64 People and Their Famous Last Words
In her 2014 memoir , Ginger Alden revealed then-fiancé Elvis Presley's final words before his death in 1977. During a night of sleeplessness, Presley told Alden, "I'm going to the bathroom to read." The rest, as they say, is history.
Poignant, funny, sad, weird or mean—last words can make quite the impact as we shuffle off the stage of life. Here are 64 notable examples.
1. Joseph Wright
Wright, a linguist, edited the English Dialect Dictionary . His last word? “Dictionary.”
Italian artist Raphael’s last word was simply “happy.”
3. Gustav Mahler
Composer Gustav Mahler died in bed, conducting an imaginary orchestra. His last word was “Mozart!”
4. Bessie Smith
Blues singer Bessie Smith died saying, “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”
5. Jean-Philippe Rameau
Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau objected to a song sung at his bedside. He said, “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.”
6. Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra died after saying, “I’m losing it.”
7. George Orwell
George Orwell's last written words were, “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” He died at age 46.
8. William Seward
William Henry Seward, U.S. secretary of state and architect of the Alaska Purchase, was asked if he had any final words. He replied, “Nothing, only ‘love one another.’”
9. Jean-Paul Sartre
Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre turned to his partner Simone de Beauvoir and said, “I love you very much, my dear Beaver.”
10. Margaret Sanger
Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger’s last words were, “A party! Let’s have a party.”
11. Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke said, “I don’t want the doctor’s death. I want to have my own freedom.”
Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right.
13. Vladimir Nabokov
Author Vladimir Nabokov was also an entomologist, particularly interested in butterflies. His last words: “A certain butterfly is already on the wing.”
14. Herman Melville
Author Herman Melville died saying, “God bless Captain Vere!” referencing his then-unpublished novel Billy Budd , found in a breadbox after he died.
15. Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette stepped on her executioner’s foot on her way to the guillotine. Her last words: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.”
16. Richard B. Mellon
Richard B. Mellon, a multimillionaire, was the president of Alcoa. He and his brother Andrew had a little game of tag going for about seven decades. When Richard was on his deathbed, he called his brother over and whispered, “Last tag.” Andrew remained “it” for four years, until he died.
17. Harriet Tubman
When Harriet Tubman was dying in 1913, she gathered her family around and they sang together. Her last words were “Swing low, sweet chariot.”
18. Isaac Newton
When Sir Isaac Newton died, he was humble. He said, “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
19. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was also overly modest, saying, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” The Mona Lisa isn’t good enough?
20. Louise-Marie-Thérèse de Saint Maurice
The Comtesse de Vercellis let one rip while she was dying. She said, “Good. A woman who can fart is not dead.”
21. Buddy Rich
Drummer Buddy Rich died after surgery in 1987. As he was being prepped for surgery, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” Rich replied, “Yeah, country music.”
22. Johnny Ace
Johnny Ace, an R&B singer, died in 1954 while playing with a pistol during a break in his concert set. His last words were, “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.”
23. Richard Feynman
The physicist, author, musician, professor, and traveler died in Los Angeles in 1988. His last words? “This dying is boring.”
24. Benjamin Franklin
As Benjamin Franklin lay dying at the age of 84, his daughter told him to change position in bed so he could breathe more easily. Franklin’s last words were, “A dying man can do nothing easy.”
25. Albert Abraham Michelson
Michelson dedicated his life to measuring the speed of light and was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Even as he was dying at age 78, he was measuring light. He wrote in his log: “The following is a report on the measurement of the velocity of light made at the Irvine Ranch, near Santa Ana, California, during the period of September 1929 to—.”
26. Thomas B. Moran
Moran was a pickpocket, known by the nickname “Butterfingers.” He reportedly stole as many as 50,000 wallets in his career. He died in Miami in 1971, and his last words were, “I’ve never forgiven that smart-alecky reporter who named me Butterfingers. To me, it’s not funny.”
27. James W. Rodgers
Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”
28. Charles “Lucky” Luciano
Lucky Luciano was a mob leader who helped the U.S. work with the Sicilian Mafia during World War II in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. His last words were, “Tell Georgie I want to get in the movies one way or another.” And it worked. His life story is told in the movies Lucky Luciano , The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano , and many more.
29. John Arthur Spenkelink
Spenkelink was executed in Florida in 1979. He spent his final days writing these last words on various pieces of mail: “Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.”
30. Thomas J. Grasso
Convicted murderer Thomas J. Grasso used his last words to complain about his last meal. He said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s; I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
31. Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories, died at age 71 in his garden. He turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and died.
32. T.S. Eliot
Writer T.S. Eliot was only able to whisper one word as he died: “Valerie,” the name of his wife.
33. W.C. Fields
Actor and comedian W.C. Fields died in 1946. His last words: “God damn the whole friggin’ world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.” He was speaking to Carlotta Monti, his longtime mistress.
34. Percy Grainger
Grainger was an Australian composer who, with his dying words, told his wife Ella, “You’re the only one I like.”
35. Michael Landon
Actor Michael Landon, best known for Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven , died of cancer in 1991. His family gathered around his bed, and his son said it was time to move on. Landon said, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”
36. Vince Lombardi
Football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer in 1970. As he died, Lombardi turned to his wife Marie and said, “Happy anniversary. I love you.”
37. O.O. McIntyre
McIntyre was an American reporter. He died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”
38. Edward R. Murrow
When he was 57, Edward R. Murrow died while patting his wife’s hand. He said, “Well, Jan, we were lucky at that.”
39. John Wayne
John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you."
40. Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall had to leave the house to pick up their kids. Bogart said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” Not quite, “Here's looking at you, kid,” but close.
41. Ernest Hemingway
Before Ernest Hemingway committed suicide, he told his wife Mary, “Goodnight, my kitten.”
42. Donald O’Connor
O'Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor known for his role in Singin' in the Rain . He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O'Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one.
43. Eugene O'Neill
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill was born in a room at the Broadway Hotel on what is now Times Square. He died at age 65 in a Boston hotel. His last words? “I knew it! I knew it! Born in a hotel room and, goddamn it, dying in a hotel room.”
44. Jack Soo
Soo was an actor on the TV series Barney Miller . On the show, there was a running gag about Soo’s character making crappy coffee in the office. Soo developed cancer of the esophagus, and when was being wheeled into an operating room, he joked to Barney Miller co-star Hal Linden, “It must have been the coffee.” In a tribute episode, cast members raised coffee cups in Soo’s memory.
45. Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker knew how to party. She sang, danced, and acted. She adopted a dozen kids and lived in Paris. On the last night of her life, she left a party being held in her honor, saying, “Oh, you young people act like old men. You are no fun.”
46. Charles Gussman
Gussman was a writer and TV announcer who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives , among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When his daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor—.”
47. Groucho Marx
When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!”
48. Chico Marx
Groucho’s brother Leonard, who was better known as Chico Marx, gave instructions to his wife as his last words: “Remember, Honey, don’t forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick, and a pretty blonde.” A “mashie niblick” is a type of golf club.
49. Wilson Mizner
Mizner was best known for his bon mots, though he was a successful playwright, too. He’s known for the line, "Be nice to people on the way up because you'll meet the same people on the way down." When Mizner was on his deathbed, a priest said, “I’m sure you want to talk to me.” Mizner told the priest, “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.”
50. Alfred Hitchcock
As he was dying, Alfred Hitchcock said, “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”
51. Pete Maravich
Basketball great “Pistol" Pete Maravich collapsed during a pickup game. His last words: “I feel great.”
52. Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilych Lenin’s last words were, “Good dog.” (Technically, he said vot sobaka .) He said this to a dog that brought him a dead bird.
Blues guitarist Leadbelly said, “Doctor, if I put this here guitar down now, I ain’t never gonna wake up.” And he was right.
54. Thomas Fantet de Lagny
Thomas Fantet de Lagny was a mathematician. On his deathbed, he was asked, “What is the square of 12?” His last words: “One hundred and forty-four.”
55. Derek Jarman
Jarman was an artist, writer, and filmmaker. His last words: “I want the world to be filled with white fluffy duckies.”
56. Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill’s last words were, “I’m bored with it all.”
57. Joan Crawford
Actress Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, who was praying as Crawford died. Crawford said, “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
58. Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley died giving a thumbs-up as he listened to the song “Walk Around Heaven.” His last word was “Wow.”
59. Moe Berg
Baseball player “Moe” Berg’s last words: “How did the Mets do today?”
60. Emily Dickinson
The poet's last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”
61. Truman Capote
As Truman Capote lay dying, he repeated, “Mama— Mama— Mama.”
62. James Brown
The hardest-working man in show business said, “I’m going away tonight.”
63. Joseph Henry Green
Surgeon Joseph Henry Green was checking his own pulse as he lay dying. His last word: “Stopped.”
64. Steve Jobs
According to Steve Jobs's sister Mona, the Apple founder's last words were, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."
