My Last Words on Earth Will Be…

I’m sporting an enormous bruise on my right butt cheek after gracefully slipping in my bunny slippers down the stairs on Sunday. Of course, I yelled, “OH, SHIT” during the THUMP BOOM CRASH, and of course all my children heard me, even the littles, and of course they all thought I was HILARIOUS except the lone child who wanted to know if I was OK and who is now my Official Favorite. I’d like to get t-shirts made for occasions like these – Official Favorite Child t-shirts – which I can distribute with pomp and circumstance and a huge ceremony and cake so I can mock the rest of my children better, since they never, ever believe me when I make mere verbal pronouncements of favoritism. “He’s not your favorite, Mom,” they say, sing-songy and puffed up with misplaced confidence. “We’re all your favorites,” they insist. Which… whatever.

I was 18 years old and headed back to college when I first learned my last words on Earth will be OH, SHIT.

I was driving my snazzy, navy blue Toyota Tercel hatchback alone from Colorado to Idaho, petal to the metal, man, when I drove off the left side of the road and over-corrected which sent me careening to the right and spinning out of control on the sandy right margin where I came to rest within a few feet of a cliff with no barrier, at which point I noticed the narrator in my car, coming off a prolonged and rather loud OH SSSHHhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittTT, started in on the shit staccato: shit *breathe* shit *breathe* shit *breathe* shit *breathe*, followed by a whole lot of shaking.

Please understand, as soon as I caught my breath I was mortified by this entire situation because I was a nice Christian girl – a missionary kid, for God’s sake (literally) – and I attended a nice, small, conservative Christian college where I’m sure – positive – it’s written somewhere in the lifestyle agreement that our Last Words on Earth are not allowed to be Oh Shit or any derivative thereof. Yet there I was, about to approach the Pearly Gates with shit on my lips instead of a prayer or a confession or praise or thanksgiving or something – anything at all – more triumphant or sweet or … quotable… than an expletive, you know? And I couldn’t think of any way to prove myself less suitable for entrance to Heaven than bringing the shits with me. 

This is not how I thought I’d give up the ghost, so unladylike and crass and gauche, and so I waited until I was in my late 30’s to confess to my father that I’ve spent more than 20 years coming to spiritual terms – and getting my explanation ready for St. Peter – for what will surely leave my mouth should I come to a sudden, accidental end. Which is when my dad – my former Marine / retired pilot / missionary father – said, “Ah, yes. Of course those will be your last words, sweetheart. In the aviation business, we call it the Shit Trilogy.”

“The what?” I asked.

“The Shit Trilogy,” he said. “We say it when there’s trouble in the air. Ah, shit… Oh, SHIT… HOLY SHIT and we hope to have a resolution by the end of the litany.” 

And, I don’t know how to explain it, exactly, but the Shit Trilogy made me feel better. The idea that this is a common experience, yes, but especially the idea that even the most well trained and best prepared of us, well, sort of shit ourselves when we’re on the way down. Like, everything’s just falling apart and we’ve slipped on the stairs and we know we’re going to crash and burn and we’re not entirely sure we’re going to make it out of this one alive.

Like life, you know?

Like life with all the slipping and falling and crashing and burning. 

My friend Abbie says crapballs a lot. My sister-in-law Kim just says balls. I usually try to keep my shits to myself but we can all see how well that works when I’m falling. And I used to spend a lot of time embarrassed – maybe ashamed – of how I acted and the ways I flailed and the things I said on my way down. But I’ve had a lot of time these 20+ years to think about my Oh Shits in the heat of the moment, and to catch my breath at the almost-crashes, and to feel the bruises on my butt when I fall all the way down, and to watch my kids giggle at their mommy and to see that her mistakes and slips of the feet and the tongue are just part of it. And I don’t know; I guess I’ve come to think that God, who I call Love, accepts the cries of our heart. Even – perhaps especially – the shits.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
18 comments
  1. Well for the record, I don’t think that’s a bad word. It’s just not nice. It’s poop, you know? Only for whatever reason “poop” is ok.
    One of our Kindercare teachers once told a story about her husband driving the kids (about 2 and 4 yrs) and someone cut them off or something. One of the kids told his dad that “that guy is a f##king a$$hole!” which he had learned from riding in the car with mommy.

  2. Ok, got a confession to make. My most favorite of all time is the F word. Having been in the military, I know for a fact that it is a very versatile word that God created for ME. I have two boys 9 and 7 and they have really limited my ability to use it (on purpose)and I savor every moment I get to use it (mostly at work in really boring meetings). Of course there are consequences for loving such a word (and not trying to say it in front of the kids)and they come in the form of my oldest telling several teachers, “You can go F yourself, you can go F yourself, and you can go F yourself” I swear he didn’t hear that version from me, but as you see it is VERY versatile. For those of you that are possibly worried, I made my son apologize to each of the teachers as their job is one of the hardest on the planet.

  3. My native language is Spanish (I live in Argentina) and I remember feeling frustrated while studying English because I couldn’t translate most of the curses we use in our language. You know, English is not as rich as Spanish (or Italian) with respect to curses. I guess it’s a cultural issue, we curse all the time, and we are not satisfied with a single word (like “Shit”) we have to embelish it with as many expletives as possible; it feels natural, it somehow shows how angry (and creative) you are, and almost everybody does it.
    For all this -even when I understand your feelings and your worries- it still feels strange to see that you actually worry about such a “lame” word as shit (“lame” to me, of course, I don’t want to offend anyone).
    PS: loved the idea of Official Favorite T-shirts.

