The lasting lessons of life


It seems to me to be patently unfair that firsts get all the fanfare – first step, first love, first kiss. Most of life seems broken up into neat little milestones focusing always on things we do FIRST.
I have found myself thinking lately of lasts. Meaning, when was the last time you did something or saw someone and didn’t yet know it would be the last time?
In a very few instances we can focus on a last fairly easily, the last day of school (graduation) and the last day of single-life (wedding day) are both somewhat memorable.
Know. It’s not those lasts I speak of. No, it’s the lasts you never saw coming, or even knew were lasts in the living of them, that only later become known to you as the final time.
To me, it’s these “lasts” that always leave me gasping and choking back sobs. Of course, it’s the lack of awareness of lasts that make them so elusive in memory.
When was the last time you slept in your childhood bedroom? I don’t mean the last night you spent before you went off to college, your first apartment, or your wedding day.
No, I mean the last fully unaware day that you just lived your life without a care in the world, brushed your teeth (one hopes), put on your pajamas and hopped into your bed with nary a thought that the future would (one hopes) change it all?
I contend that as momentous a milestone as that is, most of us would be hard-pressed to remember it at all.
When was the last time you had a “sleepover” at your best friend’s house complete with the begging and pleading to your respective parents to allow it, and your favorite stuffed animal tucked into your overnight bag?
I bet you have no idea. Yet, there was a last.
One day you simply didn’t do that anymore.
Parent. As a parent, I wonder sometimes when was the last time I could easily pick my firstborn up in my arms and carry him on my hip. Not because I had to due to injury or illness (and now, at 10, even that would be a stretch), but just because he was a small child and that is what you do.
When was the exact moment, measured in his pounds and sentiment, that he was deemed “too big” to be carried? Of course it seems the joke is on me here.
I spent the first few years of parenthood wondering if I would ever have a chance to put him down, and the last few years wondering how much longer I can hold on.
Of course, this casual failure to recognize a “last” as it happens is, in no small measure, what makes a last so poignant.
Moving. Today, I visited, for the last time, the nearby home of a friend soon to move far away. While I know our promises to get together often for long weekends are heartfelt, I also know the reality of busy families and hectic lives.
Today, then, was officially the “last” day I would know her in this house, on this street, in this context of our friendship as both emotionally and geographically close.
Yet, there is no casual conversation. No “have you heard about

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