Source: Last Words of Notable People: Final Words of More than 3500 Noteworthy People Throughout History
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Famous Last Words from 18 Iconic People
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Famous last words
There’s something powerful about reading famous last words. These celebrities were well-known and successful in life as writers, politicians, artists and more. But though they have legacies that are larger than life, the one thing they all share—and that everybody eventually shares—is death. What do you say to sum up a life well-lived? Some choose funny last words . Others are more serious, or even obscure: Princess Diana’s last words were tragic, while Steve Jobs’s last words are debated. Like reading “ life is short” quotes or life quotes filled with wisdom, famous last words remind us that life is, indeed, short and we have to make the most of our time.
These famous people made sure to make one more lasting impression on the world before they left it. Read on to learn the memorable last words of these 18 iconic people.
“Let us work together to make that future a place we want to visit. Be brave, be determined, overcome the odds. It can be done.” —Stephen Hawking, physicist, who died March 14, 2018. These lines are the end of a message that Hawking recorded that was beamed into the nearest black hole after his death. Read these Stephen Hawking quotes for more profound views on the universe.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” —Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice, on Sept. 18, 2020. Before you catch the late justice on a new 2023 stamp , read about the ways Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made history.
“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” —George Orwell, writer, on Jan. 21, 1950. He died at age 46 of tuberculosis. It’s only fitting that the writer of some of the world’s best books had famous last words.
William Henry Seward
“Nothing, only ‘love one another.'” —William Henry Seward, U.S. Secretary of State, on Oct. 10, 1872. These love quotes are a good place to start!
Leonardo da Vinci
“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” —Leonardo da Vinci, artist, on May 2, 1519.
“I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” —Donald O’Connor, performer, on Sept. 27, 2003. Read up on these moving quotes about peace from world leaders.
“I am about to—or I am going to—die. Either expression is correct.” —Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian and essayist, on May 27, 1702. Read more word-nerd one-liners with these best grammar jokes of all time.
Edward Paul Abbey
“No comment.” — Edward Paul Abbey , American naturalist and writer, on March 14, 1989. When the famously prickly conservationist was asked if he had a final message, this was his sarcastic response. The famous last words are reportedly inscribed on his tombstone, which is well hidden in the desert. Next, read the last thing JFK said to Jackie before he died.
“How did the Mets do today?” —Morris (Moe) Berg, baseball player, on May 29, 1972. Check out these confidence-boosting quotes from amazing women in history .
“Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?” —William Saroyan, American novelist, on May 18, 1981. Here are some of the best book quotes from our favorite books.
“Allen.” —Betty White, comedian, Dec. 31, 2021. The famously funny woman used her last breath to call out for her husband, Allen Ludden. The two were married from 1963 until Allen’s death in 1981.
Raphael Sanzio da Urbino
“Happy.” —Raphael, Italian Renaissance artist, April 6, 1520. Here’s the last thing James Dean said before his infamous car crash.
“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP [live long and prosper].” —Leonard Nimoy, actor, in his final tweet. He died on Feb. 27, 2015. Learn about these famous movie quotes that everyone gets wrong.
“I’ve got to be crazy to do this shot. I should have asked for a stunt double!” —Vic Morrow, American actor, on July 23, 1982. The actor said these tragic famous last words before shooting a scene for a movie adaptation of The Twilight Zone. During the shoot, a terrible helicopter accident claimed the lives of Morrow and two child actors on set.
“We all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summer. The poor get it in the winter.” —Bat Masterson, lawman and journalist, on Oct. 25, 1921.
“Don’t be in such a hurry.” —Billie Holiday, musical artist, on July 17, 1959. Don’t miss these moving quotes that will inspire you to dream big.
“I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.” —Ian Fleming, English author, on Aug. 12, 1964. The James Bond author said these famous last words to his ambulance drivers in Canterbury, England.
“I’m looking for loopholes.” —W.C. Fields, comedian, when asked why he was reading the Bible on his deathbed. He died on Dec. 25, 1946. For more quotes that will inspire you to live your best life, check out these uplifting quotes that will stay with you.
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15 Famous Writers And Their Last Words
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1. “I must go in, for the fog is rising.” – Emily Dickinson
2. “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.” – Oscar Wilde
3. “Is it not meningitis?” – Louisa M. Alcott
4. “Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight.” – Lord George Byron
5. “Turn up the lights, I don’t want to go home in the dark.” – O. Henry (William Sidney Porter
6. “It’s all been very interesting.” – Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
7. “I see black light.” – Victor Hugo
8. “Lord help my poor soul.” – Edgar Allan Poe
9. “Moose… Indian…” – Henry David Thoreau
10. “LSD, 100 micrograms I.M.” – Aldous Huxley
11. “I can’t sleep.” – J.M. Barrie
12. “I want nothing but death.” – Jane Austen
13. “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room, and God damn it, died in a hotel room.” – Eugene O’Neill
14. “Take away those pillows. I shall need them no more.” – Lewis Caroll
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Famous Last Words: 15 Authors’ Epitaphs
In this the spookiest of months, we find ourselves occupied with the world’s darker themes, and we got to wondering — what words have sent famous men and women of letters into the great unknown? Or perhaps more precisely, which words were chosen to honor them for eternity? From the tongue-in-cheek to the ponderously serious, from the knightly to the poetic, and even one that doubles as a grave robber’s curse, we’re fascinated by the epitaphs of famous authors, so we’ve collected a few of them here for your shivering pleasure. After the jump, read the final goodbyes to fifteen famous authors, and let us know if we missed your favorite literary epitaph in the comments.
Lawrence was cremated, and his ashes were mixed in with cement used to create a memorial altar in New Mexico. However, he also got billing on the family grave. His epitaph in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, “ Homo sum! the adventurer,” is perhaps best of all, however. [Image via ]
“Death is the enemy. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding o Death! The waves broke on the shore.”
This quote is from the end of Woolf’s novel The Waves , chosen by Leonard Woolf for the memorial plaque he put in their backyard.
Not as depressing as it seems: Bukowski explained the phrase in a 1963 letter to John William Corrington, writing “Somebody at one of these places … asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: ‘not’ to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.” [Image via ]
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Steel True Blade Straight”
Proper words for a knight’s final resting place if ever we’ve seen them.
“This Grave contains all that was Mortal, of a Young English Poet, Who, on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart, at the Malicious Power of his Enemies, Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.”
Though Keats’ last request was that he be buried under a blank tombstone with no name or date, only “Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” his friends Joseph Severn and Charles Armitage Brown were so outraged at the poet’s negative critical reception during his life that they felt they had to elaborate.
“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
An excerpt from his poem “The Lesson for Today.”
A direct quote from the letter thought to be Dickinson’s last, sent her cousins Louise and Frances Norcross shortly before her death, which read, “Little Cousins, Called Back, Emily.” [Image via ]
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – The Great Gatsby
We wonder how Zelda feels about spending eternity under the weight of her husband’s most famous work.
“Excuse my dust.”
Parker was cremated, and upon her death, donated her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr. After King’s assassination, there was a drawn-out fight over the Parker estate that resulted in her ashes sitting in a filing drawer for more than two decades. Excuse her dust, indeed.
“Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.”
This is a slight misquote from from Wu Ch’Eng-En’s Monkey , chosen by Plath’s husband Ted Highes. The original reads “even in the midst of fierce flames the Golden Lotus may be planted.” Also note the repainted “Hughes” after the first was scraped off by Plath fans who thought he has destroyed her. [Image via ]
“And alien tears will fill for him Pity’s long broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn.”
This except from Wilde’s own poem “The Battle of Reading Gaol” turned out to be rather prescient, if all those lipstick marks are any indication. [Image via ]
“Good Friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear To dig the dust enclosed here: Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.”
According to Shakespeare scholar Dr. Philip Schwyzer, the author “had an unusual obsession with burial and a fear of exhumation. The stern inscription on the slab has been at least partially responsible for the fact that there have been no successful projects to open the grave… His epitaph marks his final, uncompromising statement on a theme that preoccupied him throughout his career as a writer for the stage.” So stop trying to dig up up for drug tests , okay? [Image via ]
Jonson’s decline by the time of his death was so great that his epitaph was set by a passer-by, John Young, who saw the unmarked grave in Westminster Abbey and paid a workman to inscribe it. He stole the epitaph from William D’Avenant and spelled Jonson’s name wrong. Sigh. [Image via ]
“Of those immortal dead who live again In minds made better by their presence”
From Eliot’s poem “The Choir Invisible.”
“I am Providence.”
A line from one of Lovecraft’s personal letters, referring to his beloved hometown, where he was happiest and most prolific.
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A List of Authors' Famous Last Words
Topics: Legendary Authors , Literature
If you spend your entire life writing, it makes sense to make your last words count. Mark Twain recommended employing one's final breath in a deliberate, dignified message . Death is too important an occasion for improvisation or whimsy. Twain wrote, “There is hardly a case on record where a man came to his last moment unprepared and said a good thing — hardly a case where a man trusted to that last moment and did not make a solemn botch of it and go out of the world feeling absurd." After all, no author ought to die failing in the very thing he or she made a living perfecting. Below, there are numerous examples of writers' last words. Some, you'll find, are more poetic than others.
“On the contrary!” —Henrik Ibsen Ibsen ’s comic response to his maid, who suggested the playwright’s health was improving, endures for many of his fans.
