Many people still wonder just what Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs meant right before his death in 2011, when he uttered his widely reported last words, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” The statement is so ambiguous, it has been interpreted several different ways. The 10 people noted below left no such uncertainty with their final thoughts and words, with statements that seem a perfect coda to their life experiences. Here are 10 fitting and famous last words from some historical figures.
10. “I believe that a life lived for music is an existence spent wonderfully, and this is what I have dedicated my life to.”
– Luciano Pavarotti
The brilliant Italian tenor thrilled opera audiences worldwide for more than 40 years. He shared these final thoughts with his manager, Terri Robson, before his death of pancreatic cancer in 2007.
9. “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
– Errol Flynn
Flynn starred in 60 films from the 1930s through the 1950s, but he may have been better known for his exploits in real life. The handsome, athletic Australian native epitomized the term “Hollywood playboy,” as he loved to party, court women and have fun. The fast lifestyle took a toll on Flynn, who died of a heart attack at age 50 in 1959.
8. “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
– Joe DiMaggio
According to a story in Vanity Fair magazine in late 2011, DiMaggio shared these words with his attorney and friend, Morris Engelberg, who was with the former baseball star when he died in 1999. DiMaggio, of course, was referring to his former wife, Marilyn Monroe. The two were married in 1954 and divorced later that year, but DiMaggio never stopped loving Monroe; following her death in 1962, he had fresh flowers delivered to her grave several times a week for the next 20 years.
7. “June 3. Cold Harbor. I was killed.”
– Union soldier
These last words were found on the body of a Union soldier, scribbled in his diary, at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864. It was common practice during the Civil War for soldiers to write notes to their loved ones before heading into battles.
6. “This is a hell of a way to die.”
– Gen. George S. Patton
Patton is widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders in United States history. It’s tragically ironic that the man who served in both World Wars without incident suffered catastrophic injuries in a minor traffic accident — no one else in either vehicle was injured — while on a hunting trip in Germany in December 1945. Patton suffered a serious spine injury and spent the last 12 days of his life as a quadraplegic in a hospital bed.
5. “Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here.”
Just what you’d expect from the great 16th century Frenchman notorious for his uncanny prophecies that continue to be parsed for meaning to this day — some observers even argue he predicted the Sept. 11 attacks in New York. Nostradamus’ final words, allegedly uttered to his secretary, are alternately given as, “You will not find me alive at sunrise.”
4. “Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.”
– Conrad Hilton
As reported in Kathleen Miller’s 2006 book, Last Laughs: Funny Tombstone Quotes and Famous Last Words, this good advice is what resulted when someone asked Hilton Hotels empire founder Conrad Hilton for some final words of wisdom. Hilton died in 1979 at age 91.
3. “Ask Bailey what the box office was at the Garden last night.”
– P.T. Barnum
The great promoter joined forces in 1881 with James Bailey to found the Barnum & Bailey Circus, which later became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that operates to this day. Barnum, a shrewd businessman who always had the bottom line in mind, died in his sleep at age 80 in 1891. According to Ringling.com, his last words the night before his death inquired about the circus revenue that night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
2. “I’ve always loved my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, and I’ve always loved my country. I want to go. God, take me.”
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower
These are fitting last words from a man who was married to one woman for 53 years, served in the military during both world wars and later as president in the 1950s presided over the post-war economic boom. Eisenhower died at age 78 in 1969.
1. “A dying man can do nothing easily.”
– Benjamin Franklin
The great inventor, visionary and American statesmen provided countless pithy comments that survive to this day (“A penny saved is a penny earned”; Early to bed and early to rise makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise”), so it’s not surprising he shared such a short yet poignant comment with his daughter as he neared death. She had suggested he might be able to breathe easier if he turned on his side.