January 25, 2012

The Last Word


At a recent dinner party, we briefly discussed Steve Jobs’ last words. As reported by his sister Mona Simpson in the New York Times they were “OH WOW, OH WOW, OH WOW.” My take is that his words reflected a mystical experience. Another dinner guest suggested that Steve Jobs was the ultimate marketer and well aware that his last words would be documented and publicized. My cynical friend suggested that the words were conscious and planned. Others believe that DMT (Dimethyltriptamine) released by the pineal gland, creating hallucinogenic arousal, accounted for Jobs’ words. Whether his words indicate a biological explanation of the afterlife, or were his chosen tagline, they are haunting.

The Internet carries hundreds of last words, some from deathbeds, some spoken days before actual death. Below is a recounting of my favorites. Some seem to reflect the essence of the individual and their work, some seem conscious and even self conscious, and some may have been erroneously reported or edited in order to create a legacy.

… the fog is rising. — Emily Dickinson

Why are you weeping? Did you imagine that I was immortal? — Louis XIV

Does nobody understand? –- James Joyce

Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something… — Pancho Villa

Codeine …bourbon. — Tallulah Bankhead

It is well, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go. — George Washington

Drink to me. — Pablo Picasso

Friends applaud, the comedy is over. — Ludwig van Beethoven

Why, I did not know we had quarreled. — Henry David Thoreau, when asked by his aunt if he had made his peace with God.

God bless… God damn. — James Thurber

This is no time to make new enemies. –- Voltaire, when asked on his deathbed to forswear Satan.

I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis. — Humphrey Bogart

I am not the least afraid to die. — Charles Darwin

I’ll finally get to see Marilyn. — Joe DiMaggio, talking about his former wife, Marilyn Monroe

Surprise me. — Bob Hope, spoken to his wife when asked where he wanted to be buried.

Every damn fool thing you do in this life you pay for.
— Edith Piaf

Utter nonsense. — Eleanor Roosevelt, spoken to the nurse who told her she would die when the reason God put her on earth was fulfilled.

It’s very beautiful over there. — Thomas Edison

I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have. — Leonardo da Vinci

Either that wallpaper goes, or I do. — Oscar Wilde,

We are now able to plan our last words. The website ifidie.net offers a Facebook app which allows you to leave a message that will only be posted after you die. It allows us to shift our consciousness, and to take a conscious action pertaining to our mortality. This is a redefinition of our last words. They are not the last words spoken, but the last word written and posted. What will yours be? And remember it’s not an “if” but a “when.”

Comments (5)

  1. January 26, 2012
    Eve Yohalem said...

    I love these lines even though I have a hard time believing anyone could be so pithy in their last moments alive!

  2. January 29, 2012
    John McIlwain said...

    Wonderful post – love them all especially Oscar Wilde’s. And thank for the reminder to make it “when” not “if,” a mistake I have made too often.

  3. February 8, 2012
    Shirley said...

    I’m very intrigued by this topic. There seems to be a lot of pressure to depart this world with a verbal bang, whether it’s philosophical, humorous, or a scandalous confession. For me, I’ve always thought that someone on the precipice of death can reveal something about the “other side” to us, perhaps like what Steve Jobs was doing. I suppose this focus on final words is somehow tied to the notion of a “good death…

    Thanks so much for this intriguing post!

  4. February 11, 2012
    lajo gupta said...

    What a wonderful forum.

  5. February 15, 2012
    amie said...

    I remember when my Grandfather was dying, and he was fading in and out and I was trying to get a reply, asking him ‘Grandpa, do you love me’. When he did not I respond after several times asking I said ‘Oh well, I guess you don’t love me’. Then suddenly he awakened from his silence and said in his Brooklyn accent with an attitude to go with it’ “What do you mean, I don’t love you. Of course I love you”. Those were his final words!

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