Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.

January 11, 2010
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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.

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This article has 25 comments. Post your own now!

Prill said...
Aug. 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Im an old man . And still i wish he poise of Wilde. His humour of life is a keson for us all.   great essay from you
bEllAhOPe said...
Aug. 4, 2011 at 7:19 pm
Correct- we shouldn't live in fear of death, but aware of it. This is an excellent message that was put across the board so smoothly. The title drew me in, I must admit. Kudos to the author! I enjoyed this.
Aspiringauhor said...
Mar. 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm
I loved this! But what if someone read this and (although I have already deemed this impossible) they hadn't read HP & The Half Blood Prince? I would be devastated for them! Just saying. :) And other than that, it was an amazing article. :)
apocalyptigirl said...
Sept. 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm
Have you ever read Looking for Alaska by John Green? It's about a kid who memorizes people's last words.
JessicaKate said...
May 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm
Wow, this is brilliant! I love all the different sets of last words that you included in it - very interesting indeed. Nice job!
MayaElyashiv This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm
Why in the world wasn't this printed? It is completely original, well written and true!
magic-esi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 10:07 am
Very well written, and a great point. It's not something I really stopped to think about, but you can bet I'll mention that Oscar Wilde thing to the next person I meet. :)
Marielle said...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm
Wonderfully written! Great message! Well done.
Mochadog said...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 6:45 am
Good story Natalie
Delia said...
Feb. 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm
This is truly beautifully written, and it really made me ponder the value of our own words. What we say on our short time really makes an impact. Our words can change the world. Great insight on such an interesting, under-looked topic that really does affect each one of us. Very thought-provoking and witty. A true joy to read. I hope that my last words will be half this eloquent and touching, Miss NatalieD. Brava.
Megan said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 8:36 pm
Very true - we really do never know when we might die, and what might be our last words. That's kind of a scary thing to think about, but like you said, it's important to remember! And I, too, enjoyed the Dumbledore inclusion :D
Julietta said...
Jan. 28, 2010 at 10:10 am
Your well-written essay really made me think. These days people seem to say whatever they want, often without thinking first how what they say will affect others. It is even worse with the anonymity of the internet, which allows people to rant and rave at will with even less thought about what they are saying and writing. Also, thinking about death is not something that we typically want to do, but something like the terrible earthquake in Haiti reinforces exactly what Natalie is talking abou... (more »)
Scott said...
Jan. 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm
Definitely a very unique and uncommon topic, but yet still something that we can all easily relate to considering that we're all going to die eventually. It definitely shows that you put a lot of thought and effort into this piece. And the title really caught my eye as well. Good job.
Maria said...
Jan. 27, 2010 at 11:09 am
I liked this a lot! I loved your honesty, and it really does make you think about life after death and everything. Very well written =]
Julie said...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm
This really gave a great message! As you said, we should remember that life is short and we need to make the most of it. And I really like Oscar Wilde's last words too!
Eric said...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm
This was wonderfully written, Natalie! I love all of the last words that you shared, and it definitely really makes you think about making every word count. Very intriguing!
flavaflav said...
Jan. 23, 2010 at 8:53 pm
'Twas simply brilliant.
it really made me think of everything i say and i thought it was sheer excellence. Well done, my friend. :)
Kait said...
Jan. 22, 2010 at 1:54 am
Natalie, wow. Simply wow.
I am in love with this topic and beautiful way you presented it with a sprinkle of cheekiness ("choke on your frosted flakes")
Nice incorporation of Dumbledore : ) Great topic. Good luck!
ellieR. said...
Jan. 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm
So much to think about. I really enjoyed the quotes you found as well as your own. Thanks for making me think about words and what they really mean to us.
Insenka said...
Jan. 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm
This was a lovely article. Very sage advice, but delivered in a thoughtful yet playful manner. Also, Kudos for including my favorite last words ever, those of the delightful Oscar Wilde!
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