. The Last Time
Mom died on a Thursday. I had come across three states the previous week to say goodbye and among other things our family had the sacrament together one last time on a cold February Sunday. The local ward deacons came to the house to pass it after the bread and water were blessed by two other priesthood brethren. While my mother’s body was mostly “asleep” because of the brain tumor which grew like a spider in her head, still she ate the bread and drank the water, one last time.
These “last” memories seem to course through my life not as events long past, but as viable moments of sacred trust. Somehow, it is extremely important to me that those I love kept the faith to the end. I also see indications of this need in what others treasure. A sibling keeps the yellow fast offering receipt my father filled out his last Fast Sunday, my mother-in-law’s journal holds the temple recommend her father was carrying in his wallet when he slipped through the veil, and my aunt keeps the last Christmas donation check her mother wrote before she departed to the other side.
There have been many last times in my life: The last time I kissed my father on the top of his bald head before he walked into the eternity, the last time I held my son before leukemia robbed his body of strength and he slipped away, and the last time I saw the faithful stake patriarch’s wife in church though she was ailing past weariness.
When I talk intimately with others about those they love who have gone on “before”, the conversation nearly always turns to soft, reverential reminisces of last times—it seems that ordinary events of faithful living have taken on new meaning because they were some of the last times.
There are memories of the last time they attended the temple together, the last encouraging missionary letter they received, the last goodnight prayer they said together, and the last time they held hands in church. Those memories are precious, deep, and forever imprinted on their hearts.
I wonder what last times I’ll leave behind. Will I be most remembered for keeping of covenants? Will the legacy be worthwhile and speak of my diligence? Will someone keep a tithing slip, my temple recommend, or remember sitting on the same row with me when we took the sacrament? I hope whenever the last times happen, they will show I have treasured my loved ones’ trust, kept my commitments, and worked to “do good” until the very, very end.
These habits of spirituality, these evidences of our covenants, are harvested through decades of faithful living. They are simple, day-to-day acts proving dedication to the end. And, because we don’t know when our last times will be, doesn’t it make sense that each and every day, each and every week, and each and every month is filled with the most important commitments, like paying our tithing, serving in the temple, saying morning and evening family prayer, and holding family home evening?
Yes, there will be always be other everyday commitments to keep up, daily work to be done, and other routine responsibilities to fulfill. But with all else that demands our time and attention, the more important things must remain as priorities. Then, whether our “last time” comes sooner or later, we will not be found wanting and the inheritance we leave will be worth remembering.
Photography by David N. Ricks. Used with permission.