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Famous Last Words

Candle burning

January 19, 2022

It’s interesting how regardless of how innocuous a person’s dying words may seem, the context of the situation adds weight and meaning to them. The circumstances have an effect on the words' meaning whether the death was unexpected, or if the words were said with the knowledge that they may be the person's last. Last words make us wonder - are we getting a glimpse into something more than life, who a person truly is? Or are the words random and meaningless, a direct result of illness or fear?

Some find humor in their last moments, while others are reflective and heartfelt. Regardless, they are interesting to read and I’ve always been fascinated with the emotional impact of words.

Here are some of the ones I have found to be most salient:


“Never yet has death been frightened away by screaming.” –Timur, Turco-Mongol conqueror, February 1405


“I do forgive you” –William Howard, 1st Viscount of Stafford to his executioner - December 29, 1680


“Bury me where the birds will sing over my grave.” –Alexander Wilson, American Ornithologist - August 23,1813


“I am absolutely undone.” –Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Irish satirist, playwright and poet - July 7 1816


“I can feel the daisies growing over me.” –John Keats, English Poet - February 23, 1821 [also reported as “I feel the flowers growing over me”]


“My mind is quite unclouded. I could even be witty.” –Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet and literary critic - July 25, 1834


“My bedfellows are cramp and cough – we three all in one bed!” –Charles Lamb, English essayist and poet - December 27, 1834


“Pull up the shades; I don’t want to go home in the dark.” –O. Henry, American writer to a hospital nurse [also reported as “don’t turn down the light. I’m afraid to go home in the dark”] - June 5, 1910


“One last drink, please.” –Jack Daniel, American alcohol businessman - October 10, 1911


“Hershey bars will be good enough- they’ll be fine.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald, American novelist - December 21, 1940


“At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves” –George Orwell, English author - January 21, 1950  (dying at age 46)


“You’re the only one that I like.” –Percy Grainger, Australian-American composer to his wife Ella - February 20, 1961


“Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.” –W. Somerset Maugham, English author - December 15, 1956


“I know this beach like the back of my hand.” –Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia prior to disappearing while swimming December 17, 1967


“If this is what viral pneumonia does to one, I really don’t think I shall bother to have it again.” –Gladys Cooper, English actress - November 17, 1971


“My dear, before you kiss me goodbye, fix your hair. It’s a mess.” –George Kelly, American playwright and actor - June 18, 1974


“Oh, you young people act like old men. You are no fun.” –Josephine Baker, French-American dancer and singer - April 12, 1975


“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.” –Werner Heisenberg, German theoretical physicist - February 1, 1976


“Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.” –Conrad Hilton, American hotelier on being asked if he had any final words of wisdom - January 3, 1979


“I want the world to be filled with white fluffy duckies.” –Derek Jarman, English film director, stage designer and author February 19, 1994


“I should have been a concert pianist.” –Edward Teller, Hungarian-American physicist September 9, 2003


“I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.”    –Donald O’Connor, American actor, dancer, and singer - September 27, 2003


“Noli timere. [Do not be afraid]” –Seamus Heaney, Irish poet in a final text to his wife - August 30, 2013


“Music has been my doorway of perception and the house that I live in.” –David Bowie, English singer-songwriter and actor to his friend Gary Oldman - January 10, 2016


If you would like to read more last words:

Famous Last Words, Fond Farewells, Deathbed Diatribes, and Exclamation Upon Expiration by Ray Robinson

Last Laughs: Funny Tombstone Quotes and Famous Last Words by Kathleen E. Miller

Adults Writing

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