Another story from At Large

May 26, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

EITHER THE WALLPAPER GOES, OR I DO.

Natalie DiCenzo

Some people collect those little tabs from the tops of assorted soda cans.  Others accrue tacky, plastic key chains from various tourist traps in order to document what travels they’ve embarked upon throughout their lives. Certain little old ladies may even eventually accumulate a horde of housecats over the years. What I’ve begun to collect are items of an entirely different variety. A horse of a different color, you might say. These are not just knickknacks haphazardly displayed on shelves or meowing in a senior citizen’s apartment; what I have begun to collect are last words.

They’re our final moments—the ultimate statement of our entire lives. After that, are no second chances, no re-dos, and there’s no going back. That’s it, you’re done, the end.

In numerous instances, human beings have been reported to utter some rather interesting things with their final dying breaths. Take inventor Thomas Edison for instance, who proclaimed, “it is very beautiful over there,” wherever over there is. Or perhaps you’d like to give leave some words of wisdom to the world, as international hotel mogul Conrad N. Hilton did when he advised to “leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.” Perhaps even the case of “Severus…. please…” should be included in this mix. These were the last words spoken by the great Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore moments before being killed by the Avada Kedavra curse in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Most of us probably aspire to say something at least somewhat meaningful with our last words, like Dumbledore did in my humble, unbiased, unprejudiced opinion. But the fact of the matter is that in most cases we cannot exactly choose our last words, now can we? And though it is certainly not healthy to live your life in fear of death, sometimes it is pertinent to realize that not all of us will be lying on our deathbed at a ripe old age, surrounded by our loved ones. Unfortunately, if you think about it, we really could die at any given moment of time. We could be involved in a car accident or a plane crash, be hit with a stray bullet from a gang fight, drown in the bathtub, or choke on the Frosted Flakes we’re eating for breakfast. There are an infinite number of different manners in which we could perish, and we can never know if or when one of those many ways might happen to us.

Take extraordinarily witty author and poet Oscar Wilde for example. His last exclamation in life was, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.” And then he died, on November 30, 1900. For some inexplicable reason, perhaps partly because of the wonderful irony of that final statement, to me that just seems like such a sensational last thing to say. When the time comes for me to speak my last, I can only wish that more than a century later my words will hold a minuscule shred of importance in the life of an arbitrary student as well.

Now, to be completely honest, I am rather terrified of the thought of death.  The notion of simply not existing petrifies me beyond belief. To be even more forthright, I have absolutely no clue what happens to us when we do die, and though I would really love for there to be a life after this one, there is really no way to know for sure. After we slip away from our existence on earth, what we leave behind through our actions and our words is all that we will have left to be remembered by. We all hope to leave a legacy; to be remembered after our passing is the closest thing that we have to immortality.

This is why we need to make sure that our words count. Of course I’m not saying that every single word that escapes our lips needs to be laden with unparalleled wisdom, knowledge, and eloquence. Everything we say doesn’t have to be entirely empowering and profound. Let’s face it, in a generation where people communicate widely through omgs and lols, that’s going to be pretty difficult to come by. All that I’m trying to keep in mind is that we need to be a bit more conscientious of what we’re saying, because we can never exactly be aware if those words will be the last ones that we ever utter.

Natalie DiCenzo, and I am currently a sophomore at Quaker Valley High School in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

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