First and Last
When my daughter was born, I bought a baby book that has space in it for recording all of
baby's "first's". Over the years, I recorded first words, first steps, firth tooth in and first tooth
out, as well as many other firsts.

I vividly remember her first report card, first birthday, first date, and her first job. And now as
she embarks on her first (and only, I hope) marriage, I find myself reminiscing about all of the
firsts in my life.

As the firsts race around in my head, I'm suddenly reminded of the lasts. The lasts are a
peculiar thing, for you never know it's the last, until long after it's over.  I remember the last
time I carried her to bed after she had fallen asleep watching television. I didn't know it was
the last time, or I'm sure I would have walked more slowly, cherishing the moment as I
lingered over her and tucked her underneath her warm covers. Relishing in the smell of
bubble bath on her skin, or the baby shampoo fragrance still permeating her hair. Sadly, at
some point she became too heavy for me to carry, and those walks down the hall with her
limp in my arms and snuggled to my breast were gone.

The last time I saw my father, he had driven 1,100 miles from his home in Florida to my
home in Texas to be with me for my mother's funeral. As he prepared to leave, I walked him
to the car, hugged him and watched him drive away, waving until he was out of sight.

Did I know it was going to be the last time I would ever see him? No. For if I had known, I
would have hugged longer, cried harder, and begged him to stay. But I didn't know. Sure, I
planned to visit him soon. Sure, I talked to him on the telephone every Sunday. But neither
of us had any way of knowing that in less than ten months, he too, would be gone.

I didn't have a book to record his last visit or our last hug, but my heart still remembers it
vividly. Other lasts, I don't remember as vividly, but wish I could. I wish I could remember
Mother's last birthday, our last picnic, Dad's last advice, and many others that passed long
before I realized. Once my parents were gone, their lasts began to haunt me.

God knows all the firsts and the lasts. I suppose it takes a Divine heart to be able to know
the last of something and not spend a lifetime fretting over it. It's a good thing I don't know
when the last of something is occurring, for it would surely break my heart.

It would be nice if everyone could live one moment at a time, and live each one as if it were a
last moment, relishing each hug, each conversation, as if it might be the last. But life makes
us busy. We each have the same number of hours in a day, but we cram too much in it.
More time for working, less time for hugging.

Yet, when a loved one dies, it somehow puts everything else into perspective. The things
that used to seem so important and time-demanding, now seem like useless clutter. The
words said, the deeds done, the kindness showed, and the love shared becomes all
important.

As I continue along grief's long journey, m
any years after my parents' deaths, I remind myself
of the important things in my life. I linger longer in conversations, hug my loved ones and
friends more, and cherish the little things that may soon be lasts.

My daughter and I are spending lots of time planning her wedding these days. She is so
excited! I'm excited for her, but also saddened, for I know there is another last coming. But
as I dread the lasts, I also look forward to even more firsts. For it is in the firsts that God
grants us His greatest blessings!

As I have worked my way through grief, recalling the many lasts, I remember that God still
has many joys left for me, and many more firsts. I've learned that part of the grief process is
in remembering the lasts, but they should be treated like photographs. I cherish them and
dwell on them for awhile, then place them away in a special place. My grief has been like
that baby book. I have gone back through the book, rejoiced at the firsts, cried over the
lasts, and now it's time I close that book and get on with life.

Now, it's time to start a new book, for the little baby is gone, but the bride is beautiful!
© Ferna Lary Mills


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