Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
One of us will have to go
Famous last words. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
If you're a parent, you probably remember the first words your children ever said. My daughter’s was “Daddy.” Not a bad start.
But today’s missive is about last words—the ones we utter on the way out. If we have time to think about them, they're literally the codas of our lives.
Here are some of the most inspiring last words, or at least most interesting in some cases, of all time.
1. "Oh wow. Oh wow, oh wow."
Honestly, I hope my last words are this good--suggesting wonder and amazement during the last seconds among the living and the first seconds among--well, that's the point, right? Although, there is some possibility that Jobs was playing a last-minute cosmic joke on the rest of us. Which brings us to—
2. "This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go."
Dry, hilarious, lasting. If you want to go out with humor, this is the way to do it. Unless--
3. "Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est."
—Ludwig van Beethoven
If you view comedy from a more philosophical vantage point, these might be good last words for you. I'm pretty sure this is Latin; anyway, it means, "Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over."
4. "He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, 'Life is so beautiful.'"
—Mario Puzo, The Godfather
No fair cheating—you have to have read the book, not just seen the most amazing movie of all time. Granted, Vito Corleone is a fictional character, but the sentiments here are true-life.
5. "I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have."
—Leonardo da Vinci
Really? Da Vinci thought his work wasn't good enough? Forget it, none of our work is good enough. This entire website should probably shut down.
6. "Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!"
That's Karl Marx: a funny, lighthearted guy from start to finish.
7. "Why do you weep? Did you think I was immortal?"
—Louis XIV of France
Given that he was known as "the Sun King," and that he was one of the most powerful French monarchs—yes, some of his subjects probably did think he was immortal. But whether it was ironic or sincere, his last words packed punch.
8. "We are all going."
—President William McKinley
The third American president to be assassinated, McKinley was reportedly responding to his wife, who exclaimed as he died: "I want to go too! I want to go too!"
9. "I'm bored with it all."
—Winston S. Churchill
I have to imagine this was him joking on the way out, if it happened as reported.
10. "Pardon me sir. I did not mean to do it."
The French queen supposedly said this to one of her executioners on her way to the guillotine. She'd stepped on his foot by accident, or so they say.
11. "I love you, Janet."
Asimov prophesied that his last words would reflect his devotion to his wife—and they reportedly were.
12. "I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first."
—St. Thomas More
Short version: More was an English lawyer who refused to sign off on English King Henry VIII's divorce, and he wound up convicted of treason and executed as a result.
13. "More weight."
In 1692, Corey. accused of witchcraft in Salem, Mass, was pressed to death, meaning he was stretched naked while his oppressors piled heavy rocks on him, for refusing to dignify the proceedings with a plea. Each time he was told to say whether he was guilty, the 80 year old Corey showed them who was the bravest: "More weight."
14. "I've always loved my wife and my children and my grandchildren. I've always loved my country. I want to go. God, take me."
I'm moved by the last words of some of these larger-than-life human beings like Churchill, above, and Eisenhower, who not only led the Allied rescue of Europe but served two terms as president.
15. "Gentlemen, I bid you farewell."
—Wallace Hartley, bandmaster on RMS Titantic
You probably know this one because you saw that movie with Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio. Facing death, Hartley and his fellow musicians played as long as they could—and accepted the end.
16. "Sacrifices must be made."
Nearly a decade before the Wright Brothers, Lilienthal made 2,000 flights in gliders before one of his designs stalled 50 feet in the air and crashed. He ultimately died of his injuries.
17. "I've had 18 straight whiskies; I think that's the record."
Okay, this isn't exactly inspiring; maybe it's funny in a black humor sort of way. But it is memorable. I included it here because Thomas is one of my favorite poets—but when it comes to last words, I think you can do better.
7 other things worth knowing today
Everyone else has a podcast. Why not the CIA? Yep, they launched something called, ‘The Langley Files,’ “attempting to step out from its own shadows to share stories from the agency’s 75-year history—and provide a little insight into what it takes to work there.” (Arcamax)
Fifteen of the top players on Spain’s national women’s soccer team said they’d quit the team rather than play for its current coach. Spain’s soccer governing body replied saying not only would the coach not be fired, but the players would each be required to submit a written apology before they can suit up for Spain again. (NYT)
Southwest Airlines joined forces with Guitar Center in a promotion, to give every passenger flying out of Long Beach to Hawaii a ukulele and a music lesson. Reactions? Mixed. (Entrepreneur)
Kind of a cute story: The Washington Post teamed up with three Chicago residents to recreate the entire day portrayed in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, including crashing a parade float. It worked, sort of. (WashPost)
Wait, wasn’t walking 10,000 steps a day revealed to have simply been a Japanese marketing stunt? Not so fast; scientists say it does actually count as the “sweet spot” for a variety of health reasons. (CBC)
This seems obvious but: Some Gen Zers are hoping for a housing market crash so they can afford to buy a home. (Business Insider)
Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth tonight in 59 years! Weather-permitting, expect excellent views on Sept. 26. A good pair of binoculars should be enough to catch some details; you’ll need a large telescope to see the Great Red Spot. (NASA, Twitter)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. I’m traveling today so I dug into the archives; I’ve written about this compendium before at Inc.com. See you in the comments.