We love to celebrate firsts—births, first words, first steps, first days at school.
And we celebrate or mourn ultimate lasts—graduations, deaths, divorce.
But what about little lasts?
We celebrate the birth or adoption of a child, but we can’t remember giving the last bottle. Or changing the last diaper. Or rocking our child to sleep for the last time.
Those are little lasts.
Some of us are barraged with countless questions from our kids and shown a never-ending supply of inventions, doodles and Tinker Toy contraptions throughout the day. But, one day, we’ll see the last one.
That’s a little last.
My oldest son comes down the stairs multiple times a night (way past when he is supposed to be asleep) with made-up questions and reminders (just to stall and stay up). I get angry with him. But there will be a last time he comes down our stairs. And I’ll never have those private moments to be with just him. Moments, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve squandered up until now.
A few years ago, I remember watching an Oprah interview with Dr. William Petit, a man who lost his wife and daughters in a horrific murder. As I listened to Dr. Petit try to find the words for his feelings, it hit me that the people we love are what allow everything else to matter and have meaning.
Without that love, nothing else matters—little or big.
Every single day we change. We age. We mature. We change our minds. We are never quite the same person that we were yesterday.
That means that each day is a first. And a last.
Today is the last day we will have with the people we love—the way they are today. Tomorrow, everything is different, everyone has changed. Just a little.
I realize that there will be a last time a child of mine believes in Santa. And a last time we will put out cookies and milk.
There will be a last time I push my daughters on a swing. And a last time I wrestle on the floor with my sons.
I know, in the scheme of things, that these will not be those moments we document, like we do big firsts and ultimate lasts.
They’re just little things.
But it’s the little things that make our lives significant.
Let’s try to be fully present in those little moments that matter most.
Before they’re gone forever.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on March 3, 2013.