Afore ye go

Charles 4 Comments

If we live long enough, our dying will be punctuated by lasts which we may even be able to mark off, one by one — last time in the garden; last time I’ll see so-and-so. Even if we don’t mark off our lasts, our nearest and dearest probably will, retrospectively.

Our most memorable last ought to be our last words. There’s almost an expectation on us that we will say something memorable, just like they do in the movies. Do you ever rehearse your last words? Even if you do, you know you’ll probably disappoint. Timing is all. How will you be certain that this is the moment to let them go?

No, this is a luxury reserved for very few. Suicides get to choose their last words. So do those about to be executed. There’s pressure here. People hope you’ll utter something very special , and that’s not an easy thing to do if there are executioners in the offing. As to suicides, I wonder how many never went through with the deed because they couldn’t get the wording right first?

Here are some last words by US prisoners in Texas. There’s a website full of them, address at the end.

‘Yes, first I want to tell the victim’s family, Wendy’s family, I am sorry for taking something so precious to you and to my kids. I wish I could take it all back and change it, but I know I can’t. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Please tell Robert and Eric, I love them. I hope they forgive me.

‘To my family, thanks for being beside me, Sabrina, you are a wonderful daughter, I am proud of you. Jr., John, you turned out to be a great young man. Hector, you too. Amy, thank you for always being there. Tell your family I love them. To my family, I appreciate you always standing by me and everything ya’ll have done. Tell, everyone I love them. I’ll be OK. You will too. Remember what asked you. Give my love to the grandchildren. Tell Jake and Mia, Papa Alba loves them. Okay Warden, let’s do it, I love yall. I can taste it already. I am starting to go.’ John Alba

‘Uh, I don’t know, Um, I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know.  (pauses)  I didn’t know anybody was there.  Howdy.’ James Clark

Profanity directed toward staff. Joseph Nichols

‘Yes sir, to my family and children, I love you very much.  Dianne, Virginia, Toby and Irene I love all of you.  I apologize for not being the man you wanted me to be.  I am going to be free, I am going to Heaven.  Please be strong and I love you all.

‘To the Wright family, I pray for you, please find peace in your heart.  I know you may hate me for whatever reason, the Lord says hate no one.  I hope you find peace in your heart.  I know my words cannot help you, I truly mean what I say.  God Bless you all.  I love you Dianne, Mary Virginia.

‘Kick the tires and light the fire, I am going home to see my son and my mom, I love you and God Bless you.’ Richard Hinojosa

‘Only the sky and the green grass goes on forever and today is a good day to die.’ David Martinez

‘Yes sir, Warden Okay I’ve been hanging around this popsicle stand way too long.  Before I leave, I want to tell you all.  When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I’m dead.  I’ll see you in Heaven someday.  That’s all Warden.’ Douglas Roberts

‘I did have [any last words], but now I see my family here and everything – all I want to say is I love you all so much. I am innocent. I love you all so much. You are beautiful. Okay Warden, I am through.’ Richard Duncan

‘I’m ready to be released. Release me.’  Kenneth McDuff

‘Let’s do it, man. Lock and load. Ain’t life a [expletive deleted]?’  GW Green

‘I’m going to a beautiful place. O.K., Warden, roll ‘em. ‘ Ignacio Cuevas

Find the Texas Department of Criminal Justice here. More about death by lethal injection here.


  1. Charles

    ‘They’re building the gallows outside my cell,
    I’ve got 25 minutes to go;
    and in 25 minutes, I’ll be in hell –
    I got 24 minutes to go.

    Well they’re getting some beans for my last meal,
    23 minutes to go,
    and you know nobody asks me how I feel I got
    22 minutes to go.

    So I wrote to the governor, the whole damn bunch
    and I had 21 minutes to go,
    and I called up the Man and he’s out to lunch I got
    20 more minutes to go.

    Well the sheriff says “Boy, I wanna watch you die!”
    19 minutes to go;
    and I laugh in his face and I spit in his eye I got
    18 minutes to go.

    Well I call up to the warden, hear my plea,
    17 minutes to go,
    he says “call me back in a week or three, you got
    16 minutes to go.”

    And my lawyer says he’s sorry he missed my case,
    15 minutes to go;
    yeah well if you’re so sorry come up and take my place I got
    14 minutes to go,

    now here comes the padre to save my soul,
    with 13 minutes to go,
    and he’s talking about burning but I’m so damn cold I got
    12 more minutes to go,

    now they’re testing the trap, it chills my spine, I got
    11 more minutes to go,
    ‘coz the goddam thing it works just fine I got
    10 more minutes to go.

    I’m waiting for the pardon gonna set me free,
    with 9 more minutes to go,
    but this ain’t the movies, so to hell with me I got
    8 more minutes to go.

    Now I’m climbing up the ladder to the scaffold deck,
    with 7 more minutes to go,
    I’d better watch my step or else I’ll break my neck I got
    6 more minutes to go.

    Now with my feet in the trap, my head in the noose,
    5 more minutes to go,
    well come on something and cut me loose I got
    4 more minutes to go,

    I can see the mountains, I see the sky,
    3 more minutes to go,
    and it’s too damn pretty for a man to die I got
    2 more minutes to go,

    I can hear the buzzards, hear the crows,
    1 more minute to go,
    and now I’m swinging and here I go…

    (Shel Silverstein, C 1965)

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