Dad died in his sleep.

I think about my final words with my father. They were strong and positive because I knew he was dying and I would never see him again. I shudder to think how I would have reacted if he had died suddenly and our final words had been acrimonious.

We should choose the words we say as carefully as we choose anything else in our lives that matter. Like a bad post on Twitter or a poorly written memo, words can deliver the wrong message that, even retracted, still linger in the memory. Words are powerful tools: they can build and strengthen or weaken and destroy. They can make an impression that can last to children

So what are my final words on this subject?

It's better to choose words that help than hurt. Use words to turn unjust actions into positive change.

It's better to speak your mind than let things fester; just choose your words carefully to understand the consequences.

Asking questions to obtain better answers is smarter than remaining silent.

Never begin or end the day with a negative thought or negative words.

Say "thank you" and "I love you" and mean it.

If the "cat gets your tongue," express yourself in writing or in a gesture that says what you mean. "Actions speak louder than words."

My final words that I repeat to myself often to stay grounded are: Live with passion and purpose. Laugh often and with friends. Love unconditionally and share it.

Melanie Young is author of Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor's Guide to Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer (Cedar Fort/September, 2013).

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