During their final moments on earth, people can speak with extreme honesty, or even humour. In some cases, the deathbed can lead to great clarity and words of wisdom, in others, some very witty expressions. Over the centuries famous last words have been collected for us and shared around the world. It seems we are all intrigued by what happens in our final moments – what does the human mind think about at such a time? Can we learn anything from the final moments of others?
Our fascination with the last words of people is only heightened by the fact that there have been so many great deathbed quotations. Here we take a look at some of the most well known and best loved in the English language – some sad, some poetic, and some downright funny.
“I can’t sleep…”
As he lay in his deathbed on the top floor of the Adelphi Terrace House in London, England, the renowned Scottish novelist and dramatist Sir James Matthew Barrie, also known as J.M Barrie, uttered these words. The man who brought us Peter Pan was being nursed there as he suffered from pneumonia, finally succumbing to the illness on June 19, 1937. This is one of the most well-known famous last words, due to the poignancy involved. Unwell, and restless, he felt he couldn’t sleep – not knowing that in the next moment he would sleep forever.
“No you certainly can’t”
Famous last words aren’t always spoken in the deathbed, as death and tragedy can happen anywhere. These last words were spoken by the late president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, in his car just seconds before he was assassinated. Before the shooting, the wife of then Governor John Connelly remarked “You certainly cannot say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President.” This was JFK’s response, and moments later the fatal shots were fired.
“Dammit… Don’t you dare ask God to help me”
One of the most famous actresses on the planet – though some younger movie fans may never have heard of her today – Joan Crawford was always a force to be reckoned with. A leading lady who was one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, earning a name for herself in classics such as Mildred Pierce and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Crawford was diagnosed with cancer in her 70’s. A stubborn and strong-willed woman, she had been bedridden for years and refused to seek medical help for herself. On May 1977, the two nurses who took care of her on her last day realized that Crawford was dying and they offered up a soft prayer beside her bed – and this was Crawford’s response. Clearly not a religious woman, at the time of her death at any rate, this quote has remained a well-known one as it seems almost like a line Crawford would have spoken in one of her own movies.
“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis”
Another distinguished Hollywood actor with a way with words, this was the last thing Humphrey Bogart ever said. The screen legend, famous for his roles in film noir classics like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, uttered these witty last words on his deathbed in his home in Mapleton Drive, United States. He was first diagnosed with a malignancy in his esophagus in 1956 and on January 22, 1957, he called his wife and all his children to come near his deathbed, so he could bid them goodbye – and thank Martinis for his downfall.
“Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!”
These were the final words of James French, an American criminal and convicted murderer who was sentenced to death by the electric chair. He was clearly a man with a dark sense of humour! Making a pun out of his own execution, he shouted these words to the press who were gathered to witness his death. French’s words have gone down in history – and his execution has too. His death by electric chair on 10 August, 1966 was the execution carried out under Oklahoma’s death penalty laws.