On Last Times

This is going to be a little more of a plain and somber post compared to what I usually put here, just to offer you fair warning. 

Last weekend, my aunt Sara passed away after a sudden bout of liver failure. She went from being around – with a fair bit of pain from some chronic conditions – to being gone forever in the span of two days. What’s most surreal to me is that I never had the chance to properly say goodbye, and I don’t even really remember which occasion was the last time I saw her. Certainly, it was one of the days surrounding my brother’s wedding last September, but it wasn’t the sort of heavy, emotional I’ll-never-see-you-again sort of goodbye that I would’ve given if I had known what was going to happen a few months later. 

My aunt lived a hard life, and suffered the consequences of her decisions and circumstances for many years. In the years I knew her best, she was making a great effort to turn her life around. She’d found love and support, she’d gotten some education, and she had done her best to stay on a path that would lead her away from a troubled past. I hope she understood that others noticed. I hope she knew that, even though she didn’t always succeed, it meant a lot that she was trying. While she never got the chance to enjoy a full life, I hope it’s some consolation that she will continue to inspire others even now that she’s gone. For my part, she will always remind me of the idea that it’s never too late to fight your past, and that no fall is so great that you cannot stand again. 

I know that many of you reading this won’t have known Sara, and for you I have a message that hopefully you can all relate to. While the beginnings of new things are usually obvious, and we can see a new “first time” coming a long way off, it’s taken me these twenty seven years of my life to grasp fully the fact that many endings come and go without our realizing. Whether it’s something as mundane as the last time you visit a restaurant before it closes or something as monumental as the last time you see a loved one before they pass away, you may go through that finale without realizing that it’s the end of something. Years may pass before you understand that it should’ve meant something, that you would’ve liked to soak in that experience and put a proper seal on a piece of life. Bearing that in mind, I’m not suggesting we should make every goodbye tearful and dramatic. However, I think it’s worth carrying that thought with you, somewhere under the surface, that we ought to cherish each experience with as much mindfulness and gratitude as we can muster, because sooner or later it will be the last time, and we’ll wish we had known. 

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4 thoughts on “On Last Times

  1. Wow Cody, you have described what we all have thought, but found very hard to put into words. It means so much to me that you shared your feelings and thoughts for Sara. I know what you wrote would mean the world to her too. I think she took great pride in her accomplishments, but she was also very accepting of praise from her family. I say we should learn from this lesson too…if we are proud of an accomplishment that our friends or family do, let them know…don’t leave it to wish you had said something, I know Sara wanted a better life for herself and she made it with John, her two dogs, Buddy and Shorty, her birds Zazu and Franky and her doves… I think we all knew how far Sara had come and we were all very grateful that she pulled herself out of the bad places that were her life. Going to Wyoming and meeting John were the 2 best things that happened to Sara…Thank you again Cody for sharing this with us!!!! Love, Aunt Diane

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  2. Beautifully written. Thank you Cody. I didn’t get the chance to see Sara very often but I did get to see her a few summers back while we were both visiting Michigan. One of the difficulties of living in Alaska is the length of time between reunions with my family and friends. But this distance has caused me to rejoice each time I get a reunion with someone special to me. And I can say for certain that distance does not lessen the love I feel for those special people in my life. Actually I grow more fond of those people as time marches on. I’m proud to call Sara my cousin, and I love her dearly. I love all of my cousins – they are my family.

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  3. Cody-
    What a lovely tribute.
    I am Lisa (Wade) Bishop, your father’s cousin in California. Your words really affected me because my aunt Marcia, your grandmother, also died too young. I was close to her and I loved her very much. She, too, made some bad choices early in life that affected her health but she was so effervescent and full of life you could not help but love her. You were so young when she passed away but she loved you so much and I know you would have loved her as well.
    Every time I said goodbye after visiting I cried because there was always a little place in my heart that made me worry that I would never see her again but I always believed I would. The last time I saw her was during the time of my wedding, 25 year ago. I visited her one last time at my mom’s after I got back from my honeymoon and she was leaving for Lansing the next day. She looked and seemed well so I did not worry. A few months later she was gone. Now I try to make every goodbye is as precious as every hello.

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