So few people have the sense or opportunity to recognize when they utter their last words, but when well-known people are among this minority group, we get the cliche, “Famous Last Words.” It’s cool enough when you recognize you’re at the moment where the last thing you ever say is about to come out, and it’s even cooler when they are memorable.
Death row inmates have a history of saying crazy stuff shortly before their execution, such as James French, who told reporters attending his death, “How's this for your headline? 'French Fries.’” It’s good to have a sense of humor until the bitter end and many famous people have said funny things shortly before kicking the bucket, like Charlie Chaplin who told a priest “Why not? It belongs to him,” when a priest said “May God have mercy on your soul.”
One of the more interesting sets of famous last words come from former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who died the exact same day, July 4, 1826. Both knew of each other’s failing health. Jefferson died early in the day, with his last words recorded as, “Is it the Fourth?” while later that day Adams, who had yet to have been told of his friend’s death, uttered his final sentence: “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”
There are deathbed confessions, deathbed regrets and deathbed defiance. There are those who fight every moment leading to their death and those that accept their fate and drift away. All have had fascinating things to say that just make you want to plan your last words so the people at your deathbed look at each other and say, "That was awesome." In that spirit, here are 15 awesome last words before dying.
15 Lt. Col. Kenneth Wilson
“I had you all going, didn’t I?”
14 Joan Crawford
“Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
13 Werner Heisenberg
“When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.”
12 Dominique Bouhours
“I am about to, or I am going to, die; either expression is correct.”
11 P.T. Barnum
“How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
It’s certainly not the master showman’s most known quote; that would be “There’s a sucker born every minute,” but it does reveal a lot of insight into one of the world’s great entrepreneurs and self-made men. One of Barnum’s early schemes was to create the circus sideshow promising amazing things people had never seen. When he couldn’t keep topping himself the honest way, he just started faking it, creating oddities like the “Fiji Mermaid,” which was just a monkey’s head sewn onto the body of a fish. His lasting influence though is as the creator of Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. During an 1890 show, he suffered a stroke and died a few months later in April of 1891.
10 Leonardo da Vinci
“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
9 Anton Cermak
“I’m glad it was me and not you, Mr. President.”
8 Dutch Schultz
“You can play jacks, and girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it. Oh, oh, dog biscuit. And when he is happy, he doesn’t get snappy.”
7 Benito Mussolini
“Shoot me in the chest!”
6 Albert Einstein
“It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”
5 Humphrey Bogart
“I should have never switched from scotch to martinis.”
4 Christine Chubbuck
“And now, in keeping with Channel 40’s policy of always bringing you the latest in blood and guts, in living color, you’re about to see another first, an attempted suicide.”
3 Harvey Korman
“Tape Seinfeld for me.”
2 Ernesto “Che” Guevara
“I know you have come to kill me. Shoot coward, you are only going to kill a man.”
1 Karl Marx
“Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
The paradox about not wanting to say any last words and letting your opinion known is that, by default, those become your last words. Marx’s last words were uttered to his housekeeper who wanted him to say something so she could write them down. Marx died of bronchitis and pleurisy after a long life of sharing his beliefs of how society and economics are forever linked. Marx believed that capitalism, like most forms of government, would eventually collapse as it was just a front for the ruling class. What would rise from the ashes would be socialism, according to Marx, but as the world found out, it was greatly skewed and forever seen as a bad thing when those ideas evolved into communism.
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