I have to admit it, I’m jealous. Some people not only lead great lives, but they also manage to depart this life with words that are long remembered.
Not me. I’ll probably say, “Hey! Who turned out the da — d lights?”
Some words are remembered because they are so profound. Take what Elizabeth I, Queen of England, said in 1603:
“All my possessions for a moment of time.”
If that doesn’t say it all, I’d like to know what does. I figure that a whole lot of people have blinked out with the same thought on their minds.
On the other hand, there are those who, like me, never seem to have a clue what’s going on. Take Douglas Fairbanks. You know what the last thing he said was?
“I’ve never felt better.”
Now that’s scary! Talk about not seeing it coming!
Well, maybe not so scary at my age. I never feel all that good these days, so I’m not likely to make that mistake. I’m 79 now and I don’t think I’ve said that in — oh — 10 years? Fifteen? Twenty? Thir ... never mind!
But you younger folks better think that one over.
Next time you’re feeling your oats ...?
You never know! “Hey, man! I’m feeling really good.” Blink!
Some people are so dumb they stay dumb right up to their last breath.
Tacitus, tells us that in 41 AD, when Gaius Caligula, the most unpopular Roman emperor ever, was being stabbed to death — by his own guards — he yelled out, “I am still alive!”
Now think about it. Your own palace guards are stabbing you full of holes. Your dearest wish is they would quit. Why wouldn’t you yell something like:
“Enough already! I’m dead!”
Might not work, but I’ll tell you what, Johnny. It’s going to work a lot better than yelling, “I am still alive!”
That’s like jumping up and down and waving your arms in the jungle when a near sighted gorilla is trying to figure out whose head needs to be plucked off.
Here’s one I like. Nothing like a good put-down. When Julius Caesar was being assassinated by jealous politicians, he looked up and saw his best friend wielding a dagger. And what did he say?
“What? You too, Brutus?”
Now there’s something it would be hard to live with when you woke up at night and couldn’t sleep. Can you picture poor old Brutus rolling around and tossing at 3:30 in the morning?
“Jeez! Why din’t I let the other guys do it? They din’t need me. How’d I let that frickin-frackin Cassius talk me into it? ‘C’mon,’ he says. ‘To show solidarity.’ I’ll give him solidarity! Eighteen daggers or 19 daggers. What’s the difference? Jeez! Lookit the way things are now, will ya? Nobody don’t wanta be my friend no more.”
And then there’s the literary point of view.
W. Somerset Maugham said, “Dying is a dull, dreary business. I advise you to have nothing to do with it.”
Nice advice. I’m going to take it.
Want to hear a really thought-provoking one?
Humphrey Bogart, Jan. 14, 1957. “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.”
I can see that.
Believe it or not, there’s one person who actually got his dying wish: Richard Feynman, a physicist, who died in 1988. “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
See? Be careful what you ask for.
Want to know what I would have said?
“Look, Lord. I know I screwed up, but I’ll tell you what, you give me another whack at it and you’ll see a guy who’s really ...”
Who knows? Maybe you do get what you ask for.
Don’t believe it? Try this on for size.
Oscar Wilde, Nov. 30, 1900. “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
Look what Tallulah Bankhead said back in December 1968, when she heard a voice asking her what she wanted.
“Codeine ... bourbon.”
Honest and to the point.
By the way, for those of you who have always wondered if Joan Crawford was as hard-nailed off the screen as on the screen, think about this comment:
As her housekeeper began to pray aloud, she snapped, “Damn it! Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
One of my very favorites is told about an English politician named Henry Fox. Now face it, politicians are different from the rest of us. They spend their entire lives working at oneupmanship.
I imagine what Fox was thinking was, “Hey, if you’re really good at what you do, why quit because there isn’t much time left?”
So over in England back in 1774, Henry Fox, in speaking of one of his lifelong political rivals, told a servant, “If Mister Selwn calls, show him up. If I am alive I shall be delighted to see him. And if I am dead he will be delighted to see me.”
Want to bet he died with a smile on his face?
As we all know, Thomas Jefferson penned our Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. And as he lay dying he looked up and asked, “Is it the Fourth?”
It was. July 4, 1826. There’s a man with a sense of history!
H. G. Wells, famous for science fiction, was still at it on his death bed in 1946. “Go away,” he said. “I’m all right.”
A lady I have to admire is Lady Nancy Astor. When she woke briefly during her last illness and found her family clustered about her bed, she asked, “Am I dying or is this my birthday?”
But the best, the absolute best, never to be outdone, is the statement made by General John Sedgewick, the Union commander at the battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse. While looking over the parapet at the enemy lines he said: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist ...”