Famous Last Words

July 15, 2010 at 9:31 am 3 comments

Friends applaud, the comedy is finished. (Ludwig van Beethoven)

I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis. (Humphrey Bogart)

My fun days are over. (James Dean)

Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight. (Lord Byron)

Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well–let ’em wait. (General Ethan Allen, in response to his doctor saying, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you.”)

I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. (Errol Flynn)

Am I dying or is this my birthday? (Lady Nancy Astor, seeing all of her children gathered around her bedside)

Get my swan costume ready. (Anna Pavlov)

How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden? (P.T, Barnum)

You can keep the things of bronze and stone and give me one man to remember me just once a year. (Damon Runyon)

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

Either that wallpaper goes, or I do. (Oscar Wilde)

Some of these cannot be 100% verified of course; some are mere coincidence (something said shortly before dying as opposed to an intentional last line), and it’s possible that some were edited by a well-meaning spouse or publicist. That said, as a student of the language and a lover of quotes, clever people, and the inherent irony of Death, I am fascinated by Famous Last Words.

As a Word Person, I feel a certain amount of self-induced pressure to be eloquent in public, whether preparing a speech, fine-tuning a short story, clacking out a blog post, or, yes, even signing a Birthday card. Given a bit of time, I can usually manage to put some decent words in order. Given a few years (how about 50?) to think about it, I might be able to come up with some cool Last Words of my own.

But, here’s the thing.

Although I may manage some level of grace on the two-dimensional page, I am not so graceful in the 3D real world.

I bump into walls, furniture, people, cars, telephone poles. I fall down stairs.  I slip on throw rugs on hardwood floors. I’m the one who would walk smack into a screen door (knocked it a good five feet out into the yard). There’s been a broken toe. Broken foot. Torn tendons. Chipped tooth. Skinned knees. Stoved fingers. Sprained ankles. One concussion. There are scars on my fingers from Exacto knives, kitchen knives, a broken wine glass, and one broken window. I drop things and I bang my head off stuff while picking them up.

I have tripped on a TV game show (I was four); fell like a rock from the top of monkey bars (I was 10); closed my fingers in a car door (I was 17); and, while painting cabinets, stepped off a kitchen counter into mid-air (about a year ago).

We’re talking Dick Van Dyke without the long legs, the ottoman, or the musical sound effects; Lucille Ball without the pretty dresses and high heels. Jerry Lewis without the intentionally goofy face. Time bomb ticking. Recipe for disaster. Banana peel soul. I am the proverbial bull in a china shop — on roller skates, juggling monkeys.

I am. A clutz.

And so, no matter how morbid it may be that I think about this . . .  I harbor an odd (but, I think you’ll agree, not really unfounded) fear that my Last Words will be:  “Oh Crap!”

Given the Opportunity, What Would You Say?

Entry filed under: Humor - Commentary. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ruth  |  July 15, 2010 at 10:31 am

    sentimentality overtakes me….I want my last words to be “I love you”


  • 2. Julie  |  July 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    could be something like – “maybe this wasn’t such a good idea”


  • 3. WritingbyEar  |  July 19, 2010 at 2:51 am

    I’m with Ruth — those words were my first thought at your question, and I hope they’re my last.



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