John W. Pinkerton


I’m sure you would not be surprised to learn that the most common last words heard on cockpit voice-recorders are, “Oh Shit.”  The words are usually spoken in a tone of resignation.

When I was a little fellow, I thought it odd that most folks did not have final words.  Of course, as I became an older fellow, I realized that this is not an option given most folks.  For a long time, I’ve imagined my final words to be, “Oops.”

Some folks from the Colonial and Revolutionary periods left us with some pretty interesting final words.  John Adams’ final words reflect his long friendship and rivalry with his old friend Jefferson, “Thomas Jefferson--still survives....”  In reality, Jefferson had died earlier that day, July 4, 1826.  His final words were, “Is it the Fourth?”  Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, is reported to have said, “This is the last of earth!  I am content.”  Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general, said in response to his attending doctor’s warning that the angels were waiting for him, responded, “Waiting are they?  Waiting are they?  Well, let ‘em wait.”  Benjamin Franklin said, “A dying man can do nothing easy.”  George Washington’s final words were, “Go away.  I’m all right.”  Nathan Hale, Revolutionary hero, before being executed by the British as a spy, said, “It is the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his commander-in-chief.”  In addition to this one statement, he is given credit for having said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  Whether he actually said it or not is debateable, but in our national memory, he damned well said it.

Authors’ last words don’t seem to be more poetic than the last words of others.

See in what peace a Christian can die.   

Joseph Addison

Is it not meningitis? Louisa M. Alcott

Nothing, but death. (when asked by her sister if

there was anything she wanted)    Jane Austen

I can’t sleep.    James M. Barrie

Oh, I am not going to die, am I?  He will not

     separate us, we have been so happy. (spoken to her

     husband)Charlotte Bronte

Beautiful. (in response to her husband when asked

  how she felt)    Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Now I shall go to sleep.  Goodnight.   

Lord George Byron

Goodnight my darlings.  I’ll see you tomorrow.   

Noel Coward

I must go in, the fog is rising.    

Emily Dickinson

Come my little one, and give me your hand. 

(spoken to his daughter)  

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

God will pardon me, that’s His line of work. 

Heinrich Heine

Turn up the lights, I dont want to go home in the

      dark.       O. Henry


I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap

in the dark.    Thomas Hobbes

I see black light.    Victor Hugo

It’s all been very interesting.   

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Good-bye...why am I hemorhaging?   

Boris Pasternak

I knew it.  I knew it.  Born in a hotel room--and

God damn it--died in a hotel room.    

Eugene O’Neill

Lord help my poor soul.    

Edgar Allan Poe

Here am I, dying of a hundred good symptoms.

Alexander Pope

I owe much; I have nothing; the rest I leave to the

     poor.                                               Francois Rabelais

I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies, I think that’s

     the record....”                                       Dylan Tomas


Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old

curiosity, but I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to

     die.                                            George Bernard Shaw

Moose...Indian...  Henry David Thoreau

God bless...God damn. James Thurber

I die hard but am not afraid to go.  H. B. Wells

So the heart is right, it is no matter which way

the head lieth.  (executed by beheading) 

Sir Walter Raleigh

My personal favorite of final words by authors is Thoreau’s, “Moose...Indian...,”  which makes as much sense as life itself does.

From the world of actors and actresses, we have a number of interesting final words.

Codeine...bourbon.   Tallulah Bankhead

Is everybody happy.  I want everybody to be

happy.  I know I’m happy.    Ethel Barrymore

Die?  I should say not, dear fellow.  No

      Barrymore would allow such a conventional         

     thing to happen to him.    John Barrymore

I should never have switched from Scotch to

     Martinis. Humphrey Bogart

That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.

Lou Costello

Damn it...don’t you dare ask God to help me. 

Joan Crawford

That was a great game of golf, fellers.   

Bing Crosby

I’ve never felt better.    Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

      I’ve had a helluva lot of fun, and I’ve enjoyed

          every minute of it.     Errol Flynn

Yes, it’s tough, but not as tough as doing comedy. 

Edmund Gwenn

Don’t worry chief, it will be all right.   

