1000 Ways to Die (Our Stepmother Picks The Worst One)

Every summer Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) had a steak fry. It was something of a tradition in our part of the state, a giant gathering with steaks and political speeches. My sister and I always attended. After telling our stepmother Beatrice how much fun the steak fry was, she made plans to come out for the next one.


My sister and I were both looking forward to a speech by James Carville and Beatrice also seemed to be uncharacteristically excited. We got there plenty early so that we could get seats close to the front of the tent. As we sat there waiting for the wonderful program to begin, Beatrice said:

Look at that child.

as she pointed at a little five year old boy playing around the edges of the tent.

He could become impaled on the stakes.

she insisted as she stared at the poles used to hold down the ropes of the tent. This assertion by our stepmother struck both my sister and I as…odd.

Beatrice became more agitated the more she talked. She was convinced that this poor child was about to be killed before our eyes, and she was also convinced that she was the only one who understood the seriousness of the situation.

Don’t you care?

she screamed at my sister and me. Nothing worked to calm her down. Poor Beatrice continued to worry and stew until the program started and the child (completely unhurt) sat down with his parents.

Later that summer, I was visiting my other sister Sissy. We were enjoying the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The two of us had gone downstairs in the Ladies Room when I shared the latest story about Beatrice and the potential impalement.

Sissy coolly replied:

That’s nothing. Has Beatrice ever told you what she thinks is the worst way to die?

I had to admit that no, I had never had that particular conversation with her.

Sissy began laughing and asked me to guess what Beatrice believed the worst way to die was. I thought about a knife fight and a shoot-out like the gunslingers did it, but I was wrong. Sissy said:

It’s bow and arrow. She thinks being shot by a bow and arrow would be the very worst way to die.

Bow and ArrowWe both laughed so much we were almost sick. We were picturing Beatrice going through all the possibilities and coming up with the bow and arrow. Imagine what a colossal waste of time that was!

That’s one of the biggest lessons we all learned from Beatrice: don’t worry about things you can’t do anything about. She didn’t teach it by being a positive example. No, she taught it by showing us what not to do. We try to never worry about foolish things, and more than that, we try to always rely on our Higher Power and prayer.

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