Last times lead to first-time opportunities

By Joan Clayton: PNT columnist

We watched our grandson play his last football game. Jody, being a senior at Abilene Christian University, played his last game just like he had played his first freshman game: 100 percent heart.

Even though it was Jody’s “last time” to play, it was also his first time to pursue the next stage of his life … his career, his opportunities and the following of God’s plan for his life.

What a thrill we had watching our granddaughter, Traci, perform in the All School Symphony Concert in Amarillo. It was deja vu for my husband and me. Traci played her daddy’s trumpet, the one he played in the Portales High School marching band. In my mind, I still see and hear the band playing the intro to “Rocky,” and I cry.

I shall never forget the day we were preparing to take my Aunt Floy to the retirement 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!” (And I cried.)

“Or a first time,” my husband added. “She may like the retirement home. I know she will enjoy the good food and the care she needs. 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 our high school graduation. The day after graduation, Emmitt had to go off to war. The big Greyhound bus waited while we held each other one more time for one last goodbye.

I’m sure we thought in our hearts it might be the last time we would see each other, but in just a few short years, we saw each other again for a “first time” to begin our life together.

Growth and maturity have taught us 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 KJV)

When our children left home for the last time, it was hard for me to know they must pursue their “first time.” Tucked away in my heart are precious memories of my children’s “lasts” and “firsts.”

“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’ in the real world.”

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

Such is the journey of life, and time seems to fly. For those who love the Lord, the best is yet to be. When a loved one’s body is laid to rest, it seems like the last time. Yet with God’s child, it is the “first time” to burst into the light. It’s the “first time” to experience the joy of eternal bliss, free from pain and sorrow.

I love to read 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “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.” (NCV) It’s like my husband said: “It all depends on how you look at it!”