My son, Jon, and I were having a conversation this morning that started me thinking. Then, I read Debe Maxwell's blog, "Happy Valentine's Day - You Left this World but, not Our Hearts," and that added to the conversation this morning. Jon and I were reminiscing about his childhood. His mother and I were going on and on about the funny things that happened when he was little. Fortunately, he grew up during the home video age, so, many of those memories are preserved. But, one thing came out of that conversation, and this also is complimented by Debe's blog, is that everything in your life will have a "last time."
My eight year old granddaughter did so many funny things as a baby and toddler. We have lots of photos and lots of videos, but everything she did eventually had a last time. Now, she pronounces her words correctly. She doesn't call me Mite instead of Mike anymore. She doesn't say, "willn't" instead of will not. She now knows that unicorns aren't grazing at the local farm, the Paw Patrol characters are cartoons and not real characters, and grandpa doesn't know everything. There have been a lot of last times with her, but each one opened the door to a new beginning.
When my mother went into assisted living in 2016 it was the last time she would walk through the door of her home. She thrived in the facility for about a year or so, and then dementia started to drain her of the person she had been my whole life. One day in June of 2019, she called and left a bizarre message on my voicemail. It irritated me and I went to the facility to set her straight (on occasion, patience hasn't been my strong trait). When I walked into her room, she was sitting in her wheelchair staring off in space. I said something and she turned around and smiled and realized she had a visitor. I realized right then that she had no idea she had just called me and left a strange message. I ended up sitting on her bed while teaching her how to better use her cell phone. At the end of the visit, I kissed her on the head and said, "I love you." She responded in kind, and I left. That was the last time. The next time I saw her, she was in a hospital bed two days later unconscious and a week later, I held her hand while she slipped away and graduated into eternity. That was the last time we touched each other. A few days later, I spoke at her funeral while the funeral staff closed her casket. That was the last time I saw her face.
The same scene repeated itself a year later with my father-in-law. He was an incredible man. He taught me about life, woodworking, farming, and so many more things. He was a dear friend and a great influence in my life. In October 2019 he was at the end of his course. He had had a heart attack and a stroke close together and was no longer able to do much at all. Being a lifelong farmer, not being able to do anything was the kiss of death. He lingered with us for about eight months, but one Monday afternoon, it seemed obvious that he was slipping away. When I was leaving him on that day, I kissed him on the head and said, "I love you, and I will see you again." He was gone before morning. That Monday was the last time I saw him alive. Again, a few days later, I spoke at his funeral and I said goodbye for the last time.
Life is full of "last times." That's not necessarily a bad thing. It might be easy to see negatives in the stories I shared, but what about that last day of high school? It may have seemed like a last time event, but it was the first step into a new phase of life. What about that last time a parent changes a diaper? As a parent, I can honestly say I didn't miss that phase, but the last diaper was the beginning of a new phase that led to another last time. When the boys walked out the door to take up residence in their own homes, it was the last time for my wife and me, but it was a first time for them and a new beginning for us.
Remember as you travel through life that you will be confronted with an innumerable body of last times. Some will come with pain and others will come with joy and celebration. And, regardless of which they are, they will come. Make every parting a kiss on the head and I love you special. Sometimes, you may arrive with full intention to straighten someone out, but it may be the last time you see them. Decide that you will treat every life event like a last time. You may find that not as many things bother you if you think it may be the last time. Some events will be more important and more exciting if you think it might be the last time. No matter what it is, it might be the last class, the last shift, the last flight, the last sale, the last laugh with a friend, the last dinner with a visiting relative you will never see again are all precious moments. Some are the last time, but some are the last time before a new beginning. Make your last times precious, and if I ever kiss you on the head and say I love you, call 911. 8-)