The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 1, 2014

Famous last words: From the sacred to the profane

ENID, Okla. — “Good night Malaysian 370.”

Those, authorities now say, were the final words emanating from the cockpit of the doomed Boeing 777 jetliner, the fate of which remains unknown more than three weeks since its disappearance.

It was a routine response to a call from Kuala Lumpur radar control.

“Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9 good night.”

The controller was instructing the airliner’s pilots to call another radar center and giving them the proper radio frequency before wishing them good night.

There is nothing sinister in this phrase, nothing ominous.

Conspiracy theorists point to the fact the initial release of the last words from the cockpit of the doomed airliner was incorrect.

“All right good night,” were the erroneous words first released.

The bottom line is the world has no idea where the jet went down, or why. A desperate search has turned up no traces of the aircraft or its passengers and crew. In truth, we may never know, or at least not for quite some time.

“Good night Malaysian 370.”

Until the aircraft and its cockpit voice recorder are recovered, these will have to serve as the last words of those who went down with Malaysia flight 370.

Undoubtedly much more was said. In all there were 239 people on the flight, each with their own personality, their own unique life view.

There were undoubtedly some prayers, but there were likely some curses, as well.

If you could choose, what would you want your last words to be? Something profound, to be sure, something memorable, something at once touching and inspiring.

I have no idea what I’ll say. I hope it’s not something stupid. Which brings to mind the joke that no woman has ever died with the words “Hey guys, watch this,” on her lips.

John Adams died July 4, 1826, a few hours after his great political rival, Thomas Jefferson.

On his death bed, Adams is quoted as having said, “Oh yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. It is a great day. It is a good day. God bless it. God bless you all.” He then fell unconscious. When he awakened later, he said “Thomas Jefferson,” and died.

His son, John Quincy Adams, died Feb. 21, 1848, as the result of a cerebral hemorrhage suffered in the U.S. Capitol building. “This is the last of Earth, I am content,” he said, just before expiring.

In August of 1942, Marines stormed the beaches of the island of Guadalcanal, but faced no opposition.

Later that day, however, Japanese forces staged a vicious counterattack.

The next morning, Marine Maj. Lew Walt encountered a young Marine, covered with blood, slumped in one corner of a foxhole. In the foxhole with him were two dead Japanese soldiers, one an officer. There were 11 more dead enemy soldiers surrounding the foxhole.

The Marine, Private 1st Class Edward H. Ahrens, was holding the dead Japanese officer’s sword, and he was dying.

As Walt leaned over Ahrens, he heard him say “The bastards tried to come over me last night. I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine,” then he died.

Many last utterances are expressions of love and devotion. “I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you,” were the final words of President James K. Polk.

Baseball great Joe DiMaggio said “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn,” just before dying March 8, 1999, referring to his former wife and great love of his life, Marilyn Monroe.

Rutherford B. Hayes uttered a similar sentiment before passing away Jan. 17, 1893, saying “I know that I am going where Lucy is,” referring to his late wife.

Oliver Hardy, of the classic comedy team Laurel and Hardy, had no funny quip for his final utterance. Speaking to his wife just before dying Aug. 7, 1957, saying simply, “I love you.”

Love seems a common theme for the final words of the well-known. So is the Almighty.

“Goodbye, goodbye all. It’s God’s way. His will, not ours, be done,” said William McKinley as he succumbed to an assassin’s bullet Sept. 14, 1901.

The genius Michelangelo said, “I give my soul to God, my body to the earth and my worldly possessions to my nearest of kin, charging them to remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ,” just before death took him Feb. 18, 1564.

If I had to choose, I’d have a hard time picking between the words of singer Barry White, who said “Leave me alone, I’m fine,” or of suffragette and social activist Lucy Stone, who said, “Make the world better,” or of the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley, who said, “The best of all is, God is with us.”

But I think my pick of last words would have to be those of writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe, who said not something dark and poetic, like “nevermore,” but instead said simply, “Lord help my poor soul.”

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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