The average person speaks millions of words in a lifetime, most of them mundane, but some, hopefully, profound. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think I’d like to go out on a high note. If I were on my deathbed and happened to say something pithy, wise, or clever, I might just shut up after that. Through the years, the last words uttered by famous people have been recorded and collected. Maybe we hope that those on the verge of death acquire an expanded vision of life, and we can learn from their final observations. Here is a sampling:
- John Quincy Adams: “This is the last of earth! I am content.”
- Bing Crosby: “That was a great game of golf, fellas.”
- Louis XIV: “Why are you weeping? Did you imagine that I was immortal?”
- Karl Marx: “Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
- Sir Walter Raleigh: “I have a long journey to take, and must bid the company farewell.”
- Salvador Dalí: “I do not believe in my death.”
- Michael Jackson: “I love you more.”
- Nostradamus: “Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here.”
- P. T. Barnum: “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
- Emily Dickinson: “I must go in; the fog is rising.”
- Dominique Bouhours (French grammarian): “I am about to—or I am going to—die: either expression is correct.”
- Steve Jobs: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
About two weeks before my father died, it was arranged that a hospice worker would be with him 24 hours a day. When Walter arrived, he checked the paperwork, which indicated that Dad was unconscious. Still, Walter approached him in the manner he would any patient: “Hello, Mr. Greenfield. My name is Walter. How are you today?” “I feel fine!” came the startling reply. Those were the last words anyone reported hearing my father speak. I may be biased, but I think they hold up to the ones attributed to famous people.
In fact, Mom is considering putting them on his gravestone.