Last Times

“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.”  –Dr. Seuss

We’ve all experienced the sadness of last times, especially as summer ends and fall begins.  We remember the last walk on the beach, the last swim in the lake, the last boat ride or picnic or evening outdoor concert.  We listen to the signals of the waning days of summer,  the cricket songs at night and the fading rhythms of the peepers, and we grieve momentarily before we dive into beginnings.

But there’s a different kind of a last time, a real last time for something, not like the comfort in knowing that another summer will come and bring more walks on the beach and more swimming in the lake or more picnics in the park.  For some, last truly means last.

About five years ago my oldest daughter took a job in New Jersey.  She found a great condo, but she was alone without friends.  An older couple who lived above her watched over her and provided some comfort for her loneliness.  The woman was a breast cancer survivor, like me, but about a year ago, her cancer returned.  Last week she was told she could not be given any more chemotherapy, leaving us all with the fear she would not survive long.  Two days ago she asked a favor of my daughter.  The woman loves my daughter’s dog, a sweet charmer who returns her love.  Her request was to spend twenty minutes outside with my daughter’s dog, just sitting with him.  Today she got to do that.  The sadness of that overwhelms me.

My mother’s roommate in the nursing home has health problems similar to my mother’s and has been receiving blood transfusions to keep her alive.  She has become a great friend for my mother, and I feel comforted by that.  This week she had her last transfusion.  They are no longer working and so she is aware that she has little time left to live.

Yesterday my mother expressed a wish to play her organ again.  She will not be returning to her apartment, and it is necessary now to get rid of all her possessions, including the organ she loves.  This weekend we will take her to her apartment and she will sit down at her organ and play it for the last time.

It’s a lot easier to handle those last times that are not really last times at all but only temporary lapses before new times begin, before those glory days of summer cycle back to us.  I know that usually lasts are followed by firsts.  Summer ends but the cool, colorful days of autumn begin.  I’m no longer sure there will be firsts for my daughter’s neighbor,  for my mother’s roommate, or for my mother.  Sometimes last truly means last.

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