There is a photo that I haven't been able to look at without crying since my sister died. It is of all five of us siblings, arms around each other, laughing in a park.
It was taken maybe a dozen years ago, maybe 15. We didn't know when it was taken that it was the last time we would all be together in the same place at the same time. We were just having a picnic, worrying about the beans burning and the yellow jackets buzzing around, watching the kids, eating and drinking and laughing.
We didn't know that we would leave that picnic and never have the opportunity to get together again - distance, time, disability and money conspired to keep us apart.
Every time I look at it, I think of the gospel song by the Blind Boys of Alabama - "This May Be the Last Time."
When I first heard it, it didn't seem like a gospel song. "This may be the last time we sing together. This may be the last time, I don't know." (The Rolling Stones also did a slightly different version. Ahem.)
But since then, I have come to realize the importance of that message. It may always be the last time, and you really never do know.
Your loved one may walk out the door and never come back. YOU may walk out the door and never come back. You may never sit down to a meal together again. You may never again hear that stupid story that always makes you laugh every time they tell it.
This may be the last time. It seems like a sad message, but it is also a joyful one if we truly get it. Because it may always be the last time, our mission is to maximize the number of moments where we remember that every time is special.
I am lucky to have a lifetime of zany memories saved up from my sis. Because she got it a long time ago. She always said "You have to do stuff so that when you are old and lying in bed looking at the ceiling, you have something to look back on."
I had more fun sitting in traffic with her than I have had doing supposedly entertaining things with jerks (like going to the Gipsy Kings concert with Leslie, remember, Gael?).
Because if you are going to sit in traffic in an unrefrigerated truck with a highly perishable product (flowers) on a 100 degree day, the only way to pass the time is to belt out "Freeway of Love" with your windows down, right?
My sister got it, and I thank her for helping me to remember as often as I have been able to.