Everybody dies at the end. Even the stars—unless you believe in reincarnation, then there’s a potential chance for a sequel. It’s just the way life in this world is set up. In the famous words of Jim Morrison, “No one here gets out alive.” Famous words, sure enough. But those were not his last.
What exactly were Morrison’s last uttered words? Well, if his girlfriend Pamela Courson is to be believed, Jim’s final words were, allegedly, “Are you there, Pam? Pam, are you there?” She found him dead in the bathtub a short while later.
Final words, as heard by those who claim to have been there at the end, can be humorous or sad or startling or even eye-opening. They may give comfort to loved ones left behind or pause for thought to fans who never knew the deceased as anything other than a star.
Here is a selection of last words uttered by famous people as they slipped the surly bonds of earth.
James Dean, actor, two-time Oscar nominee, as he drove a silver Porsche Spyder on his way to a race in Salinas, California: “That guy’s gotta stop . . . He’ll see us.” Unfortunately, the guy in question, a 23-year-old student named Donald Turnupseed, did not see the car in time and turned directly into its path. According to Dean’s passenger, mechanic Rolf Wutherich, Dean survived for about twenty minutes following the wreck, screaming in agony.
Legendary actress Joan Crawford left this world an angry and bitter soul. As Crawford’s life drew to its conclusion, her housekeeper began to pray aloud for the woman’s soul. Before breathing her last, Crawford is reported to have snapped, “Dammit . . . Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”
Actor, comedian, and musician Dudley Moore’s final words seem to suggest an experience of sorts. As companion Rena Fruchter held his hand, Moore allegedly said aloud, “I can hear the music all around me.”
Hollywood legend John Wayne spent his last days drifting in and out of consciousness. His daughter, Aissa Wayne, tending a bedside vigil, held his hand and asked if he knew who she was. The Duke responded, saying, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”
In the humorous category, author Oscar Wilde, lying on his deathbed in a fleabag hotel in Paris, is reported to have uttered, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.”
Family members at the bedside of Apple founder Steve Jobs say his dying words were, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.” Simple words, really, for such a momentous occasion.
Frank Sinatra passed away after saying, “I’m losing it.”
American rhythm and blues singer Johnny Ace, while playing with a pistol, utter these final words: “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, passed away at the age of 71 while working in his garden. He turned to his wife and said, “You are wonderful,” then clutched his chest and died.
Michael Landon, the beloved star of such classic television shows like Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie, passed away in 1991 after a much-publicized battle with cancer. As the end drew near, Landon’s family gathered around the actor’s bed. His son said it was time to move on. Landon said, “You’re right. It’s time. I love you all.”
Percy Grainger, the Australian composer, with his dying breath, told his wife Ella, “You’re the only one I like.”
Ernest Hemingway, before committing suicide with his favorite shotgun, told his wife Mary, “Goodnight, my kitten.” Hemingway took his life in the front foyer of his home in Ketchum, Idaho.
Basketball great “Pistol” Pete Maravich collapsed and died during a pickup game. Moments before his death, Maravich proclaimed, “I feel great.”
Singer/guitarist Bo Diddley died while listening to the song “Walk Around Heaven.” His last word was a simple “Wow.”
Sir Winston Churchill announced, “I’m bored with it all,” before drawing his last breath.
Emily Dickinson, at her moment of death, told those in the room with her, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”
Author Truman Capote, as he lay dying of liver disease, phlebitis, and multiple drug intoxication, repeated, “Mama— Mama— Mama.”
James Brown, the hardest working man in show business, as his life dwindled down to mere seconds, said, “I’m going away tonight.”
Perhaps the most thought-provoking final word comes from the surgeon Joseph Henry Green. Upon checking his own pulse as he lay upon his death bed, simply said, “Stopped.”
Whether we’re famous or anonymous, we can’t know what our last words in this world might be. That moment may come along while we’re busy preparing for tomorrow. The Bible tells us to never let the sun go down on your anger. Wise words, those. As for my own last words? Whatever they may be, I just hope they convey a message of love, of gratitude, of forgiveness.