Peanut Butter and Weddings
The first. The first of anything seems bigger. We tell ourselves that that there is significance in the firsts, something to be celebrated. First born, first place, first date, first kiss, first salute, first one to open a new jar of peanut butter. Firsts are often powerful moments or experiences, some of which may change the trajectory of a family, future or fortune.
Lately though, I find myself thinking more on the Lasts. Not in a macabre sense, but rather in a competition of meaning. Those Firsts are indeed amazing. They are mountaintops. Goals striven for, interests pursued, desires vindicated, dreams realized…they are delicious, satisfying and fulfilling. Firsts feel like the progress that newness sometimes delivers. Jon Acuff coined a phrase that resonates there: “When was the last time you were brave enough to be bad at something new?” First is seen as brave, progressive, learning, growing…and maybe that’s the difference. We see them. We plan for those firsts. We work for them. In a time before internet directories, I once called every building at a University Hospital in order to find the proper unit to have flowers delivered to a pretty girl because she knew that the “S” in Harry S. Truman’s name didn’t stand for anything. They might call that stalking now, I’m not sure. It turned in to a first date, a first kiss, and if I don’t stop overeating, drinking too much Diet Coke and start working out, a first husband for her.
Big stuff Firsts.
I find myself in a season of Lasts. I have heard the last words of my father. I witnessed my father-in-law give a last look and smile to his daughter. They too are powerful, those Lasts. The difference is that we rarely see them coming. We should, but we don’t look for them in the same way. Somewhere along the way, I took off my uniform for the last time. I stood in a final formation. I exchanged a last salute, and neither I nor the Soldier I shared it with had any idea. Lasts can be planned, but we celebrate fewer of them. Last day of school. Last day of work before retirement. Lasts tend to be a bit sneaky. They creep up and pass us quietly as if to spare us the emotional collision they would deliver if we recognized them. In Isaiah, God says “I am the First and I am the Last.” I’m not sure, even now, that I can fully grasp that, but I find comfort knowing that whether I’m in a First or Last, God is in them both.