The Last Time

“Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile…” – Juvy Ann

Once in a quaint village in Japan, a wise elder told a story about cherry blossoms to a group of children. He said, “Each spring, the cherry blossoms bloom brilliantly, but their beauty is fleeting. They remind us that every moment is precious and should be cherished, for like cherry blossoms, they do not last forever.”

This tale of cherry blossoms perfectly encapsulates a mindset conversation I had with my friend, Bruce:

“Greg, have you ever seen one of those Mystery Spot signs on the highway?” Bruce asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

“How often have you stopped?”

“Not often.”

“Why not? Aren’t you curious?”

“Yes, but I’m usually in a hurry.”

“I’ll bet you thought, ‘I’ll see it next time.’”

“Yeah, that’s happened.”

“Greg, when those opportunities arise, and you pass them by, remember: You never know if you will have that opportunity again. Ask yourself, is this the last time? Should I really pass it by?”

Bruce continued, “Most of us rush through life thinking we’ll live forever, we’ll always be healthy, and there will always be another opportunity, a next time to experience everything. That is an illusion that diminishes our perception of our opportunities and experiences each day. How much would you savor lunch with your best friend if you knew it would be the last time?”

Hugging your child. Talking with your mom by phone. Kissing somebody you love. Or even driving somewhere new and seeing a “Mystery Spot” sign pointing down a long gravel road, being curious and interested, but passing it by because you’ll see it next time.

Sometimes we know it’s the last time andsometimes we don’t.

When I sat on the lawn outside the vet’s office, I knew it would be the last time I would hold my golden retriever.

When I hugged my parents goodbye after visiting them in Cincinnati, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d see my dad, Chubby.

The times we realize it’s the last time are rare. More often, we assume there will be another opportunity. Then the unexpected strikes, and it’s too late to go back. The question then looms: Did we fully appreciate that “never again” moment? Probably not.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more aware that each time I do something, it could be the last time. A wistful comment we’ve all heard uttered by the “older generation” is, “Those were the days.”

To be forewarned that a moment is a “last” would be both a blessing and a curse. You would appreciate its importance, but you could not help being emotionally impacted by the “last-ness” of the event, possibly ruining the moment.

Being acutely aware that each time could  be the last time has enhanced my appreciation for seemingly small moments: My every Thursday lunches at Houston’s with my sons, playing with my grandkids, snuggling with Teresa on the couch to watch a movie… and taking the time to explore every Mystery Spot. For me, I’m appreciating life more by considering every time as the last time.

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon.