We remember doing something for the first time. Firsts are milestones in our memories, the occasions when we get our driver’s licence, fly in an airplane, see awesome scenery — Banff National Park, the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean (for landlocked Prairie people) — taste alcohol and, dare I say, have sex. But how often do we recognize lasts?
I recall walking around Bishop’s University for the first time in August 1982. Bishop’s started in 1843 and its first Gothic Revival style building opened in 1846. At that time in Western Canada my childhood cities were still called Forts: Calgary and Edmonton. Glen remembers unlocking the door to his office at Bishop’s for the first time but also shutting it for the last — after his career there of 30 years. The first filled him with anticipation, the last with poignancy.
Sometimes we cannot know a last. We may not realize, for instance, when we’re speaking our final words to someone whom death later snatches from us. But even less dramatic lasts can be more memorable or poignant than firsts. At this stage we should try to pay attention to possible lasts, to pay homage to them.
REASONS TRIGGERING LASTS
- Divorce: Glen and I do not recall when we began playing mixed doubles with dear friends in Lennoxville, but we sure lament the last match. Sadly, their marriage dissolved in our presence; shedding tears on a tennis court, we brought to an end our many years of enjoyable play. With another couple, we did not know celebrating New Year’s Eve in 2013 would be our last meal with them together. Their marriage also resulted in divorce. We continue to see him but never said a last goodbye to her.
- Relocation: We both acknowledged the last night spent in our house of 22 years in Lennoxville. The painful process of concluding that life was abated by the excitement of starting a new one 3000 miles away. While Glen claims he’ll not return, I still don’t know whether or not I’ve seen the Town, the University and more important my Quebec friends for the last time.
- Loss of interest: We first camped at Fish Creek Pond Campground in the Adirondacks in 1992, little knowing it would become an annual holiday involving numerous friends and family through to 2010. Although we reserved sites to return in 2011, I decided before then that my camping days were over. My decision disappointed several people, in part because we had not marked the occasion of our last campfire.
- Limitations: I took up golf in the 1990s and for many years took pleasure in it. iCalendar shows my last round occurred on March 7, 2017 at Desert Canyon Golf Club with Glen, Brandon and Tim. Due to my limited ability, I do not regret abandoning the game — though might have liked to observe final rites.
- Retirement: We usually know the last day of our career job. But we may not realize our last day of work — paid or volunteer.
For healthy aging we must challenge ourselves by experiencing firsts — for example, in food, travel, games — as often as possible. Occasionally we do something for both a first and last time — and know it. Glen and I recently took a road trip to Monument Valley, making the most of our few days as we accepted we would not go back.
When we left our winter residence in Scottsdale, I wondered if we’ll know our last season in the sun. Or will something unpredictable happen in the ensuing seven months to prevent our return? And, if so, we won’t know to have said a final farewell to our friends in Arizona.
Although we may feel sad contemplating last time occurrences, perhaps they’re simply further evidence to live in the moment, to be conscious, aware and in the present with all of our senses, all of the time.
Please share your memorable first and/or last times. •