A Last Time for Everything

Why isn’t there some sort of class or required reading that warns you, early on, about the nature of life? About loving. And losing. Longing. Living anyway. Something should teach us to pay attention because there’s going to be an end one day: A last kiss. Last words spoken. A last time you’re all together. A smile that disappears off the planet. A last night before the life you believed was yours gets devoured by the first morning of a completely different existence. All the precious bits and pieces of who you are, and what you thought you owned and controlled, are subject to change at any moment. Nobody warns you about this. Then one day you get clobbered. There ought to be something that gently whacks you over the head, an alert that everything, all of it, is only temporary.

My sister’s birthday brought my Mom and me, both of my sisters, a long-lost-then-found-again childhood friend, and another dear friend-of-the-birthday-girl together this weekend. We drank lots of wine and ditched our diets in celebration. And I kept wondering how many birthdays, how many summers, how much more of the good stuff could we possibly have coming to us?

This summer I’ve been showing up at my mother’s house almost every weekend. There, I can be a daughter again, a daughter helping out and being doted on by her mom. That was a role I needed to escape decades ago. But now I’m drawn back to it. Someday, I know, I will no longer be able to slip into my daughterliness any time I want.

For the birthday weekend, I was once again part of a set of three daughters living under one roof. We whispered and plotted out of earshot of our Mom, pretending we were kids once more like before colleges, husbands, and babies scattered us off into our different lives. I can’t count on always having sisters getting together for birthdays.

It’s great to be alive; it sucks that we’re alive for such a brief while. I go back and forth between being grateful and miserable about this, and continue to party like there’ll always be a next time. So cheers to the birthday girl, to Mom, to sisters and friends. Let’s toast to life! It’s beautiful. Sad. And gone before you get to know it.

Does anyone else go around marking in your mind all the sweet moments, thinking, this may be the last time?

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3 thoughts on “A Last Time for Everything

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful and true. You’re becoming a Buddhist. I love these wise lines: “Something should teach us to pay attention because there’s going to be an end one day: A last kiss. Last words spoken. A last time you’re all together. …There ought to be something that gently whacks you over the head, an alert that everything, all of it, is only temporary.”

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  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    I was just with my mother and all my siblings for a family reunion. We get together every year, though usually there’s someone who can’t come. This year, for the first time, I thought about how remarkable it is that we’re all still alive and well, able to travel to be with Mom, who’s almost 96. None of us have started saying “Maybe this is the last time we’ll see Mom”, but my brother asked me to take photos of Mom’s paintings, rugs and furniture so we’ll have a record to use when we need to share them out to the family, either when Mom moves into the “Memory Unit” or when she dies. She is losing her memory, that’s a fact. She can’t remember how she met our dad, for example, but when I asked how she got along with Grandpa, Dad’s father, she came up with a story I’d never heard, about him not wanting to retire. So it’s spotty! I snuck around taking photos while Mom napped, feeling disloyal, not wanting to hurt her feelings. As if having one of her paintings on the wall could possibly replace HER.
    She is very old, and might live to be 100. Losing her is inevitable within the next few years. But losing a daughter – no one is prepared for that! Religion offers solace and prepares us to accept the blows life randomly hits us with. A rabbi in Ithaca wrote a book called “When bad things happen to good people” or some such title. He must have been overwhelmed with people asking “Why me, God?”
    Why me, indeed?

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  3. Gayle Gray

    As always, a beautifully written and moving essay. You find so many ways to express the inexpressible!

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