The last time

I’ve been sitting with this topic for a while now and only just recently could bring myself to write it.

It started off with a random question:  I was walking by a park where a few parents were playing with their kids and I wondered – do parents realize when they pick up their child for the last time (because at some point the kid becomes too big to pick up)?  Or do they just one day look back nostalgically and think, wow, I used to pick up my kiddo and he/she is too big for that now.  It would probably make them a little sad, maybe even more so when they think about that last time and wish they had realized it in the moment so they could appreciate it.

When I visit a new place, I often see it through wondrous, wide-open eyes that drink in the new experience, and as I leave that place I think – will this be my last time here?  Or will I return another day to re-experience this magic or some other part of this place?  Most of the time I feel somewhere deep down that it is probably my last time, but I gloss over that niggling feeling by telling myself that I can always return if I want to.  It is what allows me to come and go easily, instead of clinging to it as I head out the door.

A couple months ago, I experienced a profound last time, one where I knew it when it was happening.  I have twin cousins who are like older sisters and one had called me to say that the other, who had been battling breast cancer for the past year, was entering into hospice and would probably only live another three or four weeks.  I was devastated.  I hadn’t seen her since she’d gotten sick and knew I had waited too long and now it was dire.  My parents drove down to make the trek out to see her along with me, for what we all quietly understood would be the last time we would see her.  My heart was a heavy anvil in my gut when we left her that day.  I kissed her twice and told her I loved her.  It overwhelms me even now to think about my last moment with her; I am overcome with gratitude to have had it, and grief to have lost all those other moments we were supposed to have.

This all makes me reflect on how closely we pay attention, or how intimately we live each moment.  Do we rush through it, trying to get to the next moment, or a moment several weeks/months/years from now?  Or do we take in every second of a moment, let it course through us and linger?  It is probably some combination, but I hazard a guess that for many of us, we have too many moments that we have rushed through.  Sometimes, it is almost excruciating to experience a moment truly and deeply at the moment it’s happening, almost like a sensory overload.  It seems impossible to live every single moment that way, as though we might explode from letting in every piece of a moment, one after the next.

And yet, some moments are so exquisite, it is like time stops, just enough to allow us to be there, really be there.  So blind to every moment before and every moment after that the only thing that exists for us is the thundering of our heart, one heavy beat at a time.