“Famous Last Words”
I have memories of my mother saying this to me many times as I was growing up; usually uttered with a resigned or slightly sarcastic tone. She appeared in a recent dream and while I cannot recall the dream itself, I distinctly remember her using the line in the dream. It has made me wonder about the last words of some famous people. To wit, the most memorable final words ever spoken had to have been by General John Sedgwich who, you might recall, was leading troops against a Confederate assault when he said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Unfortunately for him, there wasn’t an elephant blocking the path of the bullet that killed him.
Lauren Bacall claimed Humphrey Bogart’s last words to her as she was leaving his bedside for a moment, were, “Goodbye kid. Hurry back.” Kinda nice, huh? A sweeter sentiment was offered by the master showman, P. T. Barnum, to his wife, “Nancy, I want you to know my last thoughts are of you.”
Not all final words are sweetly sentimental. Just before he succumbed to a stroke, Winston Churchill said, “I’m so bored with it all.” The great playwright Henrik Ibsen, just after he heard his nurse tell someone he was feeling better, said, “On the contrary,” and died. (I’m sorry, but that one always makes me smile.)
And so, yours truly decided to do some digging into the final declarations made by some other notables. You’ll find some of these humorous, some loving, some thought-provoking, and some poignant.
From the comic genius, Stan Laurel: “I’d rather be skiing.”
On her way to the guillotine, Marie-Antoinette stepped on the executioner’s foot. Just before he beheaded her she remarked, “Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.”
Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio’s last words referred to his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe and were loving and poignant: “I finally get to see Marilyn again.”
Philosopher Thomas Carlyle opened his eyes one last time to utter, “So this is death. Well!”
Convicted murderer James French, sitting in the electric chair, yelled to reporters, “Hey, Fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries.’”
Groucho Marx notably said, “This is no way to live!”
Michel de Nostradamus, well-known for his somewhat cryptic prognostications, made at least one verifiable prophecy on his deathbed: “You will not find me alive at sunrise.”
Actor John Barrymore, whose long career took him from the stage to screen and radio, showed a bit of bravado—if not hubris—with his final breath: “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
The French grammarian Dominique Bouhours stated: “I am about to—or I am going to—die: either expression is correct.”
Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha): “I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness.”
Finally, Charlie Chaplin, after a priest said, “May the Lord have mercy on your soul,” replied, “Why not?”
All of which has led me to be thinking what I’d like my final words to be. And why not plan ahead? People write wills, purchase plots, pay funeral costs in advance, and some even write their own obituaries. Why not plan final words? OK, I know what you’re thinking, but my reasoning is that if I decide what to say and practice it, perhaps the odds will be in my favor just before that final breath and I’ll remember to utter them.
What follows, then, is a list of possibilities. Please let me know which one you prefer:
“Wait! I still have a free beverage on my Dunkin’ app!”
“Did I leave the stove on?”
(Singing) “Show me the way to go home …”
“Did I fulfill my pledge commitment?”
“Why didn’t I do the ‘Hokey-Pokey’ more?”
“Whatever else you do, don’t let the police dig up the back yard.”
“Liberty! Equality! More bourbon!”
“Put the gun down! I swear I didn’t know she was married!”
Considering the importance of humor to me, I honestly wouldn’t mind my final words to be a bon mot. But even with that considered, it would be wonderful if with my last breath I offered the advice — also near and dear to my heart—given by former Beatle, George Harrison, on his deathbed: “Love one another.” Come to think of it, friends, I’m not waiting until I’m about to die to say it. Please, love one another.
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