As most of my readers know, I am writing a book about death – the dying process, coping with it, grief, those types of things. As a part of that, I do plenty of reading and research – and I’ve been working on something that has been really fun and interesting. Well, fun and interesting to me – but I AM the death book lady 😉 .
Still, I think it’s nifty and I want to share it with y’all.
I’ve been reading through a few books of famous last words. Each book puts the last words in context and many entries have prompted me to do a quick search of the individual in question to refresh my memory or learn more – and some of them have made my mind wander and gotten me thinking.
It’s been SO much more engrossing than I expected. I really thought it would be a quick day or so add-on type project but I’ve kind of gone all in with it.
I’ve also been learning some wonderful things in the rabbit holes I’ve gone down looking up people and events.
So this post is really a book report of sorts. Just me nerding out and sharing some random trivia.
An aside – I do make a great trivia team member as I am a fountain of useless information. 😉
Some fascinating and/or nifty things – at least to me – I found?
Emily Dickenson, for all of her writing about death, said, “I must go in, the fog is rising.” Having been with many people when they are crossing over, I wonder what she was experiencing or visualizing.
The composer Arnold Schoenberg said, “Harmony,” as he had predicted the time of his death down to the minute. Amazing.
Leonardo da Vinci – of all people! – said “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” If his work was unacceptable, whose is?
On the other hand, da Vinci’s contemporary, Raphael, who died a year after him, simply said, “Happy.”
One of the craziest “discoveries” I made – I feel sure I knew this at one point but it had long since left my brain – was that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within five hours of one another on Independence Day, on the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. What’s more, Jefferson said, “Is it the Fourth?” and Adams said, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” not knowing that Jefferson had died a few hours before.
Down one of the rabbit holes, I learned that Madame Curie’s notebooks STILL glow with her “fairie lights,” the radioactivity she worked with that ultimately poisoned her. To go through her things, a person has to both suit up and sign a waiver. Holy moly and oh my stars.
Babe Ruth’s last words were fairly non-sensical – but I was taken aback when I read from several sources that he was never actually told that he had cancer, despite having been subjected to many brutal experimental treatments as well as surgeries. He never knew the source of his illness. Apparently, as not much was known about it at the time, there was a social stigma – some even thought it contagious – and doctors often felt patients would lose hope if they knew their true diagnosis.
Chopin wrote in his will to be sure he was “cut open” for fear of being buried alive.
Florence Nightingale was insistent that she not have a funeral service. She only wanted a burial with no more than two witnesses.
In a section on tombstone inscriptions, I read one I thought was particularly simple and beautiful: “My Jesus Mercy.” And then learned it belongs to Al Capone. Oh my word. =D
When I came to the headstone of Keats, I have always loved his “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” However, I had never heard the tale of the lines above it that his friends added a few months after his death, essentially blaming his critics for his early demise. Down another rabbit hole, I found this fascinating article about the end of Keats life, the circumstances surrounding his death, and his grave now, if anyone is interested: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/02/23/writ-in-water/
I had forgotten that General George Patton died as a result of a low speed car accident in which the civilian car he was riding in ran into an army truck of all things. The other people in the car were barely injured but he hit his head and sustained a cervical fracture that left him paralyzed. He died twelve days later in a hospital in traction – but prior to his death, among his last words, for a man who had always been such a force, were, “This is a hell of a way to die.”
Okay, and let’s discuss the curse of King Tut – and the fools who disregarded it. The inscription says, “Death will come on swift wings to those that disturb the sleep of the Pharaohs.” I don’t know about y’all, but that’s all I would have needed to read. However, Lord Carnervon, in 1923, decided he had a no worries situation on his hands and marched his crew right on in. Within two months, he was dead. Then others who were part of the group died under mysterious circumstances. Finally, his half brother died. All in 1923. Don’t disturb the sleep of the Pharaohs.
Then – more King Tut, in 1972, a genius from the Cairo Museum shipped King Tut’s mask to London to be shown and declared, “I don’t believe in the curse for one minute.” And he died the same day. Don’t disturb the sleep of the Pharaohs.
There are so many more random factoids I’ve learned as I’m going along – as well as things that ARE really helpful for my book 😉 – and I’ve enjoyed sharing these. I hope y’all have learned a few fun new things too.
Thank you for indulging my geekery. ❤
Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Grace and Blessings.