Ann Patchett, novelist
Oscar Wilde’s last words were reportedly “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.” That would be funny, except I once had a hideous case of food poisoning in Paris at L’Hotel, where he died. Truly, the wallpaper was as bad as the oyster I had eaten.
Margalit Fox, obituary writer, The New York Times
Those of John Adams before his death—fittingly, on July 4—in 1826. To reassure his compatriots and, one assumes, himself, that the fledgling nation remained in good hands, he was reported to have said, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Unbeknownst to Adams, however, Jefferson had died about five hours earlier.
Robert Greene, author, The 48 Laws of Power
When you are Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist and seer of the biggest and smallest things, it’s terribly fitting that, upon glimpsing the void of death, you’d be unimpressed. “I’d hate to die twice—it’s so boring” were his reported final words.
Scott Simon, host, NPR’s Weekend Edition
My mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman Gelbin (three marriages resulted in what she called her “railroad car of a name”), said to my wife and me on her deathbed, “You don’t have the children with you. Stop for a quickie!”