On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. What were his last words on that infamous day? Were they a farewell to Jackie, or were they some sort of speech?
Actually, they were nothing like that. John F. Kennedy’s last words were, “No, you certainly can’t.”
Those words were spoken in reply to Nellie Connally, the first lady of Texas. She said, “You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a warm welcome.”
The President was so grievously wounded that he didn’t have time to say goodbye. While he wasn’t from Texas, an unfortunate part of his history lies here, and his policies still affect Texas today.
Photo: @photosrfun4me via Twenty20
Other influential politicians had more time to prepare, so their last words are more poignant.
After Sam Houston asked for an American flag to admire as he passed away, his last words were simply, “Texas…Margaret…Texas.” This was a fitting end for an American hero who fought secession to his last breath.
On the other hand, John Wesley Hardin was a Texas outlaw. He killed or wounded at least seventeen men in his long career. His last words were spoken while gambling, saying, “You’ve got four sixes to beat.” After saying that, he was shot in the back of the head. It was fitting.
Tom O’Folliard, another Texas outlaw, was shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett. As O’Folliard lay dying, his last words to Garrett were, “Aw, go to Hell you long-legged son-of-a-bitch.”
It’s hard to find a more Texan dying quote.
Doc Holliday was a gunfighter and gambler, who also worked as a dentist in Texas for a time. On his deathbed, though, he couldn’t even get a whiskey. After a nurse refused his request, his last words were, “Damn. This is funny.” Next time you drink a shot of whiskey, you might want to drink to Doc.
More recently, some of Buddy Holly’s last words were spoken to Waylon Jennings. The two singers were touring together, but some of them were able to take a plane, while others had to take a bus. Holly was able to get a seat on the plane, so he said to Jennings, “So, you’re not going with us tonight on the plane, huh? Well, I hope your old bus freezes up. It’s 40-below out there and you’re gonna get awful cold.” This was just a joke between friends. It happens.
Unfortunately, Jennings replied, “Well, I hope your old plane crashes.” Again, it was just a joke.
But the plane did crash. Buddy Holly was killed. Jennings regretted saying that for the rest of his life.
Photo: @roadtworuin via Twenty20
Someone’s last words can be casual, or they can be heartfelt. Some people want to be remembered after they pass on, so they imagine that everything they say on their deathbed will be written down and recorded.
Those folks may not understand why last words are important. Last words give us one final chance to talk with people that we love.
At the end of our lives, posterity doesn’t really mean anything. Our connections to other people make last words important, not the words themselves. If someone dies alone, what they say won’t matter. However, if that person is surrounded by friends and family, everything will be remembered.
Life is about living, not about dying.