Everything Looks Different When it’s the Last Time

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” -James Dean

I am a huge fan of traditional ceremonies: graduations, retirement dinners, birthdays, and other rites of passage. Life is unpredictable but tradition gives us a chance to plan and react slowly instead of abruptly. You never really know when it’s your last time to do something. For example, when we had a ceremony for the last day of AYSO soccer for my son, I didn’t know that would be the last time I would coach him. I planned to do it many more times but alas, it would never happen again. If my wife and I hadn’t held that ceremony at Nick’s Pizza and handed out trophies, we would have lost that season to scattered and chance memories. As it is, we have photos of Nick’s Pizza and the smiling kids’ faces that I recall coaching and helping to have fun that season. I was thinking today about how we don’t know when what we are doing is about to end. I think it is natural for us humans to think as if what we are doing is eternal, or at least something that will go on a long time. The truth is, people are plucked from this ethereal delusion every day. It may sound morbid but what about the guy or girl who gets killed by a drunk driver on the way to her/his wedding? Or what about the guy who teaches guitar and then loses his fingers from diabetic complications to never play or teach guitar again. These are bummer thoughts I admit so I will step away from them now. I am not really talking about death or other “unhappy endings” as motives here. Instead I am talking about transforming ones consciousness. I’m appealing to you the reader and trying to get your agreement that everything, when it’s the last time, looks different. Still, I want to drive home the reminder that we are not really in control of whether we continue or discontinue even in terms of living or dying. So, we should live in a state cognizant of that.

I would recommend that we live each event and moment as if it is our last. There is more consciousness and awareness in that place than in assuming there will be more. It also is an excellent antidote for boredom. It is impossible to be bored when you know something is almost over. As a teacher, my kids sometimes get bored when we are reading a story aloud or watching an educational video. When I tell them, “This is the end part,” I always see them pay closer attention. What if we could get into that habit in all the tasks and experiences we go through. The result would be deeper experience. We might give more time to our children if we knew we didn’t have as much time as we thought. Tonight, at my daughter’s dance class, I know we won’t be back. We may try tumbling but the experiences here have not been the best a customer could experience. As a result we are moving on. I guess that’s why I am writing to you tonight to enjoy any classes or games or recitals you may get the luck to attend as if it’s the last time. In a way, everything we do always is. You might say there is a last time for everything.

“Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do? Back off and take its picture.” -Russell Baker

Author: Damien Riley

I'm a blogger, film critic, & podcaster with an MA in English from California State University, Fullerton. I teach public school, 4th grade as my primary occupation. My views on films and life are usually headstrong and often 'left of center' on movies and life, but I have respect for the other side. I married my high-desert princess (now my queen). We have 3 children.