Last moments can be something we foresee, something we prepare for, or they can come creeping up unnoticed, gone before the realization that we were experiencing the last time.
They're more noticeable when they come in the form of something dramatic; a career change, move, or terminal illness. We become accutely aware that the last moment is drawing closer, to soak up the details because it's all going to end soon.
I sat on my front deck today, thinking about leaving this house. This small, warm house that has sheltered us through some very large storms, both figurative and literal. This house welcomed my fourth baby into this world. He was born in the wee hours of the morning in a back bedroom a short four years ago. This house has measured my children's growth for five years on a wall near the kitchen. She has seen much transformation in our family, from a broken, fragmented group to a solid, strong whole. She weathered Ivan, while others fell...I have no doubt this house will weather many more storms, protecting posessions and peace of mind. There has been learning and joy here, a family re-united, and now I must say goodbye.
As I sat on the front deck drinking tea just moments ago, the birds flew back and forth in front of me, eating from the feeder while keeping a wary eye on me. The chickadees always amaze me, these seemingly fragile, tiny creatures. Last year, hurricane Ivan leveled houses, ripped open large buildings and left Pensacola in wreckage. Yet the chickadees are still here. The smallest of creatures, somehow surviving and thriving in spite of these storms.
Then I remember sitting in my backyard, amidst mounds of branches and debris last year, and seeing butterflies everywhere. They lit amongst the wreckage, oblivious. It will never cease to amaze me to see these delicate creatures flitting about after such storms. I have a feeling that chickadees and butterflies are visiting Louisianna and Mississippi right now. Hopefully they are a symbol of hope for the victims there.
I think of those people, so devastated by hurricane Katrina, and I know they didn't see last moments coming until it was too late. For so many, there was a last time they would sleep in their beds, eat in their kitchen and gather in their houses. They are the lucky ones that lived to see a new day....others were having last moments on this earth. I mourn for their last moments, and the ones yet to come in their ordeal.
As I sat watching these small birds, breathing deeply of Pensacola air and enjoying nature's beauty, I thought about this being one of the last times I would enjoy tea on that deck. My view will be very different soon. As much as I look forward to the move, I can't help but feel a nagging sense of bittersweet longing...saying goodbye is never easy. I wonder at the last moments I've missed in my life; the last time Trevor or Jared snuggled in my lap as little boys, the last time each of my babies nursed, the last time I changed a diaper or helped them bathe. I don't remember realizing that there WAS a last time for each of those things. But it came, unbidden and life moved forward without pause to honor that last moment.
Then there are the last moments that are seared into my mind; the sights, sounds and smell are permanently etched into memory. Walking away from Grame's deathbed was one such time. I knew she was dying, but my plane was leaving that afternoon to take me hundreds of miles from her touch. I knew when I walked down that hospital hallway and stepped into the elevator, that I would never see her again. I felt as though I were dreaming, walking slowly away...seeing my family huddled around her bed, the white walls closing in on me. I talked to her, reached out to her in my mind. I felt her spirit that day, but couldn't help feeling a sense of betrayal. I wasn't going to be there for her last moment. I remember the last phone conversation with my mother, knowing she was facing death. I tried to make sense of her meandering thoughts as the painkillers caused her mind to wander erratically. She knew I was coming to be with her, that's all that mattered in the end.
Last moments are happening today. If we live mindfully, aware that these moments are coming and going constantly, I think we can live more fully. Sometimes I want to put the brakes on time. I want to tell her "NO, I will not let this be the last" but life doesn't work that way, does it? Time has no compassion for our fragile human emotions, she marches on in spite of our need to pause, to relish moments that we want to last forever.
I want to hug people as though it might be the last time, I want to love each moment of each day as though it could be my last, I want to feel every bit of sadness and grief and love and passion because I CAN. There will be a last journal entry, a last piece of art a last bit of advice or encouragement I give on this earth, a last breathe. I might know it's coming, or I might not, so I better make it count.
"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."
Henry David Thoreau