Rudolph Valentino

Of these varied goodbyes, the one which seems true to the character of the man is Bing’s farewell, “That was a great game of golf, fellers.”

Musical composers have offered us a few last words.

Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.   

Ludwig van Beethoven

  The earth is suffocating...Swear to make them cut

     me open, so that I woun’t be buried alive.  

Frederic Chopin

Now I have finished with all earthly business, and

      high time too.  Yes, yes, my dear child, now

     comes death.    Franz Leher

Executions, by their very nature, require witnesses; thus, we are left many final words of these unfortunates.

Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked


George Appel, executed in electric chair in New York, 1932

You sons of bitches.  Give my love to Mother.   

Francis “Two Gun” Crowley, executed in electric chair, 1931

Remember, the death penalty is murder.   

Robert Drew, executed by injection, Texas, 1994

How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s

      paper?  French Fries. 

    James French, executed in electric chair, Oklahoma,


I’d like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me.  And the rest of the world can kiss my ass. 

Johnny Frank Garrett, Sr., executed by injection, Texas, 1992

I’d rather be fishing.

Jimmy Glass, executed in electric chair, Louisiana,1987

I don’t hold any grudges.  This is my doing. 

Sorry it happened. 

Steven Judy, executed in electric chair, Indiana, 1981

Such is Life. 

Ned Kelly, exectued by hanging, Australia, 1880

I love you, Mom. 

Clarence lackey, executed by injection, Texas, 1997

Shoot straight you Hoosier bastard?  I could hang

a dozen men while you’re screwing around. 

Carl Panzram, executed by hanging, Kansas, 1930

I am going to be face to face with Jesus

now....I love you all very much.  I will see you

all when you get there....  I will wait for you.     

Karla Faye Tucker Brown,

executed by injection, Texas, 1998

Suicide notes, the saddest of all final words:

To my friends: My work is done.  Why wait?   

George Eastman, inventor, 1932

Goodbye, everybody! (His body was never found

after he jumped off a cruise ship)  Hart Crane

When all usefulness is over, when one is assured

of an unavoidable and imminent death, it

is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick

and easy death in place of a slow and horrible

one.    Charlotte Perkins Gilman, writer, 1935

And now, in keeping with Channel 40’s

policy of always bringing you the latest in blood

and guts, in living color, you’re about to see

another first--an attempted suicide. 

Chris Chubbuck, newscaster,

shot himself during broadcast, 1974

Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.   

Terry Kath, rock musician,

while playing Russian roulette, 1978

Dear World, I am leaving you because I am

bored.  I feel I have lived long enough.  I am

leaving you with your worries in this sweet

cesspool--good luck.   

George Sanders, British actor, 1972

Football Season is Over

No More Games.  No More Bombs.  No More

Walking.  No More Fun.  No More Swimming. 


That is 17 years past 50.  17 more than I needed or

wanted.  Boring.  I am always bitchy.  No Fun

for anybody.  67.  You are getting Greedy. Act

your old age.  Relax.  This won’t hurt.   

Hunter S. Thompson, author, 2005

Here is a handful of other final words, some interesting, some sad, some ironic.

Am I dying, or is this my birthday?   

Lady Nancy Astor, 1964

Now comes the mystery.   

Henry Ward Beecher, evangelist, 1887

I am about to--or I am going to--die; either

expression is correct.

Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian, 1702

Et tu, Brute?   

Julius Caesar, Roman emperor, 44 BC

Don’t let poor Nelly (his mistress) starve.   

Charles II, King of England and Scotland, 1685

I am dying, I haven’t drunk champagne for

a long time.      Anton Chekhov, writer, 1904

I’m bored with it all.   

Winston Churchill, statesman, 1965

I’d hate to die twice.  It’s so boring.   

Richard Feynman, physicist, 1988

Let us cross over the river and sit in the shade

of the trees.  General “Stonewall” Jackson, 1863

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.

Jesus Christ

Does nobody understand? 

James Joyce, writer, 1941

Let’s cool it brothers...   

Malcolm X, Black leader,

spoken to his assassins, 1966

They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist....   

General John Sedgwick,

Unnion Commander, 1864

Well, I guess “oops” is more dignified than “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist....”


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