Your words have the power to leave a legacy. Especially when they are "famous last words."
As a cultural phenomenon, I think we are nearly as interested in the final sentence people utter as in the words and actions they use throughout a lifetime. This is especially true pertaining to celebrities, and of course, family members.
I'm not sure why these final words hold such gravitas, perhaps we believe in the last moments of life we are offered a view of what lies ahead, or perhaps we believe that a person on the brink of death holds the wisdom to package the importance of life in a few brief words. Maybe we want to hear a confirmation that life is important, that it is worth fighting for and holding onto, even at closure. Maybe we are interested because from a young age we are taught that the end of a chapter, a book, a movie, a song, should hold extra meaning that the reader or listener can take with them.
Saying goodbye to a visiting friend or relative can be difficult. Saying goodbye forever, even to a stranger, can be nearly impossible. Perhaps the magic of last words is that we know they are final, and therefore we vow to commit them to memory, to honor a person's life by remembering their closing lines.
There are a couple of sites dedicated to last words by famous people - if you're interested, you can find them at Brain Candy Celebrity Quotes or Wikipedia. I can't say for sure that they're accurate, but it's one way to glean some random trivia.
I would certainly not ask you to write your own last words, for two reasons. One, I hope you have a long, lovely life ahead of you. Two, I'm pretty superstitious when it comes to that sort of thing - no pictures at graveyards, no baby names before birth - I'm not big on tempting fate so I'll leave that alone!
What does interest me is what you believe a few people from history would have said, had their lives not been ended too soon. Had they lived on to a ripe old age, or had they dealt with a disease with time to prepare for passing, what might they have said to friends, family, the world?
writing exercise: Pick one (or more) of the following historical figures whose life was ended abruptly and imagine what they may have chosen for those famous last words.
- Abraham Lincoln
- Elvis Presley
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
- John Lennon
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Click "read more" for writercizer response.)
Abraham Lincoln - I have worked to free those without freedom, but there is still much to be done on that front. Granting the slaves freedom has not yet granted them their human rights. I entrust the American people and the US government to allow men and women of all colors the ability to live free from slavery and oppression in a just society. Change is not easy, but it is right, and I challenge our patriots to do what is right.
Elvis - The King will live long.
JFK - The presidency was a great achievement, but raising my children brought me the greatest pride.
John Lennon - It's all about peace, brother. Peace, love and Yoko. It's not about the music or the art; it's about the children and loving. Live free and love.
Gandhi - I am but a man with a love for his country. It is for the people of India that I have lived this life, and it is thanks to the people of India that I have felt the love I was given.
MLK, Jr. - (I won't touch this one right now, because, as a friend noted in a conversation this morning, he may very well have sensed his last speech were going to be his last words. He knew the threats and controversy and may have been more prepared for what ended his life than we could imagine, so it is possible that those last words in his speech were meant to be his parting statement.)