Friday, November 1, 2013

211. Being sure to embrace that one last moment together

In the late 90s, when my father’s health was beginning to suffer, we went to an otherwise rather insignificant Cleveland Indians game together. My dad loved baseball and the Indians, but did not like crowds and rarely went to a game. In fact, I think he only took me once when I was very young—when I was too young to understand baseball or even where I was. There may have been another time or two, but I do not think so.

 So when he agreed to go to the game with my wife and me, to watch the Indians battle the Kansas City Royals—not only was this a special occasion, I was pretty sure this would be the last time we ever went to a game together. Somewhat skeptical that he really wanted to go, I was excited to see that he had his Indians shirt on.

 When you know that you are seeing someone or doing something for the last time, the moment can be appreciated—and enjoyed or embraced—to its fullest.

 Unfortunately, there are a lot of times when we do not know that something will be happening for the last time. I never knew when I saw my brother-in-law a few days before he died tragically in a fire that I was seeing him for the last time. I didn’t know that the late May baseball game of my sophomore season was the last college baseball game I would play. I also didn’t know that when I left the naval base in Annapolis in 1989 that it was the last time I would see my then girlfriend. The last time might be an emotional end, or perhaps even a celebratory beginning—or somewhere in between.

 The beat goes on for scores of friends, classmates, coworkers and even family members. When I joined Facebook a few years ago, one of the things I often wondered when was the last time I saw that person. One day I am playing football with my friend in the backyard—the next I am off to college and he is off to Columbus, never to connect again. At graduation, we often speak of staying “in touch,” but I have learned that most of the time we do not. I have worked with coworkers for years, shared our most personal day-to-day experiences, yet never spoken to them again after they move on. It often happens so nonchalantly.

 If we know it is the last time, of course, we’d go all out—like we tried with the baseball game with my dad. We got the best seats we could and splurged on the food. I wanted the afternoon to last forever.

What is difficult sometimes is when we don’t know. We might not be in the moment—sure that there will be another moment. We might rush it or not appreciate the finality of the event. There is certainly not the emotional attachment—not many are sensitive to the “next to last time.”

At the same time, we can’t treat each occasion like it is the last time. If I knew I would never see my mom ever again—of course, I would spend the entire day with her, the entire week. I would take her to dinner, or the theatre, wherever she wanted to go. But unfortunately, I can’t live every day like that—nobody can. We’d go broke, if nothing else. We have to risk it—that there will be another time.

The significance of the last time is not limited to the important moments of our lives. It might include the last summersault you did as a kid, the last walk you took with your dog, the last time you visited the park you grew up near or the last time you sang karaoke with your high school friends. It’s also interesting when a correspondence spontaneously ends with a friend—who writes the last letter, makes the last phone call, or sends the last text or email.  Those relationships that end for no other reason than that’s the way life works.

I remember the last Browns game I watched with my dad as it was the first win by the “new” Browns. The remarkable October 31, 1999 game ended when Kevin Johnson caught a Hail Mary from Tim Couch. Somewhat appropriate that it ended on a Hail Mary, I had no idea it was the last time we would watch a game together—though I am grateful that we shared that moment together, just the two of us.

In the day-to-day activities of life, we sometimes forget how precious it can be. We sometimes take things for granted—that we will have the same opportunity again at some future point in our lives.

Other times we understand the time and place in our lives—and we just know it is the last time.