Famous Last Words

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“The trouble with heart disease is that the first symptom is often hard to deal with – sudden death.” Michael Phelps



According to one of his daughters, when on his death bed, Bob Hope was asked where he would like to be buried; the comedian raised an eyebrow and simply answered, “Surprise me.”

Want the last words of someone famous quoted at your funeral? Make a note of it in your own Funeral Plan.

Last words of some poor souls on the brink of execution…

  • When asked for any last requests whilst faced with the firing squad, James Rogers replied, “Why, yes! A bullet proof vest,”
  • George Appel, just before he was executed in electric chair.
    “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
  • “How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? French fries”.
    James French, executed in electric chair in Oklahoma.
  • “Hurry it up you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you’re screwing around.”
    Carl Panzram, executed by hanging Leavenworth, Kansas.
  • “Remember, the death penalty is murder.”
    Robert Drew
  • “I’d rather be fishing.”
    Jimmy Glass
  • “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
    Thomas J. Grasso, when asked about his last meal.
  • “Lock and load. Let’s do it.”
    G. W. Green. Executed by injection, Texas.
  • “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper.”
    Robert Alton Harris
  • “I am innocent, innocent, innocent. Make no mistake about this. I owe society nothing. I am an innocent man and something very wrong is taking place tonight.
    Lionel Herrera
  • “Such is life,”
    Ned Kelly
  • “Monsieur, I beg your pardon.” 
    Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, spoken to the executioner, after she stepped on his foot.
  • “Today is a good day to die. I forgive all of you. I hope God does too.”
    Mario Benjamin Murphy
  • “Shoot straight you bastards and don’t make a mess of it!”       
    Harry Harbord “Breaker” Morant, executed by firing squad.
  • “Capital punishment … them without the capital get the punishment.
    John Spenkelink.

Last words of the more law-abiding, famous and notorious…

  • “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
    Oscar Wilde, writer
  • “Die, my dear doctor? That is the last thing I shall do.”
    Lord Palmerston
  •  “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
     John Barrymore, actor
  •  “Now comes the mystery.”
     Henry Ward Beecher, evangelist
  •  “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
     Humphrey Bogart, actor
  •  “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room – and God damn it – died in a hotel room.”
    Eugene O’Neill, writer
  • “Am I dying or is this my birthday?”
    Lady Nancy Astor, when she woke briefly and found herself surrounded by her family.
  • “Is everybody happy? I want everybody to be happy. I know I’m happy.”
     Ethel Barrymore, actress
  • “Don’t let poor Nelly (his mistress, Nell Gwynne) starve.”
    Charles II, King of England and Scotland
  • “It is very beautiful over there.”
    Thomas Alva Edison, inventor
  • “Get my swan costume ready.”
    Anna Pavlova, ballerina
  •  “Curtain! Fast music! Light! Ready for the last finale! Great! The show looks good, the show looks good!”
    Florenz Ziegfeld, showman

Funeral Rites Cultures From around the World

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“On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done as easily lying down.” Woody Allen



..from China to Ghana, from Tibet to the highlands of Scotland and you’ll see that the celebration of life and the rituals of death, past and present, vary considerably. Below are some of our favourites.

Want a custom to reflect how you lived your life during your funeral? Make a note of it in your own Funeral Plan.

  • Every year 5000 floral wreaths are placed on the tombstones at Arlington Cemetery, as a reminder of the sacrifices American soldiers have made for their country.


      • In Northern Vietnam the deceased are buried in the land in which they lived. They will generally be laid to rest in the middle of a rice paddy. After two years, the deceased’s family will dig up the body, clean all of the bones, and then re-bury the body in the family garden.
    • The Austrian village of Hallstatt is located between a mountain and lake, so therefore has very limited burial space. To solve this problem they would allow for the remains of their dead to lie in the cemetery for 12 years only. When the time was up the bones would be exhumed and moved to a charnel, but the skull would be kept. It would be tastefully decorated with the name of the deceased, a cross and plants. It would then be displayed in a chapel. Although cremation has now been allowed in the village this custom still takes place.


  • In parts of China, it’s believed that the more people that attend your funeral, the more luck will be bestowed upon your relatives. Therefore, to attract more ‘mourners’, strippers have fast become an integral part of an after tears party. Needless to say, men turn up to these functions by the truck load.
  • In Ghana, fantasy coffins are rapidly becoming the final resting place. These caskets are apparently designed to reflect the way the deceased lived his or her life. Thus, coffins are carved into everything from airplanes and motor cars to cigarettes and bottles of beer.
  • In the Scottish highlands the deceased would be buried with a small amount of salt and soil placed on their chest. The soil implied that the body decays and becomes one with the earth. The salt, however, represents the soul and like the soul does not decay and die.
    • Buddhists in Tibet believe that when a person dies the soul leaves the body so there really is no need to keep the empty vessel. Therefore, the body is given back to the land in the form of Tibetan sky ritual (or Excarnation). The procedure takes place on a large flat rock in a specific location. A monk and several rogyapas (body breakers) will dismember the body, grind down the bones and flesh and then feed it to vultures. This ritual may seem, to some, as a brutal way of treating your loved one but it really isn’t. In Buddhism, vultures are redeemed as  sacred animals because they do not kill and instead simply accept what comes their way – so the Tibetans believe that they are quite simply sustaining life. Moreover, because the terrain in Tibet is so hard, burials are almost impossible so it really is considered to be a practical way to dispose of the dead.


  • In ancient Rome, when someone was on their death bed, the eldest male relative would lean in close, inhale and catch the last breath of the dying person.
  • According to the great Greek historian Herodotus, the Calatians ate their dead. It was thought to be the family’s sacred duty. Queen Artemisia apparently mixed the ashes of her lover with wine and drank it.
  • Even now certain African tribes grind the bones of their loved ones and mix them with food.
  • Other African tribes would fire spears and arrows into the air, to ward off evil spirits that may be hovering over their dead. Nowadays, the ritual of firing a rifle over the deceased mirrors this age old practice.
  • Some cultures would go a step further to demonstrate respect for their dead. People would mutilate themselves by cutting off fingers and toes.
  • Years ago in Japan, if a nobleman died, twenty to thirty slaves were made to commit Hari-Kiri (belly cutting) in respect for him. Moreover in Fiji, friends, wives and slaves of the deceased would be strangled in his honour.
  • In Hindu India, a widow was considered vulgar and useless without her husband, therefore she was expected to lie by his side and be cremated alive. This ritual, Sati, was believed to purify the widow and give her free passage to Heaven. Although Sati was abolished in 1829 there have been numerous cases since. Even as recent as 1981 an eighteen year old widow was a victim of the custom. Whether it was voluntary or she was forced to do it is still unknown.
  • Today, Hindus from all over the world will make their final pilgramage to die in the city of Banaras, on the Ganges river. It is believed that dying here will help break the cycle of death and re-birth, and will allow the soul to ascend to the world of the ancestors – Pitriloka. Over 80 funeral pyres lie along the Ganges, so that the dead may be cremated. Often times, people are unable to cremate their loved ones and will simply float the dead body down the river.
  • In many cultures men and women have been treated differently after they have passed away. The Ghonds buried their women but cremated their men. The Bongas buried their men with their faces to the North and their women to the South. The Cochieans buried their women but suspended their men from trees.
  • In the Jewish religion, mourners will take part in a grieving process known as sitting Shiva. Immediately after burial, friends and family of the deceased will go to the Shiva house where they will mourn for 7 days. Here, they sit as low to the floor as possible as a sign of their grief. All mirrors are covered so that they may concentrate on the reality of being a soul and ignore their own physicality. A candle representing the soul of the deceased will burn throughout the 7 days.
  • Who needs fertility drugs when you have a death shroud? In Madagascar, people dig up their dead relatives for a ceremony called famadihana. They parade the bones around the village and then bury the remains in a new shroud. The old shroud is given to childless newlyweds who place it on their bed.


Famous Funerals

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“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.” Ambrose Bierce





…but then again a few too many to mention! We doubt the following stars would regret how their death reflected the way they lived their life.

Want something special written on your headstone, or have a particular “hearse” in mind? Make a note of it in your own Funeral Plan.


  • Founder of the Body Shop Anita Roddick, who died last year, opted for a camper van to be used as her hearse. Peace out sista!



  • The best is yet to come
    The epitaph on Frank Sinatra’s headstone.
  • What’s inside Frank Sinatra’s coffin? The question has caused quite a lot of gossip and speculation over the years. Family and friends were reported to have put Tootsie Rolls and Life Saver candies, chewing gum, a mini bottle of Jack Daniels, a pack of camel lights and a Zippo lighter, in with Ole Blue Eyes. Ten dimes were also placed in the casket, just in case he needed to make an emergency call!
    • Keith Richards, of Rolling Stones fame, has recently admitted to snorting his late father’s ashes with a couple of lines of cocaine. He later retracted the claim but we tend to believe his original line … only he nose!


  • Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has bought a plot next to Marilyn Monroe. He says that he wants to be buried next to the most beautiful woman that ever lived.
  • According to one of his daughters, when on his death bed, Bob Hope was asked where he would like to be buried. The comedian raised an eyebrow and answered, “Surprise me.”
  • He would have wanted it that way,” were the words used by ‘revellers’ to justify the shenanigans at Punk rocker GG Allin’s funeral. He was buried in a leather jacket and jock strap that said “Eat me”. He had a microphone in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. During his wake, when his guests ran out of alcohol, they simply helped themselves to the bottle in his casket. Women were said to have placed their panties on his face, had their photos taken with him and played with a certain part of his anatomy. A shameless way to treat a stiff…
  • I told you I was ill.
    The words inscribed on Spike Milligan’s tombstone.
    • Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.
      The words inscribed on Martin Luther King’s tombstone.
    • James Brown, who died on Christmas Day 2006, insisted on being laid to rest in a 24 Karat gold coffin. Apparently it made him feel good…



  • After her death in 1952, Evita’s embalmed body went mysteriously missing for 16 years. It was eventually discovered in a crypt in Italy, under the name “Maria Maggi.” During those sixteen years it appears that the body had quite an adventure. It was owned by a military official, took a bizarre tour around Europe, was damaged by a hammer and many wax copies were made of it. One official was said to have had sex with one copy of the corpse.
  • “Don’t cry for me, Argentina, I remain very near to you,” are the words inscribed on Evita’s tomb figure
  • Although the Elvis Presley’s undertaker didn’t want anything to be placed in the coffin with him, for fear of theft, he did actually allow Lisa Marie to place a small bracelet on her father’s wrist. The bracelet was covered by the king’s sleeve so nobody could see it.
  • Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols wanted his ashes to be put with his late soul-mate Nancy. Instead his request never came to pass, as his mother accidentally dropped them on the runway of Heathrow airport.
  • Queen Victoria wanted to feel close to her long-dead husband while being laid to rest. She insisted on being buried with Prince Albert’s bathrobe, and a plaster cast of his hand.
  • Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” Albert Einstein left behind many memorable quotes upon his death, but unfortunately no one knows what is final words were. The nurse at his bedside did not speak German so his words died with him! He probably chose that moment to reveal the secret of life….


  • Who better to sing at Pavarotti’s funeral than the late tenor himself? A recording of Pavarotti and his father singing “Panis Angelicus” filled his hometown cathedral as the mourners were led out.