“I want nothing but death.” —Jane Austen This was Austen’s reply to her sister when asked what her wish was.
“It is most beautiful.” —Elizabeth Barrett Browning The Victorian poet's send-off is a cheery juxtaposition to Austen's.
“Moose...Indian” —Henry David Thoreau Thoreau’s last words were both nonsensical and fitting.
“Take away these pillows, I won’t need them any longer.” —Lewis Carroll Carroll evidently knew his time was coming to an end, and left the world with both a trivial and dramatic declaration.
“I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.” —Virginia Woolf These are the last sentences of Woolf ’s suicide note. She was addressing her husband, Leonard.
“What’s that? Does my face look strange?” — Robert Louis Stevenson There are minor variations of Stevenson ’s final words (e.g. "Do I look strange?"). Either way, the Jekyll and Hyde author’s last words were a response to the brain hemmorage that in only moments was to incapacitate and kill him.
“A certain butterfly is already on the wing.” —Vladimir Nabokov This is a fitting final line for the lepidoptderist Vladimir Nabokov . A master of self-publicizing, Nabokov likely did not leave these final words to chance.
“Dying men can do nothing easy.” —Benjamin Franklin The American Renaissance man said this to his daughter, who prompted him to lay differently so he could breathe less laboriously.
“Does nobody understand?” —James Joyce These last words are fitting for a true mischief-man of literature. Writer of Finnegans Wake , Joyce was an experimenter who worked and tested the very limits of language. His final lines also express the thoughts of many English teachers who have ever taught one of his books.
“I’m bored with it all.” —Winston Churchill In true Churchillian fashion the former Prime Minister let death know it had his permission to take him.
“On the ground” —Charles Dickens Dickens ’ final words were said as he experienced a stroke at home. It was a reply to his sister-in-law Georgina who recommended lying down.
“Well, I’ve had a happy life” —William Hazlitt These last words are rather sanguine for a man who wrote an essay called “On the Pleasure of Hating.”
“I don’t think they even heard me” —Yukio Mishima Mishima addressed a crowd of soldiers in Japan, encouraging them to overthrow the government and restore the power of the emperor. He died soon after from a gruesomely-executed seppuku.
“All right then, I’ll say it: Dante makes me sick” —Lope de Vega The Renaissance playwright was able to get this literary grievance off of his chest before leaving our world.
“Warry, shift!” —Walt Whitman The poet's last words to a nurse are not likely to be counted among his best.
“This is the fight of day and night. I see black light.” —Victor Hugo The Notre Dame de Paris author's poetic last words echo Goethe’s “Oh light!”
“I believe we shall adjourn this meeting to another place.” —Adam Smith The economist said this before the invisible hand of mortality came for its prize.
“Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” —Karl Marx Marx said this to his housekeeper who wondered with what style the thinker was going to depart this world.
Which are your favorites? Did we miss any authors' famous last words? Let us know in the comments below!
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Dying Words: Last Words Spoken By Famous People At Death
Dying words of famous people seem to be a little bit more poetic than the typical dying utterances of the common folk. Whether they've got the money and influence to be afforded the time to gather their thoughts, or because they're just plain cooler than many of us, there exist some memorable dying words from some very famous people.
Granted, in order to record someone's final words, there has to be some normality and/or convenience to the person's death; for the most part, you'll not find any of these famous historical figures on the list of bizarre deaths from the 19th or even the 20th century . These notable historical figures died in bed, or in battle, or were somehow able to get their dying thoughts across to someone for recording on a list of last words of famous people.
" Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."
- Age : Dec. at 46 (1854-1900)
- Birthplace : Ireland, Ireland, Europe, Dublin
- Profession : Poet, Journalist, Writer, Playwright
- Cause Of Death : Meningitis
- Credits : Dorian Gray, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Selfish Giant
- # 10 of 1,172 on The Best Writers of All Time
- # 17 of 324 on The Best Novelists of All Time
- # 7 of 14 on 14 Historical Love Letters That Made Us Feel Things
"It is well, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go."
- Age : Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)
- Birthplace : Virginia, United States of America
- Profession : Surveyor, Politician, Soldier, Military Officer, Farmer
- # 37 of 347 on The Most Important Leaders In World History
- # 49 of 440 on Famous Men You'd Want To Have A Beer With
- # 6 of 17 on 17 Fascinating Bits Of Trivia We Never Knew Before
"That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted."
- Age : Dec. at 52 (1906-1959)
- Birthplace : Paterson, New Jersey, United States of America
- Profession : Businessperson, Comedian, Film Producer, Actor, Vaudeville Performer
- Cause Of Death : Myocardial infarction
- Credits : The Abbott and Costello Show, Africa Screams, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Jack and the Beanstalk
Henry Ward Beecher
"Now comes the mystery!"
- Age : Dec. at 73 (1813-1887)
- Birthplace : Litchfield, Connecticut
- Profession : Clergy, Preacher
- Cause Of Death : Cerebral hemorrhage
"I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili."
- Age : Dec. at 58 (1809-1868)
- Birthplace : Kentucky
- Profession : Trapper, Reconnaissance, Military Officer
- Cause Of Death : Abdominal aortic aneurysm
"Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."
- Birthplace : Atchison, Kansas
- Profession : Pilot, Writer
- # 7 of 17 on 17 Historical Mysteries People Would Really Like Answers To
- # 13 of 21 on 21 Historical Figures Who Would Dominate Social Media If They Were Alive Today
- # 16 of 24 on Famous American Women Who Deserve Their Faces On Money
Famous Last Words: Writers' Words Before They Died
A writer's life revolves around always knowing what to say and how to say it. But in the face of death, you'd think fear, pain and pressure would trump eloquence when speaking their last words. However, in the true form of their craft, (most of) these writers combine both honesty and eloquence to produce some of the greatest (and weirdest!) last words spoken. Here's a list of our favorite last words!
Know of any writers whose last words really stand out? Let us know in the comments!
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The Unintentional Last Words of 13 Famous Writers
Since 2011, Brooklyn indie publisher Melville House , typically a champion of the avant-garde and radical politics — the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture was a big seller — has been compiling slim volumes of late-life interviews conducted with novelists, lyricists, and philosophers that double as mini-mementos or maxi-epitaphs. The latest batch includes Nora Ephron, Ernest Hemingway, and Philip K. Dick, who, like the other authors in The Last Interview series, wound up sharing some memorable, if unintended, final testaments.
James Baldwin , 1987 I taught the yuppies … Perfectly sound young men came out of college, went to work for Nixon, and were hardened criminals on Wall Street before you knew it.
Roberto Bolaño , 2003 Well, I continue to live, to read, to write and to watch films, and as Arturo Prat said … “While I am still alive, this flag will not come down.” [In response to the odd question “Will you confess to having lived?”]
Lou Reed , 2013 The first memory of sound would have to be your mother’s heartbeat … And that’s why we love pwoh pwoh pwoh : It’s so simple, you know that.
Gabriel García Márquez , 2006 I think that I must have social anxiety … because I can maintain a one-on-one conversation, but it terrifies me to address an auditorium of people. I have the great advantage now that the people who come [to see Márquez] are already intimidated … and that makes it easier for me.
Jacques Derrida , 2004 When I recall my life, I tend to think that I have had the good fortune to love even the unhappy moments of my life, and to bless them … When I recall the happy moments, I bless them too, of course, at the same time as they propel me toward the thought of death, toward death, because all that has passed, come to an end.
Ray Bradbury , 2012 To wake up one day and realize that I am on the shelves with L. Frank Baum on one end and, at the other end, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and, down below, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells — that’s it, huh? Everything I did was pure love … And if you live that way, you’ve had a great life.
Ernest Hemingway , 1958 I had blood poisoning when I wrote The Old Man [ and the Sea ] . I wrote it right off in a few weeks. I wrote it for a dame; she didn’t think I had it left in me. I guess I showed her. I hope so. There was a woman behind each of my books.
Hannah Arendt , 1973 It has not prevented Nero, and it has not prevented Caligula. And in the cases of Nero and Caligula have not prevented an even closer example of what the massive intrusion of criminality can mean for the political process. [Explaining literature’s humanizing effect.]
Kurt Vonnegut , 2007 Here is what my great-grandfather Clemens Vonnegut said one time about Jesus, “If what he said was good, and it was marvelous, what did it matter if he was God or not?” … But I gotta go. I’m not well. Good luck.
Nora Ephron , 2012 I think for some people it’s a very short distance between it happening and it becoming a book. I think some people probably create a certain amount of uproar in their lives in order to have the next thing to write about. But I don’t think I ever did that.
Jorge Luis Borges , 1985 Poor people are generous, rich people aren’t. My father used to say to me that when one inherits a fortune, they inherit the conditions that led to making that fortune, meaning that rich people inherit wealth and the qualities of miserliness and greed, which it maybe requires.
