April 2, 2024

Our “Firsts,” our “Lasts” & the Gratitude that comes from Living in the Moment.

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I was deep in the throes of new motherhood, vacillating between sleepless nights that left me in a fog and an alertness triggered by my continual wondering if I was doing everything I could to be sure my little one would thrive.

I had read countless books and articles and thanked the well-meaning passers by at Target for their unsolicited advice. I knew some of what I read or heard wouldn’t make sense to me for years to come like, “the days are long, but the years are short.” At that time, the days felt incredibly long and I had wondered if I would even make it a year to test out that theory.

Another piece of advice—“Don’t forget to record the last times because they are just as special as the first times”—intrigued me, though.

There was so much emphasis on the “first” of everything that I hadn’t ever thought about taking note of the last time something happened, and I wondered how I would know it was the last time until it was already in my rearview mirror. Many years have since passed, and I’ve thought about this advice from time to time but never acted on it. Until recently.

I was sitting on the couch with my now ex-fiancé. This was the first time we had been alone together in almost two months. The house was empty of nearly all his things, and my belongings would be carted out a few days later.

We were quietly staring at the bare walls and shelves that surrounded us in what used to be our family room, and as the hot tears streamed down my face, I did what I had done in moments like this before and instinctively reached for his hand. After a few moments of continued silence and crying, I remembered the Target lady’s advice some 14 years ago and asked him if I could take a picture of our intertwined hands in case it was the last time we would ever hold hands.

In fact, it wasn’t the last time we would hold hands, but it is the last picture I have of us together. I find this picture to be much sadder than our last picture together showing our smiling faces. Maybe it’s because his Apple Watch eerily recounts the exact date and time I took the photo. Or because my nails are broken and bruised, like my soul was, from the packing and unpacking that happened only two months earlier to move into this house that I thought we’d be in until our four children graduated high school.

Something tells me, though, that it was because the end was there, I knew it, and had no idea how or when to say a final goodbye to this person, much less let go of his hand, and I was terrified of how I’d feel when I did. Over the next few days as we saw each other to coordinate the insanity that comes with moving, he would say, “Well, at least that wasn’t the last time we held hands, even for just a few seconds.”

I would force a small smile and agree, but knew that day was fast approaching. Some time between then and now was the last time we held hands and despite my wanting to remember all the “lasts” with this person, it had come and gone—and I had missed it.

When I think about the feelings and heaviness that come with the word “last” versus “first,” I’m grateful that something happens to my memory, which is otherwise terrifyingly sharp, and I simply cannot recall the lasts without studying a calendar. I’d like to think it’s because I’m in the moment.

The last time I used a baby stroller or breastfed. The last time I hugged or kissed someone goodbye. The last time I heard someone’s voice. We often don’t get to know when those lasts are happening. Of course, there are those times when we know it’s our last, like the last time I stood in my backyard before moving and cried to my lady spiders and hummingbirds to find me again because I had no way to take them with me. Those last memories, when we know it’s a “last,” are too much for me and so I’d rather they live in my mind than on the page of a journal or calendar, or in a picture, like this one.

I can only look at this picture from time-to-time because it was not the last time we held hands or sat next to each other. There is still a tiny bit of hope alive in that picture, and if there’s hope then it’s not the last of anything.

I survived that first year of motherhood and 14 more to boot, and I can very much attest that the days are short and the years go by so quickly…more than we’d like. As for recording the “lasts,” I’ll agree that they’re as important as our “firsts,” but don’t agree that they deserve as much fanfare. Not because they’re not special, but because they can be too painful.

So, I’ll let my brain continue to decide when and if I need to recall the memories of a moment when I was living so presently that I forgot to document it.


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