Today is the last day of school. Eight hours of bittersweet chaos. Today, in schools across the U.S., students will clean out lockers, sign yearbooks, hug their teachers goodbye, and wish one another a fun summer. Some will feel blissful, others sad.
I’m leaning more toward the blissful side, though I will miss my students.
Today is the last day (for a while, anyway) that I’ll hear lockers slamming. It’s the last day I’ll pick up stray pencils from the floor to keep on my desk for students who lost their pencils in the hallway. Today is the last day I’ll remind my students a half dozen times to get to work, the last day I’ll fudge on someone’s grade so they can get an A instead of a B when I know they worked really hard, the last day I’ll get to see their faces light up when I tell them what great writers they are.
It’s a day of last times. And while it carries with it some sadness, at least we know it’s a last. The really sad thing, for me, is all the last times that come and go, and I don’t know it. I don’t know to savor it.
For example, when was the last time I changed each of my children’s diapers? When did they last sit in a high chair, or use a pacifier? When did I last stay up all night with a crying, teething baby?
When did my daughter last play with her Barbie house? When did I vacuum up the last Barbie shoe, clogging the vacuum? When was the last time each of my children watched Blue’s Clues or Dora the Explorer?
And when did I last shop in the kids’ clothing section?
When did she last wear ruffles and tights?
When did I pick up the last toy train?
When did they last hold my hand in the parking lot?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. If I had known, I’d have taken a little more time to savor, to cherish the moment. I’d have documented it some way. I’d have taken a picture for the scrapbook.
Unfortunately, these moments come and go without any warning, without much fanfare. They just happen, and then they quit happening, and one day we wake up and wonder where the time went.
I guess that’s why we need to treat every moment as if it might be the last. We need to linger. We need to really look the people we love in the eyes when they talk to us, and listen with our full attention. We need to speak gentle, encouraging words, and make sure the people around us know how special they are.
Though we can’t live our lives in a weepy, “this-might-be-the-last-time” way (that would drive anyone insane), we can make sure every moment counts. We can make sure we don’t pass up any opportunity to live out our greatest purpose, which is to love each other. When we do that, we can move through those moments and days and years and last times with no regrets.
“Beloved, let us love one another,” 1 John 4:7.