David Foster Wallace , 2008 What they did was mail me a huge box of trade-paperback-size sheets of paper, which I was to sign … I basically spent an entire weekend signing these pages. You’ve probably had the weird epileptoid experiences of saying a word over and over until it ceases to denote and becomes very strange and arbitrary and odd-feeling — imagine that happening with your own name. That’s what happened. Plus it was boring. So boring that I started doing all kinds of weird little graphic things to try to stay alert and engaged. What you call the “smiley face” is a vestige of an amateur cartoon character I used to amuse myself with in grade school. It’s physically fun to draw — very sharp and swooping … it always makes me smile to see that face. [Explaining why he’d signed copies of Infinite Jest with a smiley face.]
Philip K. Dick , 1982 I would like to know who got that cipher. It was very important that that cipher get out. It was a matter of life and death that that cipher get out. But it did, and it got read, and there was a response. There was an immediate response. [Explaining that his work was actually announcing the coming of the savior.]
*This article appears in the February 22, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.
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Famous Last Words
The famous last words of famous people....
36 Famous People and Their Famous Last Words
20 of the funniest and most ironic last words from history
Throughout history, a dying person’s final words have been meticulously written down and recorded. These last words are often thoughtful, wise, and tear-inducing. Well today, we won’t be looking at that kind. Today we will be looking at last words that cause a chuckle, and maybe get us to think. The last words below are from some of history’s famous people including Voltaire, FDR, and Karl Marx. I hope you enjoy: 20 of the funniest and most ironic last words from history
*Warning* Some of these quotes contain foul language and profanities. People on their deathbed don’t care about polite language
General John Sedgwick. A man who’s last words proved ironic
“ Oh god, I’ve been murdered” : Spencer Perceval. Perceval supposedly uttered these words after being shot by John Bellingham at the House of Commons
“ This is no time to be making new enemies ”: Voltaire. Voltaire quipped this after a priest asked him to renounce Satan
“I’m bored with it all” : Winston Churchill. Churchill said this before suffering a fatal stroke
“I didn’t do that on purpose” : Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette stepped on the foot of her executioner and quickly apologized. These would be her last words before being beheaded during the French Revolution
“ I must go for the fog is rising”: Emily Dickinson The famous American poet said this before dying of heart failure
“ They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance ”: General John Sedgwick. In a very ironic situation, these were Segdewick’s last words before being shot under the eye by a Confederate sniper
“I do not believe in my death ”: Salvador Dali. The eccentric artist reportedly didn’t believe in his mortality before suffering cardiac arrest
“I’m going to the bathroom to read”: Elvis Presley. Elvis said this to his girlfriend Ginger Alden before suffering a drug-induced heart attack on the toilet
“I am about to or I am going to either expression is correct”: Dominique Bouhors French Grammarian. Even when his hour of death was at hand, this French Grammarian remained devoted to the art of proper grammar
“How’s this for your headline, French Fries!” James Donald French. French a convicted murdered said this moment before facing his end at the electric chair
“One last drink please”: Jack Daniels. The namesake of the famous brand of whiskey said this before succumbing to a blood infection caused by kicking a safe
“Die, why that’s the last thing I’ll do”: Groucho Marx.The American humorist quipped this before dying of pneumonia
“Thomas Jefferson survives ”: John Adams. Adams and Jefferson were once great rivals who later became friends. Interestingly, Jefferson died a few hours earlier but both men died on July 4th 1826
“What do you think I am going to do blow my brains out?” Terry Kath. The lead singer of the band Chicago uttered this eerie prediction while holding what he thought was an unloaded gun. Tragically, the gun was loaded and Kath fulfilled his own prophecy
“I desire to go to Hell and not Heaven In the former place I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings, and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks, and apostles”: Niccolo Machiavelli. The infamous Italian politician and diplomat offered this unusual opinion before dying of natural causes
“Fuck, a bullet wound!”: Antonio Jose De Sucre Venezuelan independence leader and President of Peru and Bolivia. De Sucre uttered this blunt expression in the middle of his assassination.
“Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough”: Karl Marx. The famed author of the Communist Manifesto didn’t believe much in the last words
“God Damn you”: George V. The early twentieth-century English monarch yelled this at his nurse who gave him a sedative
“I have a terrific Headache” : FDR. One of America’s most influential presidents said this in the middle of suffering a brain hemorrhage that would prove fatal.
“I wonder why he shot me” Huey Long. The Great Depression-era reformist and demagogue figure said this after being shot at the Louisiana State capital building, where he would later die.
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Oscar Wilde's Reputed Last Words
- DESCRIPTION quote oscar wilde
- SOURCE Heritage Images / Contributor / Hulton Archive / Getty
- PERMISSION Used under Getty Images license
It's interesting to see the final words uttered by some of your literary favorites or celebrities. Learn Oscar Wilde's last words on November 30th, 1900. Get a glimpse into his life and the reason behind his death.
Oscar Wilde’s Reputed Last Words
Many celebrities and authors are famous for their last words; this includes Oscar Wilde. While no one reported on Oscar Wilde's last words, in the weeks before his death, his friends reported that he spoke of several things more than once.
These can be considered the last of his clever sayings:
- “I am dying beyond my means. I can't even afford to die.”
- “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”
While the wallpaper quote might not be exactly what Oscar Wilde said, it is close, and that’s the one most people believe includes his last remarks.
The Meaning of Oscar Wilde’s Last Words
During his final moments on Earth, Wilde spent his time at Hôtel d’Alsace in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. Evidently, he had a love/hate relationship with the wallpaper within his room. However, he lost the battle with the wallpaper on November 30th, 1900. For a man that chose to live his life his way, he displayed the wit he was known for even in his final moments.
The Truth of Oscar Wilde’s Death
According to the University of Michigan , while many believe that Oscar Wilde died of syphilis, modern physicians believe he might have died of an ear infection. To understand Wilde’s death, it’s important to explore the final years of his life.
Serving in Prison
According to the Section of the History of Medicine , Lord Alfred Douglas noticed that Wilde had trouble hearing before his trial for homosexuality in 1895. This is thought to be from previous ear issues flaring up. Given the conditions in prison, Wilde was prone to repeat ear infections.
Death by Meningitis
Wilde got out of prison in 1897 after serving two years of hard labor. He then moved to France and wrote his final work, a poem about prison life, The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He also traveled around Europe. However, the ear infections he’d experienced in prison came back with a vengeance in 1900. A serious infection developed in his ear. This infection penetrated the meninges, causing meningitis, which led to his death.
Biography of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s full name was Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. He was born in Dublin on October 16, 1854. He was taught at home, where he excelled, learning French and German. He started attending college at seventeen years old, attending Trinity College in Dublin and then going to Magdalen College at Oxford.
Becoming a Writer
He did very well at Magdalen, winning awards and prizes. After leaving Magdalen, he worked as a writer, publishing his first set of poems in 1881. He was an ardent follower of the philosophy of aestheticism, which places emphasis on art, culture and nature. Aesthetics study the way we perceive the world and explore other ways to look at things. In 1881, he traveled to the United States to lecture on aesthetics, giving 140 lectures in 260 days.
Marriage to Constance Lloyd
He married Constance Lloyd, daughter of a well-known barrister, in 1884. They had two sons right away, so he got a job with Women’s World magazine. He wrote his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , which was published in a magazine in 1890. He began writing for the theater and wrote several well-known plays, including:
A Woman of No Importance
An Ideal Husband
The Importance of Being Earnest
Relationship With Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas
In the summer of 1891, he met Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas. They had a relationship for four years until Wilde was imprisoned. Wilde sued Douglas’s father for libel because he accused him of homosexuality but soon dropped the suit. Wilde was then arrested and charged with gross indecency with men and sentenced to two years of hard labor.
Other Quotes of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was known for his words. In addition to his last words, Oscar Wilde had a few other famous quotes.
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”
“A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.”
“I can resist everything except temptation.”
Oscar Wilde Last Words
Most people attribute, “This wallpaper is terrible — one of us will have to go!” or something similar as the final words of Oscar Wilde. While the quote might not be exact, it’s clear that Oscar Wilde’s last words were just as witty as those he was known for. Before you go, check out a few more last words like those from Freddie Mercury or Steve Jobs .
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Homework help made hilarious.
Literary Last Words, Ranked
Last words are a pretty big deal if you’re a famous author. People are going to remember what you mumbled in a fit of near-death delirium long after you become a pile of bones in the dirt, so you’d better make it good.
I want my last words to be “I love you all,” or maybe “Avenge me,” but I know for a fact my last words will actually be “Wait, what?” and I guess I’m going to have to be okay with that. However, I hold famous authors to a higher standard. They’ve made a whole CAREER out of being eloquent and meaningful. I don’t care if you’re dying of a violent fever in the middle of a war, Lord Byron; say something witty in your final hours so I can tell people about it at parties!
To that end, here are some last words of famous authors, ranked from worst to best.
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21 Famous Last Words—And The Stories Behind Them
Sherrie Johnson, BA in Liberal Studies
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Do you ever wonder what you’ll be remembered for? The things you do during your life certainly make a big impact on those around you. But what about your last words? Will anyone remember you for the last things you say? And if your last words are inscribed into your loved ones’ memories, what would you want them to be? Should final sayings be thoughtful and serious? Funny and lighthearted? Loving and sentimental?
