Saturday, September 23, 2017

One last time

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Lk 12:16-20).

One striking feature of human experience is that in the course of life we often find ourselves doing something for the last time. Indeed, we ultimately do everything for the last time. Take your last day of high school. Or retirement. Moving away. Your last day as a teenager. Your last day as a bachelor. Or the demolition of landmarks from your childhood. 

Doing something for the last time subdivides into prospective and retrospective viewpoints. On the one hand, there are situations where we know in advance that we're doing it for the last time. On the other hand, there are situations where we only know after the fact that we're doing it for the last time. And the former experience further subdivides into dreading the final time we do it or looking forward to the final time we have to do it. 

Doing something for the last time can make it especially significant, if you don't get another chance, yet ironically, there are many situations where we fail to appreciate the significance of that event because we didn't know at the time that this was the last time we were going to do it. It's only in hindsight that we realize it was the last time. If we knew at the time this was going to be the last chance, we might make more of the occasion. Make a mental note, to remember it better. Make the most of the final opportunity. But by the time it's behind us, it's too late for that. No going back. 

Sometimes it's a relief to do it for the final time. Sometimes it's lamentable to do it for the final time. 

Perhaps the most dramatic example of doing something for the last time is death. It can be your own death, or the death of an acquaintance. The last day you see them or speak to them. If we know they are dying, we have greater opportunity to take advantage of the remaining time. If the death is unexpected, then there's often regret at lost opportunities. 

It might be someone we're close to, or someone we only knew in passing. Suppose they die in an accident. We may regret that we were in too much of a hurry to get to know them better. 

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