    1. The beauty of the f-bomb (my personal favorite) is that it can be embellished with, quite simply, itself.

      Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuckitty fuck fuck FUCK!

      It’s a growly, guttural word, and sometimes it’s just the only thing that can express your feelings.

  4. Beth…..in Ireland shit is considered a very mild swear word…..very mild!!Our vernacular is littered with profanities and nobody really minds!!
    However,even a fairly proficient swearer such as myself would try to keep the ripe language under control in front of the children…until last night when my son kicked a football into a swaying pile of detritus that contained a box of biscuits that I had bought as a gift for my daughters reading tutor.Naturally the massive pile,including the biscuits,came crashing down and I screeched…..”the biscuits are in shit”….of course I apologised and explained that I shouldn’t have used such awful language.Imagine my shock/dismay/uncontrollable laughter when I woke my son today and he looked at me and asked…..in an earnest voice….”mum,are the biscuits really in shit do you think”…..
    Move to Ireland Beth….large family,ripe language….you would fit right in 🙂

  5. My Grandma-in-law told me a story from when one of my husband’s cousins caught her saying “shit.” Her response: “What ya shittin’ about Grandma?” It makes me smile every time I hear her say shit. 🙂

  6. What about the “f@ckity-f@ck!”‘s? Does God accept those cries? I’m pretty sure those will be MY last words.

  7. I take full responsibility if any of my children let. “Shit” slip here or there. It’s my word and I’m happy to own it. However, if you should hear a “damn” or any other vulgarity, that’s all my husband. I take no responsibility for that shit ,

  8. I have a long, purple bruise on my shoulder from where I grabbed the trunk lid to close it, and forgot about how it has these pointy parts on the sides. – WHAM. I really wanted to say a whole lot of words really really loud, but could only whimper.

    Ow.

    I am absolutely certain that, should I die in any way except in my sleep at a very old age, my death will come at the tail end of the shit trilogy. Thank you so much for today’s laugh.

    And for, you know, making me feel better about my words.

  9. I’ll never forget my mom yelling “Oh Shit!” When my brother fell in the pool with his cast on at a Church Youth Group party. She was the Youth Leader at the time!

  10. The husband of one of my new sailing friends (a sweet, soft-spoken, gracious woman) outed her as wont to exclaim “For F*&$’s Sake!” in times of stress aboard. I misunderstood her exclamation as “Fox Eggs” and I now have a card from them tucked away for one of those really bad days. It says on the front, “For when the Fox Eggs are flying fast and furious.” I’m hoping to make it home without needing to open the Fox Egg Emergency Kit, but it’s nice to know it’s there. And we’ve added Fox Eggs to the family lexicon. It’s surprisingly satisfying when the sea is high and everything below is wet and/or flying across the cabin. I know shit will always have a special place in your heart, but feel free to appropriate Fox Eggs if you want to branch out:-)

  11. Eh, there is no commandment about shit. Just the Lord’s name in vain thing, of which I am also guilty. I usually just feel bad about not being more creative with my curse words. There are so many words, why do I always revert to the same old shit?

    P.S. “shit on my lips”? Ew and Ha!

  12. This made my day…maybe my whole life. I am 100% certain my children will one day tell stories of their momma that will, without a doubt, include my loud and constant use of the word shit when in any peril or surprise.

  13. Love how this went from funny to deep. And relatable the whole way. I fell HARD down the stairs myself a few weeks back. I was actually too scared to say anything at all while it was happening; I was just concentrating on not tumbling over and dying. On the other hand I just told my 8th grade class to shut up. At least I kept the “for f**k’s sake” part in my head.

  14. Especially the Shits!!! Love has been closest to me then. Face to face in the Shit. I am grateful for that.

  15. Beth, the other day I let out a “son of a bitch!!” with the kids in the car when I backed into another parked car in the Pearl District. Tonia was not there. They didn’t react right away and I didn’t say anything about it, because I was rushing out the door of the van to see if I had done any damage. Luckily I hadn’t (was parking and moving slowly). Although I had to convince the 9 year old that some scratches around the side that were NO WHERE near where I could’ve hit were NOT my fault. This conversation happened in view of 15 people eating fancy italian food at outside tables at a restaurant… Anyway, they didn’t say anything after we were out either… I just dropped it and figured my swearing had largely gone unnoticed. But then we get home and Tristan decides Tonia needs to know this story, and tells her allll about it without my knowledge. Then she comes up to me about an hour later with a grin on her face, and says, “so you swore in front of the kids, huh. Tristan told me all about it”. She thought it was funny and all, but still I didn’t appreciate being TATTLED ON! My response to her, was “he did huh… that little son of a bitch…” (there were no little ears to hear that time. Long story long, I’m not so good at watching my mouth either.

    1. Kids always rat out their parents. I never get away with anything.

    2. Chad, I did the exact same thing at the zoo. Except it was “shit, shit, shit, SHIT.” Of course Jill doesn’t have anyone to rat me out to, except maybe my mom. My ex’s wife swears like a sailor, so whenever anyone apologizes for their language in front of Jill, she says “that’s okay, I’m used to it.”

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