You’ll likely spend more time wondering what to say when someone dies than what your last words will be. The last things people say can tell us a lot about their priorities and the way they lived. Here are 21 people who used their famous last words to share their love, inspire others, bring about a smile, make someone laugh, and dismiss deathbed etiquette .
These are the words we remember for generations to come, long after these souls have departed the earth. Whether they're honored at an in-person, traditional funeral service or with a virtual event on GatheringUs , remembrance has to do with how we live and how we die.
1. “You are wonderful.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Doyle is best known for penning the literary hero we all know as Sherlock Holmes. Doyle married twice and, while the death of his first wife sent him into a bout of depression, his second marriage returned joy to his life. Upon his own death bed, Doyle turned to his second wife and told her how much she meant to him.
2. “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” — John Wayne
Known and loved by all as the silver screen cowboy, John Wayne was larger than life. Much the same off-screen as on, he loved drinks, friends, and his family. While on his deathbed, his family gathered around. Concerned that Wayne didn’t know who they were due to his deteriorating condition, his daughter, Aissa, asked if he knew who she was. He did.
3. “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” — Sir Isaac Newton
Upon his death, Sir Isaac Newton chose not to examine his many scientific discoveries or muse about his place in history. Instead, he looked to all that was left to be discovered and stood in awe of the magnificence of the world.
4. “I am just going outside and may be some time.” — Captain Lawrence Oates
Captain Lawrence Oates served his country during an Antarctic exploration. Due to the frigid, harsh conditions, Oates contracted a severe case of frostbite. Knowing his condition put his entire party at risk due to delays, he bravely sacrificed himself in order to save his crew. He decided to take a walk to never return.
5. “Let’s roll.” — Todd Beamer
Aboard Flight 93 from Newark, NJ on September 11, 2001, it didn’t take long for passengers and crew to realize their flight would not be normal. Calling the airplane telephone operator, Todd Beamer discussed what they were about to do — take down the hijackers of their plane. After a prayer, he was ready. Turning to his fellow passengers, he gave the affirmative that put their plan into action.
6. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” — Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale was a beloved friend and teacher who turned into a spy for America during the Revolutionary War. He was patriotic to the core and believed in America as a land of opportunity. During a spy mission, he was caught. Just before the British hung him, he proudly affirmed he would do it all again for the sake of his country.
7. “I expect the summons very soon. I have tried to discharge all my duties faithfully. I regret nothing, but I am sorry that I am about to leave my friends.” — Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States
Zachary Taylor had plenty of responsibility. In the end, however, he looked upon his life with contentment and satisfaction, sorry only to have no more time with those he loved.
8. “This is the last of earth. I am content.” — John Quincy Adams, former President of the United States
John Quincy Adams served for one term as U.S. President and when he reached the end of his life, he looked back at his accomplishments and saw nothing he’d want to change.
9. “I want to go. I am ready to go. God take me.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, former President of the United States
When it came time for President Eisenhower to bid his family goodbye, he approached the time with a sense of readiness. His work on earth had been accomplished and he was ready to depart one life for the next.
10. “I told you I was ill.” — Spike Milligan
Famous Irish comedian Spike Milligan enjoyed giving crowds a laugh no matter where he went. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he used his headstone to deliver his final joke.
11. “Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.” — Captain Edward Smith of HMS Titanic
Captain Edward Smith hit both the high and low of his career when chosen to pilot the ill-fated Titanic voyage. Dedicated to his duty until the last, he ensured as many wives and children were safe as possible, then released his crew to do their best to survive the coming moments. Captain Smith perished with the ship.
12. “That was a great game of golf, fellers.” — Bing Crosby
Known for his beautiful crooning voice, his music struck a chord with people around the world. He enjoyed golf just as much as singing. During a vacation, he finished playing 18 holes of golf, even though his doctor told him to stop at nine. Twenty minutes later, he died of a heart attack. He clearly didn’t regret playing the back nine.
13. “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” — Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn was an Australian-born actor who graced the silver screen as a romantic hero during the golden age of Hollywood. He enjoyed every minute of his career and, though his life was cut short at age 50, he had no regrets.
14. “Make the world better.” — Lucy Stone
Lucy lived a dynamic life as a suffragist, abolitionist, orator, women’s rights advocate and promoter. Every action she took was made in order to bring justice and hope to minority groups. Her last words encourage all of us to do the same.
15. “Our destiny is to build a better future for our countries, a safe future for our children. We have to give them something better than what we inherited.” — Hafez al-Assad
Assad is the longest-serving Syrian head of state, performing the job of president from 1971 to 2000. His last words reflect his belief in the need to serve his country and the world for a better tomorrow.
16. “Nancy, I want you to know my last thoughts are of you.” — P.T. Barnum
Barnum is most known for his contribution to popularizing the circus with his business partner James Bailey. He was an avid businessman who loved entertaining crowds of young and old alike. But more than his love for the circus was his love for his wife.
17. “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” — Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy, known for playing the part of Spock in “Star Trek,” was a man dedicated to his friends, family, and fans. For his final tweet to the world, he shared the above pearl of wisdom and signed off with the now-famous blessing — “Live long and prosper.”
18. “I’d rather be skiing.” — Stan Laurel
Stan, a well-known comedian in his day, was a contemporary of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Humorous on-stage and off, he used his final moments on earth to crack a joke and make his nurse smile.
19. “I have tried so hard to do right.” — Grover Cleveland, former President of the United States
Grover Cleveland had a difficult presidency, to say the least. During his tenure, he led the nation through the worst depression of that time, before the crash of 1929. He was a man of principle and his last words reflected his dedication to the nation he loved.
20. “I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.” — James K. Polk, former President of the United States
After doing his best to run the country, the last thoughts on James K. Polk’s mind were not of his achievements or the nation. He simply wanted to tell the one he loved just how deeply he loved her.
21. “Thank God I gave up my life so that Helen might live. God help her to live without me when I go.” — Annie Sullivan
The world knows about Hellen Keller, the girl born deaf and blind who championed for increasing the rights of those with special needs. But what you may not know is that without her lifelong teacher, Annie Sullivan, she would have never learned to communicate. Clearly, she viewed her life’s work as well worth it.
How Will You Will Be Remembered?
Whether your final words are happy, sad, serious, funny, wisdom-filled, or downright witty, one thing remains true. You’ll be remembered for leaving a legacy and thought of long after you say your last goodbye.
Taking the time to consider your final wishes, estate plan, and more is an important part of remembrance. With tools like Trust & Will , it's possible to create a legal online will in minutes. From there, planning is a piece of cake. How do you want to be remembered when you're gone? Your final words are only one part of your story.
- Klejna, Alison, “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Doctor Behind the Detective.” Central Square Theater, Central Square Theater, 2020. centralsquaretheater.org/read-watch-listen/news-articles-multimedia/sir-arthur-conan-doyle-doctor-behind-detective/ .
- “Biography.” Arthur Conan Doyle, The Official Site of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate, 2020. arthurconandoyle.com/biography.html .
- Brahams, William B. “Last Words of Notable People: Final Words of More Than 3500 Noteworthy People Throughout History.” Reference Desk Press, Inc., 2012.
- Fowler, Julian. “How the Last Words of Titus Oates Still Inspire His Regiment.” BBC News, BBC, July 9, 2012. bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-18769958 .
- Vulliamy, Ed. “‘Let’s Roll….’” The Guardian, The Guardian, December 1, 2001. theguardian.com/world/2001/dec/02/september11.terrorism1 .
- Brennan, John O. “Nathan Hale, American Spy… What His Sacrifice Means on Our Independence Day.” News and Information, The Central Intelligence Agency, July 2, 2015. cia.gov/news-information/blog/2015/nathan-hale-american-spy.html .
- Editors. “Presidential Last Words.” American Presidency Series, Free Library of Philadelphia, January 2020. libwww.freelibrary.org/explore/guide/presidential-last-words .
- Morse, Felicity. “Famous Last Words: Nation Votes for Spike Milligan’s ‘I told you I was ill.’” HuffPost , Huffpost, May 18, 2012. huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/18/last-words-epitaphs-spike-milligan-one-last-tweet_n_1526699.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAANpx5A3mCSUH1YotOOUAWD691IN-j5yHuC41e2BGjlhI7qF7tm4SgoWQnPDysNlgB7csIH_SRj6KgYy_mUoRXNLwb0WOWJjZszw55dOCY-pptF5fucQ6wm5JFz59Em58osEdeZa92cl7tlISO7fNUjJBX319WrUXpR1AlIp_YKdi
- Permberton, Becky. “The Real-Life Love Story on the Titanic.” The Sun, New York Post Online, December 3, 2017. nypost.com/2017/12/03/the-real-life-love-story-on-the-titanic/
- The Associated Press. “Bing Crosby, 73, Dies in Madrid at Golf Course.” The New York Times , NYT, October 15, 1977. nytimes.com/1977/10/15/archives/bing-crosby-73-dies-in-madrid-at-golf-course-bing-crosby-73-dies-at.html
- Editors. “29 Infamous Last Words Uttered by Famous People in Their Final Moments.” History Daily, History Daily, August 21, 2016. historydaily.org/infamous-last-words-of-famous-people
- Benstead, Amelia. “Lucy Stone.” National Park Service, NPS U.S. Dept. of the Interior, February 25, 2018. nps.gov/people/lucy-stone.htm
- Sontag, Deborah. “Syria’s President Assad, Key Figure in Mideast, is Dead.” The New York Times , NYT, June 10, 2000. archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/061100syria-assad.html
- Saxon, A.H. “P.T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man.” Colombia University Press, 1989.
