As one who spent most of his life telling stories, it recently dawned on me that a lot of the tales I tell are “lasts.”

Lasts, you say? Stay with me, and perhaps you will see that your own life is filled with “lasts,” some you may not even realized or, in the moment, cherished.

The very idea of “lasts” came to me when my dear friend Bobby died a few months ago. For my entire adult life, he was always there. As he approached the century mark, I knew there would come a time when the phone would ring, and instead of his delightful Irish brogue, I would hear the news I always knew was coming— “Bobby passed this morning, and he wanted to make sure you knew.”

The signs were always there, of course. The “last” time I talked to him was a month before he died. As always, we had a delightful conversation, except this time, he told me I should come down and pick up anything I wanted. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, he was trying to tell me that it was time.

I didn’t want anything, mind you, outside of the impossible – his immortality. I certainly am not one to pick over the bones of one’s possessions. The memories are enough for me. And during the 40+ years we were fast friends, he had given me the things he wanted me to have – including some stellar life lessons.

Still, the “last” time we talked still haunts me a bit. If only I had known. But then, we can’t really, can we?

I love to tell stories about the time I went snowmobiling with my then-love, Cathy, and her family. We would shoosh through logging roads above Kachess Lake at crazy speeds. Me? I was always the last of the bunch, always afraid I was going to go flying off the side of the path at any minute, flip and fold down a mountainside, and not be found until the spring thaw.

I don’t remember the “last” time I went. If I had, perhaps I would have appreciated the experience far more than I did. The same has been true throughout my life. A “last” time to go skiing. The “last” time I visited my mom before she died. The “last” night I spent at my favorite bar in West Seattle, the T’n’T. The list is seemingly endless.

Life is filled with “lasts.” The vast majority of the time, we are so caught up in our own lives, dramas and issues that we don’t stop to appreciate the miracle of that “last” moment. We fail to live in the moment and truly enjoy what could, at any moment, be the “last” time we ever experience someone or something.

If we could know, would we do something different? Would we be sure to always tell someone we love them when we see them? Would we take an extra moment to say thank you for what will eventually become the memories that travel with us into old age? Would we linger just a bit longer when we hug them? Or savor that “last” bite of a magnificent meal as if it were our last?

As I ease into my retirement years, I think about how fortunate I have been to have done so many amazing things, loved so many amazing people, and experienced things it would take others to do in a couple of lifetimes.

As I write this, I think of a “last” time I saw my childhood home before a family tiff left me unwelcomed. I was still something of a storage facility for my youth when I last saw it. There was still so much cool stuff in there, including some of my beloved “recycled art craft.” If only I knew a casual visit with my mom would be the last time I was there. And that all that I had planned so carefully to keep would be sold off or destroyed by my brothers.

Perhaps if I had known it was the “last,” I would have done something different. Not to change the outcome, mind you, for it would have totally altered the direction my life was meant to take. I wouldn’t be here now, happy about how my often-disastrous choices in life (in this case, a failed marriage) led me here. So many different paths that could have been taken if I had known something would have been the “last.”

So, what’s the takeaway of all this? Does it lead to a series of regrets or “if onlys”? Hardly. What it does lead to is a deep appreciation for every moment I am here on this earth, for everything I experience, from the last words I write and the last song I sing to the last time get to plant a kiss on my wife’s luscious lips, could be the “last.”

As such, all these moments, these possible “lasts,” all carry far more weight than they did in my youth. Yes, life itself is precious, but so is the life we lead, for we never know when that breath we take for granted hundreds of times every day is our “last.”

Just north of the Emerald City, still breathing (as far as I can tell),

  • Robb