Deathbed wit

Most writers I know are fairly self-conscious by nature and most have a lot invested in being “writerly.”  Writing as a profession seems to define its practitioners in a way that baking or delivering mail, say, doesn’t.  Don’t you find that as soon as you tell people you’re a writer, they seem to hang on your words with an extra bit of anticipation?  Aren’t you mortified when you struggle to come up with the right phrase while in conversation or type the wrong word in a blog?  As a writer, you should have all the contents of Webster’s readily at your fingertips if not your tongue, right?  Everyone expects you to be able to solve the Times crossword puzzle (on Friday) but also have the mot juste for every occasion.  (This, by the way, applies to those of us who merely work with books as well, not just those who write them.)

So, how mortifying if one’s final words as a writer were pedestrian—“I’m dying,” “Get me a glass of water,” “Ugh.”  Just think how put out the people hanging around your bedside as you are preparing to breathe your last would be if you didn’t come up with a concluding statement for the ages.

Or maybe it’s just me.  This HuffPost offering has me thinking about what I would like my last words to be.  It’s important to be concise (you probably won’t have much time), clever but somewhat profound—unless satire is your métier—and sincere.  So, I think I’m going to start working on the perfect goodbye phrase.  Hopefully, I won’t need to use it  for a very, very long time, but it’s good to be prepared.  After all, you only have one chance to get it right.

What would your last words be?  Would you be sweet like Virginia Woolf, poetic like Emily Dickinson, pissy like Eugene O’Neill, or droll like Oscar Wilde?  Give me some suggestions.  If nothing else, a good parting phrase will come in useful in your fiction.

12 Responses to Deathbed wit

  1. Eric Christopherson says:

    “Ah, so that’s the meaning of life!”

    [Kafka’s last words must be apocryphal. Too perfect.]

  2. If I believed in the afterlife, I’d probably pick “rebooting…”

  3. Dave Sosnowski says:

    First, pause as if listening to a far off voice, and then blurt: “Are you sh*tting me?!”

  4. Catherine Whitney says:

    Since few of us can control the moment of our death, being prepared is not necessarily helpful. Can you imagine screaming out a poetic phrase or profound thought while your car crashes into the median? All things being equal, if I die in a quiet setting, I would like my last words to be, “I love you”–assuming my loved ones would be by my bedside. Otherwise, I’ll probably be stuck with some variation of “Arghh..ack..oh, shit.” BTW, didn’t Franklin Roosevelt say, “I don’t feel well?”

  5. christi says:

    Well, if it’s an abrupt surprise, I imagine any combination of swear words will be my last. But, if I have time to say goodbye, they will probably be to my husband. “It’s okay to leave the toilet seat up now.”

  6. Yorick? Is that you?

  7. Hillsy says:

    I know what I’d like them to be…..

    “Do I have to make love to the entire cast of ‘Britains Next Top Model 2086′ for the third time today? I’m 110 for crying out loud….”

  8. Miriam says:

    Ha! You guys are clever.

  9. Donna says:

    Put that away ! you’ll poke someones eye out!

  10. Gilbert J. Avila says:

    “It was worth it.”

  11. Hillsy says:

    I remember my Mother’s last words…

    “Hillsy, what are you doing with that hammer?”

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