- Dulac, J. Freedom. “Leonard Nimoy’s Final Public Words: ‘Live Long and Prosper.’” The Washington Post, Washington Post, February 27, 2015. washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/02/27/leonard-nimoys-final-public-words-live-long-and-prosper/
- Guiles, Fred Lawrence. “Stan: The Life of Stan Laurel.” Stein and Day Publishers, 1980.
- Galles, Gary. “The Wisdom of Grover Cleaveland.” Mises Daily Articles, Mises Institute, January 2, 2003. mises.org/library/wisdom-grover-cleveland .
- Pinhiero, John C. “James K. Polk.” Miller Center, Miller Center, April 13, 2020. millercenter.org/president/polk
- Kettler, Sarah. “Anne Sullivan Found ‘the Fire of a Purpose’ Through Teaching Hellen Keller.” Biography , A&E Television Network, March 2, 2020. biography.com/news/anne-sullivan-helen-keller-relationship
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Famous Last Words of US Presidents
Their Dying Words and the Events Leading to Them
Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.
Dale is an experienced fact-checker and researcher with a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism
Whether uttered unintentionally or with the full expectation of death, a person's last words are those that people will often remember and quote as if they somehow represent the core of who that person was. This is especially true of historical figures for which final words both humanize them and add to their mythology.
Sometimes profound, sometimes mundane, here is a collection of famous last words spoken by some of our U.S. presidents:
George Washington (1732-1799)
The first President of the United States was quoted as saying:
After serving two terms as the nation's first president, Washington retired to his Virginia plantation in 1797. In mid-December of 1799, after enduring harsh winters on horseback while inspecting his property, Washington developed a severe sore throat and breathing difficulties.
In an effort to cure him, Washington's doctors are believed to have drained too much blood in the then-common practice of bloodletting, contributing to his death at age 67. Acute bacterial epiglottitis (the inflammation of the flap at the back of the throat) is also frequently cited as the cause of death.
John Adams (1735-1826)
The second President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"Thomas Jefferson survives."
Interestingly—and almost poetically—both Adams and Thomas Jefferson died July 4, 1826, the date of the 50th anniversary of the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. Adams is said to have uttered the words about his longtime rival, unaware that Jefferson had expired just a few hours earlier.
Congestive heart failure is believed to have been the cause of Adams' death.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
In his final moments, the last recorded words of the third President of the United States were:
"No, doctor, nothing more."
Jefferson's last words are often cited as "Is it the Fourth?" in reference to the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. While Jefferson did, in fact, utter those words on his deathbed, they were not his last.
Jefferson was reported to have died of complications of kidney failure accompanied by pneumonia .
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
The sixth President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"This is the last of Earth. But I am composed."
The second eldest child of John Adams died of a stroke in Washington, D.C. Earlier that day, Adam, a staunch opponent of the Mexican-American War, apparently rose up to protest a bill in front of the U.S. House of Representatives meant to honor war veterans and immediately collapsed to the floor of the chambers.
James K. Polk (1795-1849)
Before his death, the 11th President of the United States reportedly said:
"I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you."
Polk is reported to have said this to his wife who was at his side when he died of cholera at the age of 53.
Zachary Taylor (1784-1850)
The 12th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"I regret nothing, but am sorry that I am about to leave my friends."
Taylor died of complications from gastroenteritis at the age of 65.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
The 16th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"She won't think anything about it."
Some say his last words were, "It doesn't really matter." Lincoln's comment was in reply to his wife's question regarding what another woman, seated next to them at Ford's Theatre, would have thought if she spotted them holding hands. He was shot a short time later.
Andrew Johnson (1808-1875)
The 17th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"'My right side is paralyzed. I need no doctor. I can overcome my own troubles."
Johnson died of a stroke soon after at the age of 66.
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
The 18th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
Grant was suffering from throat cancer at the time of his death at age 63.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
The 26th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"James, will you please put out the light," he asked his valet, James Amos.
Roosevelt is believed to have died of a pulmonary embolism by a blood clot, which detached itself from a vein and entered the lungs.
Warren G. Harding (1865-1923)
The 29th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"That's good. Go on, read some more."
Harding was reported to have said this to his wife, Florence, as she read a complimentary news piece from the "Saturday Evening Post" about him during an official trip to the West Coast. Harding is believed to have died of congestive heart failure.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)
The 32nd President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"I have a terrific pain in the back of my head."
Roosevelt was reported to have died of a stroke or intracerebral hemorrhage shortly after. Much in the same way that Roosevelt's polio had been hidden from the public, his failing health during his fourth term had also been glazed over, leaving the nation shocked.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
The 34th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"I want to go. I'm ready to go. God, take me."
Eisenhower had been suffering from heart failure and is believed to have died of a coronary thrombosis (blood clot obstruction) which triggered a heart attack.
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
The 35th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
"No, you certainly can't."
Jacqueline Kennedy reported that this her husband's reply to a statement made by Nellie Connally, the wife of Texas Governor John Connally, who asserted just moments before the assassin's bullet hit: "Mr. President, you certainly can't say that Dallas doesn't love you."
Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994)
The 37th President of the United States was quoted as saying:
Nixon was reported to have called out to his housekeeper as he suffered a stroke at his home in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Damage to the brain caused a cerebral edema (swelling) from which Nixon slipped into a coma and died the next day.
Cheatham ML. The death of George Washington: an end to the controversy? Am Surg . 2008;74(8):770-774.
Pinals RS. Theodore Roosevelt's inflammatory rheumatism . J Clin Rheumatol . 2008;14(1):41-44. doi:10.1097/RHU.0b013e3181639ad0
By Chris Raymond Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.
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Famous Last Words: 9 Icons and Their Apparent Final Thoughts
Uttered in the last moments of consciousness, a person’s final words seem to say something essential about who that person really was, and about the life he or she lived. In some cases, history has even put certain last words into people’s mouths when they didn’t actually say them right before dying or didn’t say them at all — just because those last words seemed so fitting.
Whether said in public or murmured in a hushed bedroom to a family member or caretaker, the last words of many famous people have been recorded (and misrecorded) by history, and continue to fascinate those who come after them. Last words can inspire or instruct us, offer a cautionary tale or even make us laugh.
With that in mind, here are the memorable last words attributed to nine famous people and a look at whether they were, in fact, spoken during their final moments.
“I’m bored with it all.” -Winston Churchill
“I want nothing but death.” -Jane Austen
In July 1817, the celebrated novelist Jane Austen lay dying of unknown causes, which may have been the rare illness known as Addison’s disease. Her sister Cassandra recorded some of her last hours in a letter to Jane’s niece, Fanny Knight, writing: “When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: ‘God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!’ Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.” Austen died on July 18, 1817, at the age of 41.
“Thomas Jefferson survives.” -John Adams
On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the 90-year-old John Adams reportedly uttered these words shortly before dying that evening, not knowing that the 82-year-old Thomas Jefferson had died just five hours earlier, at his estate in Virginia. After years of estrangement over their political differences, Adams and Jefferson had written to each other over the last 15 years of their life, in an extraordinary exchange of ideas between two influential Founding Fathers.
In fact, the historian Andrew Burstein found that Adams’ last words may have been embellished by eulogists at the time for the sake of telling a better story. Burstein found that the only person known to be present at Adams’ death (his wife’s niece and adopted daughter, Louisa Smith) reported that he said the words “Thomas Jefferson,” shortly before dying, but said she couldn’t catch the rest of the sentence.
"Either this wallpaper goes or I do.” -Oscar Wilde
Once a successful playwright and poet, Oscar Wilde was living nearly penniless in a hotel room in Paris when he died at the age of 46 in November 1900. As he was famous for his witticisms, it’s tempting to accept this quip as his last words. But while Wilde did come up with this particular bon mot — what he actually said was, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do”— they were not his last words. According to biographer Richard Ellmann , Wilde made the remark to a friend, Claire de Pratz, at least a few weeks before he died.
“Hey Ram.” -Gandhi
These last words said to have been uttered by the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi after he was fatally shot by a Hindu extremist on January 30, 1948, are a matter of some dispute. Gandhi’s great-grandson argued in 2006 that Gandhi did, in fact, fold his hands and address the Hindu god Rama with his dying breaths, citing testimony given during the assassination trial. He was refuting a statement made at that time by Gandhi’s former personal secretary, Venkita Kalyanam, that Gandhi did not say those famous words.
