I have always been told that you never get a chance to make a first impression and this is true. I think that is a very important piece of advice but doesn’t it go the other way too? Is it also true you never get a chance to make a last impression? Over the course of the last year I spoke with two people for the last time.
One of them was an old neighbor that I was pretty close too and I definitely appreciated. I had helped take care of him after his divorce and through some medical issues. I had no obligation to take care of him but I wanted to and it was the right thing to do. I missed him when he moved and from time to time I would see him. The last time I saw him was at a grocery store. He was in a wheelchair and told me he suffered from heart issues but I thought he looked good under the circumstances. He told me how he hoped to meet my daughter. He had been in constant touch with us when we went through our infertility journey. He was an adopted child and appreciated what we were trying to do. On that last meeting I discovered he still had my number and I updated my phone to get his. We parted with plans on seeing each other soon. A few weeks later his daughter called us to say he had passed. He had been in his house a couple days before he was found. That would not have happened when he lived next door. A few days later I was mowing the lawn and I all I could do was remember talks we had over the fence.
The other person I had a last impression with was a family member. For very personal reasons I decided a couple years ago to have reconnect with family I had in Roanoke. We had not talked in years only because we lived miles apart. When I reached out I found one of the cousins had cancer. I went to visit him and his sister but he was too ill and I was too short on time to see him. I had great quality time with his sister. I spoke with him several times over the last year. His sister called me to say he had only a few months to live. I immediately made plans to see him. I brought my father and daughter on the trip. My daughter got ill on the trip but I would not be deterred. I went to his house and spent a few hours with him. He probably did not remember much of it as he was on many medications. When I left him he was asleep and I kissed him gently as I took my increasingly more ill daughter back home. I told him I would work hard to get back to see him one more time. I was not able to make good on that trip. He passed several weeks later.
First impressions are important because they often decide if that person wants you in their life or their place of employment but you are already you and they either except you or don’t. It really doesn’t matter if they don’t except you but if they do you have a commitment to each other whether you are friends, lovers, or family. How many times have you gone to bed angry? How many times have you left something unsaid that so desperately needed to be spoken? He many times have you wanted to say I love you but instead gave a smile or a hug? How many times were you cruel or out of character and embarrassed to the point of apologizing to someone later? Most all of us have been there. Do not lose sight of the importance of a promise, a wish, or life. We need to remember that if you really wanted to you could at least attempt another first impression but you can never get back that last impression. The impression that death gives permanence to cannot be undone. The impression that a major life changing health issue causes communication to be impossible to have can never be recaptured. I feel good about both of my last conversations with my neighbor and cousin but in both cases I said let’s get together soon and let life get in the way of following through on the thought.
I would do anything to talk to George about the Broncos over a can of beer or hear about my cousin Bubba tell me about his grandson Linus. Leave no doubts in this world and hurt no one in your travels. If you make mistakes learn from them, heal yourself and anyone affected. If you love then do it until it hurts. When you walk away from someone you care about be sure that when you turn your back they know how you feel about them. A touch or kind word can change a bad day into a great one. I love you all.