I love flipping the script on others and I thoroughly enjoy it when others do the same for me. Those of you who follow this blog have noticed that I am experimenting with a “Question of the Day” each weekday. I did the same via other social networks each weekday in 2014 and the response gave me the reason to move them to this blog. One day last month, I posed the question, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I have long been a person who enjoys new experiences and living a little beyond my comfort zone, so this is a question I ask myself almost daily. One of my teammates from long ago responded to that question with this question, “When was the first time you did something for the last time?” I have been thinking off and on for days pondering not only an answer to that question but the larger thought it provoked.
It is easy for us to know when we are doing something for the first time because we have the benefit of hindsight. Unless it is intentional (e.g., high school graduation, last participatory competitive athletic event, last day in a home before moving, or last ride in the car before selling it), we rarely know when we are doing something for the last time. When we know we are about to experience something for the last time, we are completely immersed in the moment. I remember many of my intentional last times, but I struggle to recreate some of the last times that I didn’t anticipate (e.g., the last time I rocked my son to sleep).
I write this on what is my Dad’s 66th birthday. As I do, I remember his 64th. I remember it for many reasons, but most of all because it turned out to be the last birthday we celebrated as a family that included my brother, who passed away eight months following. My Dad is a big Coach K fan and Duke was playing Maryland here in College Park, Maryland. My brother and I had arranged to take him and my Mom to the game. The three of them (my parents and brother) flew in from California and we had a great time. My brother surprised both of my parents with a last-minute ticket upgrade to some amazing seats, after all, if you are going to only one game, you might as well do it right. The tickets were not cheap, but the response was worth every penny. Duke lost the game and my Dad, being a vocal supporter of the visiting squad, was the focus of some not so good-natured heckling, but we have some amazing memories. Memories that are all the more meaningful because it was the last time we were all able-bodied and together.
A few weeks ago, I was sharing my personal lessons learned in real time via text to a friend as she was saying goodbye to her Mom who passed away shortly thereafter. We see athletes experience career-ending injuries before their career began to truly take-off, we see good people make bad decisions (or people of questionable character finally get caught) and watch their life veer way off course, and we see workaholics unintentionally sacrifice their family in the pursuit of a “successful” professional career. Life can turn on a dime for reasons well beyond our control and life can drift if we don’t remain mindful of the path we desire.
Every day brings with it an opportunity to intentionally do something for the first time. It also affords the opportunity to intentionally do something for the last time (e.g., stop that bad habit, end that unhealthy relationship, or quit that job we hate). What most of us fail to comprehend is that we often unknowingly do things for the last time and we won’t realize that to be the case until it is too late. We need to live in the moment, do everything with the understanding that it may very well be our last, and acknowledge that anyone in our life could vanish at a moment’s notice. I know I need to do better in this regard. I thank my teammate for answering my question with an even more thought-provoking one.
My brother (who had been diagnosed with cancer two years prior) may have known that my Dad’s 64th birthday was the last birthday the six of us would share together. Whether or not he thought about that as a possibility, I am forever grateful that he approached it in a way that makes each of us smile as we reflect on it. I know he is too…
- What is the next thing you will intentionally do for the last time?
- What is the most recent thing you may have unknowingly done for the last time?
- What will be the next memory you deliberately make special (for you and/or for others)?