Bob Tamasy: Famous Last Words

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

When you hear the term, “famous last words,” what comes to mind? Recently during the NCAA basketball tournament, a player brashly announced his team would defeat a much-higher seeded opponent in an early round. Unfortunately, the athlete had his worst game of the season and his team suffered a crushing defeat. Extract brashness. Insert humiliation. Eat words.

Last words famously uttered by people in the most literal sense are even more interesting. Revered science-fiction writer H. G. Wells is reputed to have said, “Go away…I’m all right.” Well, maybe not. George Washington, the first U.S. President, was a bit more definitive with his final words: “It is well, I die hard, but I’m not afraid to go.



Actor James Dean, shortly before his fatal car crash, presaged his demise when he said, "My fun days are over." More certain of her own end, French queen Marie Antoinette kept her manners even on her way to the guillotine. After accidentally stepping on the foot of her executioner, she reputedly said, “Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.”

What do you think your own "famous last
words" might be some day?
One of my favorites came from Francisco “Pancho” Villa, the Mexican revolutionary of the early 1900s. On his deathbed Villa told those around him, "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something important." We can appreciate such sentiments.

You’d think writers would be especially good at coming up with famous last words. Poet Emily Dickinson, in her last breath, offered this provocative observation: “…the fog is rising.” Another celebrated poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, after her husband, Robert Browning, asked how she felt, replied, “Beautiful.”

Enlightenment writer and philosopher, Voltaire, is reputed to have sustained antagonism toward religious dogma to the very end. When asked by a priest to renounce Satan, he supposedly responded, “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”

Author O. Henry, borrowing lyrics of a popular song, stated, "Turn up the lights, I don't want to go home in the dark." Damon Runyon had this poignant comment: "You can keep the things of bronze and stone and give me one man to remember me just once a year."

Perhaps also wishing to be remembered, artist Pablo Picasso said, “Drink to me.”

Karl Marx, the Prussian-German philosopher and socialist, apparently felt nothing was left to say: "Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough."

I offer these not to seem morbid, but simply as a reminder that, ready or not, one day every one of us will have the “opportunity” to express our last words – regardless of whether they become famous or not.  It seems to me the words we utter as we die are often a reflection of how we’ve lived. The thoughts and values that have bubbled inside of us might just spill out at the last.

There are no better examples, in my opinion, than what we find in the Bible. Hanging from the cross, Jesus mustered up enough breath to proclaim, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His mission had been accomplished; the debt for mankind had been paid.

Then the apostle Paul, writing to his young protégé Timothy while sitting in prison awaiting execution, declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Even though it may be many years from now, what do you think your last words will be? Better yet, what would you like them to be? It’s never too soon to start preparing.

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.)


"A Baby Brings Peace" Is Sunday's Topic At Middle Valley

Middle Valley Church of God announces that Pastor Mitch McClure will speak on the topic, 'A Baby Brings Peace '  in the  10:30 a.m.  service this  Sunday .  This is part of a sermon series titled 'Advent, A Time Of Hope.'  This new sermon series will focus on the advent of the Christ child at Christmas with the hope ... (click for more)

Christmas Service Times At Jones Memorial UMC Announced

Jones Memorial United Methodist Church, 4131 Ringgold Road in East Ridge, will hold the following Christmas holiday services: Christmas Eve Services will be Saturday, Dec. 24 at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. Christmas Day Service will be Sunday, Dec, 25 at 10:30 a.m. (click for more)

Tennessee Members Of Congress Urge President To Approve Federal Disaster Assistance For Tennessee Counties

Members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation on Saturday urged President Obama to quickly approve Governor Haslam’s request for a major disaster declaration for the State of Tennessee to help five Tennessee counties impacted by wildfires and severe weather in November rebuild and recover. “Governor Bill Haslam has submitted a request for Public Assistance and Individual ... (click for more)

Grohn Says Integrity And Ethics Lacking In Berke Administration

Mayoral candidate Larry Grohn criticized controversies and instability coming from the mayor’s administration as a sign of unethical leadership and a lack of integrity. He said, "These scandals lay out the simple fact that it is time for new leadership which is accountable to the people." Councilman Grohn’s criticism comes after the independent auditor’s release of a memorandum ... (click for more)

New School Funding Ideas

After reading the article “County Schools Prepare To Set Priorities For Next Round Of School Building Funding,” I could not help but think about how helpful it would be to have the millions of taxpayer dollars given the owners of Walnut Common apartments to build some new schools.   In case you did not know, since 2008 our elected officials have given away millions in taxpayer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Facebook Starlet

The Pants Store, a toney women’s boutique in Birmingham’s Mountain Book community, held its annual Holiday Open House about a week or so and, as usual, the popular store was full of customers and holiday cheer. It was a festive gathering, fun for all, but as store employees cleaned up for the next day, they happened across an empty designer-shoe box and a brassiere somebody had ... (click for more)