“See you when I get home.”
“Grab bread on your way back?”
“Take the rubbish out with you, pleeease.”
“Where are my keys? Oh, here, bye.”
….are things you may say as you or your partner part ways for daily duties. Not often does this become the last thing you say to one another. But if it were, you would suddenly try to remember what your last words were, what their last words were. They take on a new importance, and that’s the thing about last times; they become precious only when there is no future moment to replace it.
Sometimes we need help knowing how to handle last times when we’re faced with them. So here are my four tips:
1. Acknowledge that It was a gift for a season.
I distinctly remember walking across the school parking lot as a pre-teen: my Mum grabbed my hand and my face burned. I knew if I pulled my hand away that she would feel hurt but I also knew I was deeply embarrassed. A pre-teen takes their imagined street cred very seriously, I’m sure you’re aware. I eventually freed my hand and I believe I didn’t hold my Mum’s hand in public again until I was an adult… when it became a safe haven again. This memory shapes my mothering because every time my children grab my hand, ask to grab my hand or fight over holding my hand, I am aware that this is a limited time, and it’s special – even when it is ill-timed, physically inconvenient or unpleasant. I have this hope that if I accept now that there was never a guarantee for it to last forever, the day they let go of my hand will be a great time to remember all the times they held on.
2. Allow imperfection.
Be gracious to yourself! Allow some mess and imperfection. If we lived all moments as though they were last times, demanding a high level of doing and saying and being the ideal, we would most likely experience a variety of breakdowns… Avoiding the unnecessary pressure on ourselves can be difficult because we are so aware of our own story. As we live it and build it, we often feel the need to trim bits, straighten out some parts, forget others and add humour to the downright unfunny. During the last conversation that I had with my Mum I told her that she was beautiful. The last thing I said to her was that I loved her. But when they carried her out after she had passed, I was eating a brownie. The brownie eating is a part of the story I usually trim. I chose to carry shame for something that wasn’t really shameful because I want to have done it better. However, I am human and you are human and sometimes our humanness means we make complete humans out of ourselves when we’d rather be more than human.
3. Grieve last times if you need to.
If you need to grieve the end of something, do it. Grief can bring you to comfort. Comfort can bring you to encouragement. Encouragement can lead you to peace. Denying yourself an opportunity to say goodbye can be harmful in the long run, and making the space for processing a loss can be healing.
4. Be present.
It is very worthwhile to practice being present because it fosters an appreciation for the current moment, by honouring it with your mind and heart’s presence. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my first two children past several months and I had a deep desire to do so, which meant that when I faced barriers to breastfeeding with my third, I pummelled through them with a tenacity that brings us to today’s breastfeed with my 29-month-old. The nursing is becoming more sparse; so I find myself noticing how she fits my body, how soft her skin feels, I hold her small hand and I just breathe in the whole experience of the breastfeed. Not the entire time, not even for most of the time but at least for a moment each time I nurse.
Sometimes we say goodbye but we also have seasons to come, things to look forward to, future precious moments and I truly believe the best is yet to come.
Gabriela Antonini chronicles snapshots of her moments on her Instagram @g_and_tribe, in between racing one of her three lively children, sharing chocolate with her theologian husband, feeding her ever-hungry progeny or singing lyrics wrong with the hubs. She is often found with her nose in a book, at the beach, up a tree or carrying around a teapot. Born in Slovakia, a childhood spent in Melbourne, she now lives in Perth heartily appreciating its exquisitely mild weather.