Here at GrumbleButt’s Lair, deep within the heart of Mount GrumbleButt, we are working overtime to make sure you are up-to-date on all the hottest trends. In that ongoing effort, today we bring you the hottest trend in dying…getting the last word.
In the past, concern about “last words” was reserved for the famous and the notorious. Famous last words range from the poetic and the profound to the nonsensical and ironic. Vladimir Nabokov, an author and entomologist particularly interested in butterflies left us with poetic last words: “A certain butterfly is already on the wing.” When Sir Isaac Newton died, his humble last words were, “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Emily Dickinson’s last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”
Some have used their last words to leave this earth on a note of humor. Richard B. Mellon was a multimillionaire. He was the President of Alcoa, and he and his brother Andrew had a little game of Tag going. The weird thing was, this game of Tag lasted for like seven decades. When Richard was on his deathbed, he called his brother over and whispered, “Last tag.” Poor Andrew remained “It” for four years, until he died. Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.” When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!” Donald O’Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor. He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O’Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one. Charles Gussman was a writer and TV announcer, who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When he daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor…”
Then there are those whose last words become terribly ironic in the wake of their death. Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right. Johnny Ace, an R&B singer, died in 1954 while playing with a pistol during a break in his concert set. His last words were, “I’ll show you that it won’t shoot.” Blues guitarist Leadbelly said, “Doctor, if I put this here guitar down now, I ain’t never gonna wake up.” He was right. Surgeon Joseph Henry Green was checking his own pulse as he lay dying. His last word: “Stopped.”
And then there is a whole category of people whose last words were, well, *unfortunate*. Louise-Marie-Thérèse de Saint Maurice, Comtesse de Vercellis let one rip while she was dying. She said, “Good. A woman who can fart is not dead.” Frank Sinatra died after saying, “I’m losing it.” George Orwell’s last written words were, “At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.” He died at age 46. Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau objected to a song sung at his bedside. He said, “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.” In her 2014 memoir, Ginger Alden revealed then-fiance Elvis Presley’s final words before his death in 1977. During a night of sleeplessness, Presley told Alden, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” The rest, as they say, is history.
I can’t say the notion of my last words hasn’t occurred to me. After my brush with death a few years ago, I told Mrs. GrumbleButt that if my final words end up being something unbecoming like, “Boy, my ass really hurts” or “I think I have gas” to roll the tape back to the last thing I said that might be a more fitting end to my story.
It seems that idea has caught on like wildfire. The hottest trend in dying is to write your OWN obituary before you die (kinda hard afterwards), or at the very least your final words or thoughts on any number of subjects. When Patricia M. Shong recently passed away, her obituary said the 72-year-old enjoyed scrapbooking, weekly card night and spending time with her family. “She would also like us to set the record straight for her,” it read. “Brady is innocent!!” (Needless to say, she was a rabid Patriots fan). Professor Randy Pausch achieved folk hero status with his “Last Lecture.” The YouTube video swept the nation before his death in 2008, and continues to be a source of inspiration for many.
Now there are websites devoted to helping you write your own obituary like obituaryguide.com and obitnow.com. FaceBook pages have now become the site of makeshift memorials. When someone we know dies, we all go to their FB page to see what the last thing they posted was in hopes of gleaning some last words or thoughts of our departed friend. Legacy.com will archive your obituary into perpetuity. And in this modern age, where we define ourselves in life through social media, we are now moving towards defining ourselves in death, as well.
And why wouldn’t we? Who better to tell our own stories but ourselves. Who better to place a frame around the lives we lead but ourselves.It is also a great way of taking stock of your life, and an opportunity to shift our focus back to the things that matter to us and we want to be remembered for. Being around to write your own obituary means you are also still around to change your life if you find some aspect of your existence lacking.
But the best reason is because it is the ultimate “mic drop.” It is the last word of all the words you will ever say on this plane of existence. Why not make them the best words we can. No pressure or anything.
I guess I’ve got some writing to do on my *own* obituary…but to give those words the most meaning I can, I’ve got some living to do too.
Peace and Love yall,