Yesterday I wrote about the first time events occur. These occasions are often easy to recognize, although in some cases considerable time has to pass before we realize that it was indeed a pioneer event.
But while writing about first times, I recalled something I had written some years ago about last time events. This was written while we were living in California:
Barbara and I have often passed a very old Asian gentleman who takes daily shuffles around our development. I say shuffles, because he moves the heel of one foot even with the toe of the other when he walks. His progress is very slow – we usually meet him, walk completely around the development, and meet him again about half a block from where he was before.
We always say “Good morning” to him, and he always smiles and tips his cap to us. Barbara has noticed that he has to shift his cap (which he usually carries) from one hand to the other, and she thinks he may have had a stroke of something so that he cannot raise his one hand.
A few days ago he seemed to be having a serious problem. He was standing in the street, and an Asian lady and a security policeman were supporting him. I don’t know what happened because we didn’t want to stare at him, but we did see the Asian lady running up the street when we got around the development. We have not seen him since. This got me thinking about things that have happened that we didn’t realize was the last time.
I used to meet my friend, Harvey, for breakfast at Knott’s Berry Farm about once a month. I knew he had prostate cancer, but he said it was under control. One time we didn’t call each other for a few months, and one day I received a call telling me he had died. I believe I would have treated him differently if I had known that last breakfast was the last time I would see him alive.
In 1984 we visited Barbara’s parents in September. Her father died in January, 1985. Because of weather problems, the airlines were not able to get us to Pennsylvania in time for the funeral. I am sure we would have felt differently about leaving in 1984 if we had known that was the last time we would ever see him again.
I don’t get to see my grandchildren very often. I believe the last time I saw Heidi was in 1992, when her mother brought her and her brother to visit me at the office where I was working. In 1994 I received a phone call from her alerting me that the infamous O.J. Simpson slow chase was passing close to my house at that very moment. She was watching it on television.
I received occasional letters from her, and I answered them very sporadically. On Oct. 2, 1997, the day after her 17th birthday, she was killed in a collision with a truck. How I regretted all the occasions when I could have made more effort to communicate with her. I certainly never dreamed that her visit five years earlier was the last time I would ever see her.
It doesn’t have to be a death to change the way we would look at the “last time” for some event, if we knew it was the last time. When I lived on the farm, I loved playing in the “woods.” I can’t remember the last time I played there, and I wish I could. I went back for a visit some time ago, and it was so grown up with briars that I couldn’t even get in for a nostalgic look around.
We never know when we will be seeing someone for the last time, or some event will be for the last time. Perhaps we would look at things much differently if we kept that in mind at goodbyes, movings, etc.
I am not advocating tears and gnashing of teeth with every goodbye. I only suggest that we attempt always to part with feelings of respect and goodwill.