Last words are weirdly fascinating. Sometimes they sum up the person’s essence in a few words, other times they seem wildly out of character.
Though in Hollywood, last words are uniformly ridiculous (see Point Break), real life last words can be deeply moving, funny, sad, cruel…
Most last words are conventional like, “I love you” or “By the way, I cut you out of my will a few years back.”
Let’s examine some others.
Witty farewells. François Rabelais said: “I owe much; I have nothing; the rest I leave to the poor.” Which is a cute way of letting his creditors down easy.
When Oscar Wilde died in 1900, his last words were, “Either that wallpaper goes or I do” which is clever and gay, much like Oscar.
As Sir Walter Raleigh waited to be beheaded, he looked at the axe and said, “It is a sharp medicine, but a sure cure for all ills.”
Beautiful farewells. George Harrison said, “Love one another.” Bo Diddley’s last words were, “I’m goin’ to heaven! I’m comin’ home.”
But far more intriguing are the last words of the total jerk. Karl Marx’ parting words were: “Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”
Joan Crawford, who was a delight by anyone’s standards, hissed: “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
Another interesting group is populated by people who had no idea they were about to die, and were talking about mundanities. Typical last words from these people are: “This doesn’t taste right” or “What bus?”
There are the questionable ones, such as Gaius Caligula, the Roman emperor, who shouted: “I am still alive!” after being stabbed 30 times by his own guards. Was it really wise to call attention to the fact he was still breathing?
Some people say rad things all day so any statement they happen to be saying works well.
Take Robert Roy MacGregor, the Scottish outlaw, whose last words were: “Boy! Fetch my fiddle!” If I’d died this afternoon, my last words would have been: “I think I got Cheetos crumbs in my keyboard. Hear them crunch when I type?”
Supposedly many death row inmates give no thought to their last words until the execution is actually underway. You’ve got to figure, your health is likely to take a turn for the worse soon. Selecting your last words may be a nice way to while away the time.
One inmate stands out: Darick Demorris Walker, who got lethal injection in Virginia. After watching the prison officials fumbling with their gadgets before getting everything ready to go, Walker was given the opportunity to make a statement. He accepted and said, “I don’t think y’all done this right, took y’all too long to hook it up. You can print that. That’s it.”
Darick Demorris must have done something terrible, but I can’t help feeling there is still a little good in a person who literally used his last breath to tell the government how incompetent it is.
Lastly, there are the people who depart with one last thought that either comforts or terrifies us.
Thomas Edison breathed, “It is very beautiful over there.” But I go cold all over when I think of Walt Disney’s last earthly thought, found scribbled on a paper next to his bed: “Kurt Russell”