Jan White

“Famous last words,” a friend of mine commented when I said I was going to exercise. I deserved the response because I’ve said the same thing before and I still need to exercise.

Do any of these “famous last words” sound familiar? “Let’s take a short-cut.” “We don’t need a reservation.” “Of course, I know what I’m doing.” “I don’t need to read the instructions.” They certainly reminded me of other words I’ve said and heard.

History records the “famous last words” like those of Charles H. Duell, the Commissioner of U.S. Patents in 1899, who said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” An internal memo of Western Union dated 1876 read, “The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communications. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

When it comes to “famous last words,” the most serious are the final words someone utters just before they die, sometimes spoken with their final breath. The last words of famous people include those of John Quincy Adams, one of our early presidents, “This is the last of earth. I am content.” Emily Dickinson’s last words were, “The fog is rising.” Thomas Edison was heard to say, “It’s very beautiful over there.”

British writer H.G. Wells told his nurse, “Go away, I’m alright.” General Stonewall Jackson said, “Let us go over the river, and sit in the shade of the trees.” A French soldier named Turenne, dying from his battlefield wounds, was quoted as saying, “I did not mean to be killed today.”

American clergyman Cotton Mather said, “Is this dying? Is this what I feared when I prayed against a hard death? Oh, I can bear this! I can bear this!” Singer/songwriter Bob Marley reportedly said, “Money can’t buy life.” Groucho Marx words were “This is no way to live.” Historians say these were the last words of artist Leonardo da Vinci, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” Most of us remember the last words Todd Beamer said on the hijacked flight over Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, “Let’s roll.”

The writers of the Bible give us the last words of Jesus as He was dying for the sins of mankind by cruel crucifixion, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” according to Luke 23:24. The same chapter records His words to the thief dying on the cross next to Him, “Verily, I say unto thee. Today you shall be with me in paradise.”

The Gospel of John says Jesus asked him to care for His mother when He said to her, “Woman, behold thy son! (John 19:26 – 27). During his dying hours, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

As He was breathing His last breaths, Jesus was heard to say, “I thirst,” (John 19:28).

His final words announced the fulfillment of His mission, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Jan White is a wife, mother, and freelance writer who lives in Andalusia. Her email address is jwhite@andycable.com.

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