In 2018, Kalyanam (by then 96) said he had been misquoted and had never said Gandhi didn’t say “Hey Ram” — he just didn’t hear him say it. “Everybody was shouting when the Mahatma was shot. I could not hear anything in the din,” Kalyanam clarified. “He may have uttered ‘Hey Ram.’ I do not know.”
“Pardon me, sir. I did not mean to do it.” -Marie Antoinette
While making her way up the stairs to the scaffold where she would be executed via guillotine for high treason on October 16, 1793, the doomed French queen Marie Antoinette accidentally stepped on her executioner’s foot. “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur,” she said politely to Charles Henri Sanson. “ Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès. ” As Marie Antoinette quotes go, this one is far less famous than “Let them eat cake,” which she actually did not say .
“Where is my clock?” -Salvador Dalí
In 1958, the flamboyant surrealist artist Salvador Dalí offered what would have been memorable last words in a TV interview with journalist Mike Wallace , declaring: “I myself do not believe in my death. I believe in general in death, but in the death of Dalí, absolutely not.” And just before death came for him more than 40 years later, Dalí may have uttered a simple question: “Dónde está mi reloj?” Although the source of this anecdote is unclear, these last words would certainly be fitting, given the image of the melting watch that appears in much of Dalí’s most famous work.
“I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man.” -Che Guevara
On October 8, 1967, U.S.-trained Bolivian soldiers captured the Marxist guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara , who had helped Fidel Castro seize power in the Communist Revolution in Cuba. After Bolivian leaders ordered his execution, Guevara uttered his memorable last words to Sgt. Jaime Terán, the soldier who had been ordered to shoot him, according to biographer Jon Lee Anderson . After Terán shot him in the throat, Che’s body was put on display for the people (and the international press) before being buried in a mass grave.
“I knew it, I knew it! Born in a goddamn hotel room and dying in a hotel room.” -Eugene O’Neill
At the time of his death, the playwright Eugene O’Neill had been suffering for several years from Parkinson’s disease, which made it nearly impossible for him to write. In late November 1953, he was living at the Hotel Shelton in Boston when he was struck with pneumonia. According to biographer Louis Scheaffer , shortly after uttering these words (which referred wryly to his birth in a hotel room off Times Square in New York City in 1888) O’Neill lost consciousness and lay in a coma for 36 hours before he drew his last breath.
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20 Last Words From History’s Most Famous People
We’ve rounded up some thought-provoking parting words from famous leaders, writers, politicians and entertainers. Did the most memorable ones make the cut?
Augustus, first emperor of Rome
Last words: “I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble.”
Yale University professor and bestselling author Timothy Snyder rounds up five popular myths about history .
Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance icon
Last words: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
Here’s what you didn’t know about the Mona Lisa .
Marie Antoinette, last Queen of France
Last words: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès.” (“Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose,” said Antoinette to her executioner after accidentally stepping on his foot. She was beheaded shortly after.)
Everyone in the world should know these French words .
Jane Austen, novelist
Last words: “I want nothing but death.”
Some of history’s most inspiring females can be found on the pages of these novels .
Napoleon Bonaparte, military leader
Last words: “France, the army, the head of the army, Josephine.”
Here are the world’s most contagious myths and misconceptions —debunked.
Ludwig van Beethoven, composer and pianist
Last words: “Friends, applaud. The comedy is over.”
Which music genre says you’re more creative, and which says you’re selfish? Find out here .
Vincent van Gogh, post-impressionist painter
Last words: “The sadness will last forever.”
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Thomas Edison, inventor and businessman
Last words: “It is very beautiful out there.” (Said to his wife.)
Plus: 10 Obsolete Inventions People Thought Were Going to Last Forever
Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer
Last words : “Gas is running low. We are on the line 157-337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait.”
These facts about flying will help you stay calm on your next flight.
Frida Kahlo, painter
Last words: “I hope the exit is joyful and hope never to come back.”
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Ernest Hemingway, novelist and journalist
Last words: “Good night, my kitten.” (Said to his wife.)
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Malcolm X, civil rights activist
Last words: “Hold it! Hold it! Let’s cool it! Let’s be cool, brothers!” (Said to his assassins.)
Plus: 22 History Lessons Your Teacher Lied to You About
Robert F. Kennedy, politician
Last words: “Is everybody alright?” (Said after being shot in the Ambassador Hotel.)
Plus: What Really Happened When Jackie Kennedy Met Queen Elizabeth
John Wayne, actor
Last words: “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” (Said to his wife.)
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Alfred Hitchcock, director
Last words: “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”
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Diana, Princess of Wales
Last words: “My God, what’s happened?”
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Frank Sinatra, singer and actor
Last words: “I’m losing.” (Said to his wife.)
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Joe DiMaggio, baseball player
Last words: “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
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James Brown, singer-songwriter
Last words: “I’m going away tonight.”
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Steve Jobs, entrepreneur and businessman
Last words: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
Reader’s Digest looks back on Steve Jobs and his contribution to our digital world .
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The Famous Last Words Of 41 Historical Greats
From edgar allen poe to tupac, enjoy the biting and sometimes hilarious last words of some of history's greatest figures..
Be they in the arts, politics, or sports, in many ways historical icons seem to be, well, not human. That perhaps explains why their deaths come as that much more of a shock to the general public.
The famous last words in the gallery above serve as an apt reminder that no one, not even the larger than life, can predict their end -- or for that matter, know exactly what they will say upon their dying breath.
After reading these famous final words, check out our list of interesting quotes and history's best insults .
Literary last words
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Thu 5 Aug 2010 11.35 EDT First published on Thu 5 Aug 2010 11.35 EDT
Photograph: The Gallery Collection/Corbis
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Photograph: Roger Viollet/AFP/Getty Images
Famous Last Words
While poets may not always experience the most poetic of deaths, many mark their final moments with the most lyrical, memorable, funny—and occasionally mysterious—last words. Check out this list of famous last lines from historic poets and the strange, sad, and interesting tales that accompany them.
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National poetry month, american poets.
The Last Words Of Famous Writers
When you’ve dedicated your life to words, it’s important to go out eloquently.
- Ernest Hemingway: “Goodnight my kitten.” Spoken to his wife before he killed himself.
- Jane Austen: “I want nothing but death.” In response to her sister, Cassandra, who was asking her if she wanted anything.
- J.M Barrie: “I can’t sleep.”
- L. Frank Baum: “Now I can cross the shifting sands.”
- Edgar Allan Poe: “Lord help my poor soul.”
- Thomas Hobbes: “I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap into the dark,”
- Alfred Jarry: “I am dying…please, bring me a toothpick.”
- Hunter S. Thompson: “Relax — this won’t hurt.”
- Henrik Ibsen: “On the contrary!”
- Anton Chekhov: “I haven’t had champagne for a long time.”
- Mark Twain: “Good bye. If we meet—” Spoken to his daughter Clara.
- Louisa May Alcott: “Is it not meningitis?” Alcott did not have meningitis, though she believed it to be so. She died from mercury poison.
- Jean Cocteau: “Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking towards me, without hurrying.”
- Washington Irving: “I have to set my pillows one more night, when will this end already?”
- Leo Tolstoy: “But the peasants…how do the peasants die?”
- Hans Christian Andersen: “Don’t ask me how I am! I understand nothing more.”
- Charles Dickens: “On the ground!” He suffered a stroke outside his home and was asking to be laid on the ground.
- H.G. Wells: “Go away! I’m all right.” He didn’t know he was dying.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “More light.”
- W.C. Fields: “Goddamn the whole fucking world and everyone in it except you, Carlotta!” “Carlotta” was Carlotta Monti, actress and his mistress.
- Voltaire: “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.” When asked by a priest to renounce Satan.
- Dylan Thomas: “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies…I think that’s the record.”
- George Bernard Shaw: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
- Henry David Thoreau: “Moose…Indian.”
- James Joyce: “Does nobody understand?”
- Oscar Wilde: “Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.”
- Bob Hope: “Surprise me.” He was responding to his wife asking where he wanted to be buried.
- Roald Dahl’s last words are commonly believed to be “you know, I’m not frightened. It’s just that I will miss you all so much!” which are the perfect last words. But, after he appeared to fall unconscious, a nurse injected him with morphine to ease his passing. His actual last words were a whispered “ow, fuck”
- Salvador Dali hoped his last words would be “I do not believe in my death,” but instead, they were actually, “Where is my clock?”
- Emily Dickinson: “I must go in, the fog is rising.”
Tag yourself. I’m HG Wells.
I’m James Joyce
No, but no one is explaining Ibsen!!
He had been really fucking sick for days, and woke up from a feverish night. His nurse? Wife? Asked him if he was feeling better. He smiled, said "On the contrary!" And died.
Supreme power move from my man Ibsen.
7 Musicians’ Famous Last Words
by Alli Patton February 1, 2023, 5:16 pm
More often than not, musicians make an impact, stunning listeners with their music and touching audiences with their lyrics. Even when they leave this world, their words rarely do.
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Here are some musicians’ famous final utterances that strike deeper than any lyric could.
“Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”
Surrounded by loved ones and spiritual leaders, the famed former Beatle George Harrison gave a final message to the world that aptly summed up who he was and how he lived.
