Goodbye. Adios. Hasta la vista baby.
We’re nearly finished with 2020.
Put a fork in it. It’s done.
Flick the lights for last call.
Everyone is saying good riddance to 2020. To the wildfires that destroyed 47 million acres in Australia and the forest fires that burned down endless homes on the West Coast. To political unrest, protests and riots. To the pandemic. To a president that refuses to concede. To a prince who quit the royal family.
As much as I’m glad to see the year end, I know there are things I’m going to miss. I just don’t know what they are yet.
These final days of 2020 have me thinking about a song by country music artist Brad Paisley. The lyrics to “Last Time for Everything” remind me that there isn’t just a first time for everything, there’s also a last time:
“Using a fake ID at a college bar
Getting caught with a girl in the backseat of a car
Running out on the field for the senior game wearing No. 17
There’s a last time for everything.”
We so often focus on the first times: The first word. First tooth. First step. The first day of school. First bra. First home run. First kiss. First date. First love. First heartbreak.
As the years go by when we share the stories that make up our lives, we often talk about our firsts. Our first pet. First car. First apartment. First home.
But there’s a last pet, when that faithful one finally crosses the rainbow bridge. There’s a last car, when we’re too old to drive and give up the keys forever.
As the chorus of the song goes,
“Last call, last chance, last song, last dance.
Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be.
Hold me baby, give me a kiss, like tonight is all there is, ’cause there’s a last time for everything.”
The last times are mostly mystery.
I’ve been singing the song lately to remind myself to make all my words kind ones, since I don’t know when they will be the last ones someone I love hears.
What will the last times of 2020 be? Probably the things we complained about. Those will become the memories we treasure years from now.
There’s a last time for everything from this pandemic ...
A last time for showing up in second grade on Zoom.
A last time wearing a mask to buy a gallon of milk.
A last time wearing pajama bottoms to work.
A last time to FaceTime your grandparents in the nursing home.
A last time to stand 6 feet away from your new grandson.
A last time to hug your mom.
A last time to call your dad.
There always has been a last time to see someone, to hear their voice, to feel their touch, to smell that favorite dish they made you every Thanksgiving or Passover. We rarely know when that last time is. If we’re lucky, we can savor it before it vanishes forever.
I still have the message my mom left on my cell phone when she sang “Happy Birthday” to me in 2013. I knew her memory was starting to fade and feared one day she would forget me entirely. In that birthday message, she sang to me then told me what a great daughter I was and that she loved me dearly.
Alzheimer’s robbed her of remembering my birthdays after that. Even though she died four years ago, I still get to hear her sing to me every birthday.
I can’t imagine all the firsts my mom celebrated with her 11 kids and how painful all those lasts must have been. The last child to move out really shook her up. That house that had always been as noisy as a playground at recess was from then on ghostly quiet.
Each time I visit my grandkids, I see the last times looming. The last time they will sit on my lap to read a picture book. The last time they will ask for help tying a shoe. The last time I get to tuck them in with a song.
No, we don’t know it’s the last time until it’s too late to savor the time we had.
So before this tired year recedes in the rearview mirror, let it be a wake up call not to miss that last call.