Last time or first time a matter of perspective

Joan Clayton: Religion Columnist

I cried when each son left home. The empty closets made me sad. No cars were parked in the driveway. No balls bounced and no skateboards rolled up and down the sidewalk. I couldn’t cut the apron strings, so they did. I couldn’t let go of them, so they let go of me. It was hard for me to know they must pursue their “first time.” I didn’t know then that adult children become “best friends.” Tucked away in my heart are precious memories of my children’s “last times” and “first times.”

“You’ve been wonderful parents, but it’s time for me to move away.’

“Hi Mom…it’s been a long four years, but I’m getting my B.A. degree. It’s my ‘first time’ at the real world.”

“But Mom, a Christian never has to say goodbye!”

“Mom, what are you doing on Nov. 19? Would you like to go to a wedding?”

“Mom, there is nothing you could ever say or do that would make me not love you.”

I cried a lot in those days.

Our granddaughter is a senior at Amarillo High School. What a thrill we have had watching her perform in her school activities. It’s been déjà vu for Emmitt and me. Traci plays her daddy’s trumpet, the one he played in the Portales High School marching band. In my heart of memories, I remember hearing the band playing “Rocky” for the first time and I heard the band play “Battle Hymn of the Republic” for the last time when Lane graduated from PHS.

I shall never forget the day we were preparing to take my Aunt Floy to the rest home.

“This will be the last night she will spend in her own home,” I moaned. “I guess there’s a last time for everything!”

“Or a first time,” Emmitt added. “She may like the rest home. I know she will enjoy the good food and the care. She will make new friends. She will not have stress or the responsibilities she has had. The last time leads to a best first time. It all depends on how you look at it.”

I thought about his statement many times. My mind drifted back to May 25, 1945. Emmitt was going off to war. The big Greyhound bus waited while we held each other one more time for one last goodbye. We had just graduated from high school and I’m sure we thought in our hearts it might be the last time, but in just a few short years we married and began our “first time” of life together. Growth and maturity have taught us that God is in control and for every life there is a time and season: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I’m glad for “first times and last times.” It’s part of life and I am grateful.

When that loved one’s body is put to rest in the ground I will cry because it seems like the last time to me, but to God’s child it is the “first time” to burst into the “Light!” It is the first time to experience the joy of eternal bliss, free from pain and all sorrow.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now a crown is being held for me — a crown for being right with God. The Lord, the judge who judges rightly, will give the crown to me on that day — not only to me but to all those who have waited with love for him to come again” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NCV).

It’s like my husband said, “The last time leads to a best first time. It all depends on how you look at it!”