The deeply spiritual musician had lost his battle with cancer. Following the news of his death, his wife Olivia wrote his fans. “He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends. He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.’”
“I’m going away tonight!”
In the early morning hours of Christmas Day in 2006, soul master James Brown passed away from congestive heart failure. His longtime manager Charles Bobbit was by his side and would later report his final utterance was, “I’m going away tonight” before taking his last labored breaths.
“That was a great game of golf, fellas. Let’s go have a Coca-Cola.”
Big band crooner Bing Crosby was an avid golfer and his last day would be spent at Spain’s La Moraleja Golf Course on October 14, 1977.
Valentin Barrios was among Crosby’s course companions that day and recalled the singer’s final round . “He played very well, and I know he enjoyed it very much,” he said. “He told us he was feeling much better after his fall in California a few months earlier and better still for being out on this beautiful golf course.”
Crosby won the game but would collapse only yards away from the clubhouse entrance. He died of a heart attack.
Terry Kath of Chicago
“What do you think I’m gonna do? Blow my brains out? “
Chicago’s guitarist Terry Kath was a firearms enthusiast, but on January 23, 1978, that enthusiasm turned deadly.
At the apartment of Chicago’s keyboard tech, Don Johnson, Kath was apparently messing with his .38 revolver. When Johnson made his concerns known , Kath responded with: “Don’t worry about it … Look, the clip’s not even in it.”
He reportedly put the empty clip back in the gun and began waving the weapon around his head. “What do you think I’m gonna do? Blow my brains out?” are the words the guitarist is said to have exclaimed before putting the presumably unloaded gun to his temple and pulling the trigger.
The gun unknowingly had a round in the chamber. Kath died instantly from the gunshot just days before his 32nd birthday.
“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
Heavy metal guitarist Dimebag Darrell, formerly of the rock band Pantera, was performing with his newly formed rock outfit Damageplan when he was killed.
An obsessed fan shot and killed him only minutes into the group’s performance at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio.
“The last thing that really matters to me is the last thing we said to each other before we went on stage,” his brother and bandmate Vinnie Paul shared in an interview .
“We were warming up on the side of the stage like we always did and we were both really excited—we only had two shows left and we were gonna be going home for Christmas and to begin work on the second record,” he continued.
“Our code word to let it all hang out and have a good time was ‘Van Halen,’ man! And that’s the last two words we ever said to each other. I said, ‘Van Halen’ and he said ‘Van Halen’ and we high-fived each other and went on the deck to do our thing… and a minute-and-a-half later I’ll never see him again.”
“On your way up, take me up. On your way down, don’t let me down.”
Reggae legend Bob Marley poured spirituality and wisdom into his music. He would do the same with his last words.
He died on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36 after melanoma spread throughout his body.
His last words to his son Ziggy have often been widely misreported as “Money can’t buy life.” However, the icon gifted his son different parting remarks.
“The last thing my father told me was: ‘On your way up, take me up. On your way down, don’t let me down,'” Ziggy has since shared. “A father telling his son that puts some responsibility on my shoulders. He told me that, and I take it very seriously.”
“I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain closed his suicide note with the famous line, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” from Neil Young’s 1978 song, “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).” Signing off “Peace, love, empathy,” Cobain also wrote a short message to his wife and daughter, reiterating his love for them both.
Photo by Barry Feinstein / Courtesy of Universal Music
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40 People and Their Famous Last Words
- Next Luxury / Interesting
- by — Tobias Handke
Most of us don’t want to think about the end, but death is something we all must face. While it would be great if we went quietly in our sleep, this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people have more time and understand that death is imminent due to sickness or other predicaments. When you have time on your hands it gives you the chance to think of something prophetic or life-changing to say with your last breath. There are many people in the world whose famous last words have been the subject of conjecture and rumor for decades.
While it’s hard to know if these famous last words were actually spoken, as there isn’t documentation for many of them, it’s nice to believe these people had the smarts to come up with these interesting words before it all ended. Some are inspirational while others are weird, but are have all become famous last words over the years. From artists and musicians to writers and politicians, here are 40 people and their famous last words.
1. “Goodnight, my kitten.” – Ernest Hemmingway
The writer uttered these words to his wife before committing suicide.
2. “I’m going away tonight.” – James Brown
The soul singer’s last words turned out to be true.
3. “Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.” – Ludwig Van Beethoven
The German composer died during a storm after a long battle with illness.
4. “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” – Steve Jobs
Apple founder Jobs spoke these words after looking at his family for the final time.
5. “Dictionary” – Joseph Wright
Wright was a linguist who edited the English Dialect Dictionar y. He also had a good sense of humor.
6. “Happy” – Raphael
The Italian artist went out of this world in a good mood.
7. “Pardon me, sir. I meant not to do it.” – Marie Antoinette
Polite to the end, Antoinette said these words after accidentally stepping on the foot of her executioner. Seconds later she was headless.
8. “Motzart” – Gustav Mahler
Composer Mahler was conducting an imaginary orchestra when he carked it.
9. “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.” – Bessie Smith
These are the final words from the famous blues singer.
10. “How’s this for your headline? ‘French Fries.'” – James Donald French
The convicted murderer showed his humorous side with this phrase spoken moments before he was executed.
11. “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.” – Jean-Philippe Rameau
The composer wasn’t happy with his final bedside vigil.
12. “Tomorrow at sunrise I will no longer be here.” – Nostradamus
No one can ever say he didn’t predict the future after warning everyone of his impending death with his famous last words.
13. “I should have never switched from Scotch to martinis.” – Humphrey Bogart
Bogart should never have changed drinks.
14. “Nothing, only ‘love one another.’” – William Seward
The US secretary of state and architect of the Alaska Purchase just wanted everyone to spread the love.
15. “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.” – John Barrymore
The notorious actor died from liver and kidney failure after years of alcohol abuse.
16. “I love you very much, my dear Beaver.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
The philosopher said these words to his partner Simone de Beauvoir.
17. “I’m losing it.” – Frank Sinatra
Old blue eyes wasn’t right in the head during his final days.
18. “I’m bored with it all.” – Winston Churchill
Considering he was 90 when he passed, it’s hard to disagree with the former world leader.
19. “I don’t want the doctor’s death. I want to have my own freedom.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Poet Rilke just wanted to be free.
20. “A certain butterfly is already on the wing.” – Vlidamir Nabokov
Even on his deathbed, entomologist Nabokov couldn’t stop talking about butterflies.
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21. “This is no way to live!” – Groucho Marx
The comedian couldn’t go without one final remark.
22. “Money can’t buy life.” – Bob Marley
These are the final words Marley told his son Ziggy. Wise words.
23. “No, doctor, nothing more.” – Thomas Jefferson
The third US President died from kidney complications stemming from a bout of pneumonia.
24. “You are wonderful.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
Standing in the garden with his wife, Doyle said these words to her before clutching his chest and dying right there from a heart attack.
25. “Swing low, sweet chariot.” – Harriet Tubman
As her family gathered around her and sang songs, Tubman said the words to the famous Christian hymn before passing.
26. “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.” – Alfred Hitchcock
A storyteller until the very end.
27. “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” – Karl Marx
Nobody told Marx what to do.
28. “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.” – Leonard Nimoy
Best known for playing Spock in Star Trek , Nimoy had some rather philosophical words to say before the darkness took over.
29. “It was a great game.” – Bing Crosby
Before a heart attack took his life on the golf course, Crosby related these words to those with him on the green.
30. “What’s that? Do I look strange?” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Halfway through writing his final novel, Stevenson stepped into the kitchen one day after feeling a bit off and asked his wife if he looked “strange.” He died later that day.
31. “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.” – Johnny Ace
After a concert in 1954, Ace was playing with a loaded gun when he said these words before shooting and killing himself accidentally.
32. “Happy Anniversary. I love you.’ – Vince Lombardi
A gentleman until the very end.
33. “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” – John Wayne
Wayne’s wife was afraid he didn’t know who she was on his deathbed, but he confirmed his love for her with these sweet words.
34. “I won’t.” – Elvis Presley
After his girlfriend Ginger told him not to fall asleep on the toilet, Presley replied with these last words.
35. “Damn it… Don’t you dare ask God to help me.” – Joan Crawford
As Crawford was close to the end her maid started praying for her and Crawford wouldn’t have a bar of it.
36. “I must go in, the fog is rising.” – Emily Dickinson
The American poet died of Bright’s disease in 1886.
37. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had champagne.” – Anton Chekhov
The great Russian playwright and poet downed a glass of champagne before finally succumbing to tuberculous.
38. “I see black light.” – Victor Hugo
The famous writer died four days after suffering a stroke.
39. “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” – John Adams
Unfortunately he was wrong, as Thomas Jefferson had passed five hours earlier.
40. “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies… I think that’s the record.” – Dylan Thomas
After a heavy night out, Thomas expressed his feelings with these famous last words before slipping into a coma and passing away.
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Here are 64 notable examples. 1. Joseph Wright Wright, a linguist, edited the English Dialect Dictionary. His last word? "Dictionary." 2. Raphael Italian artist Raphael's last word was simply...
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