A few last things

I was looking over the old manuscript of Dojo Wisdom because my favorite small publisher, Wish Publishing, is planning to reissue it this fall. It has been out of print for a few years, and I haven’t read it since I wrote it, which was a bit over seven years ago, so it’s sort of like going back to an old neighborhood that you liked a lot but left before you were all the way grown.

Dojo Wisdom is my favorite of all the nonfiction books I’ve written, and as I was reading it, I was glad to find that it’s still a good book, and that my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me.

And then I got to the section about a photo shoot where a bunch of martial artists were horsing around, and I remembered, “Chantal was there” and I stopped being able to read.

It was the year before she was killed in an auto accident, immediately and without warning.  She was a sister to me. Losing her gouged a chunk out of my life.

Her parents, good friends of mine, were beyond devastated, and I remember thinking—how clearly I remember this—We always thought it would be my daughter who died.

But my daughter lived, and Vickie’s didn’t.

I keep thinking of the last things. The last time Chantal did me a favor and took the dogs to the vet. The last time we went to a tournament together and she won every event. The last time we took a class together and I promised I would stop letting work get in the way of training. We didn’t know they would be the last. We thought the future stretched on forever.

But it didn’t; it stopped one summer afternoon on a county road outside of town.

My future went on. Even though it has been years, I still see her on the sidewalk now and then, her chestnut brown hair shining in the sun, and it’s a physical blow to remember that it can’t be her, that she is buried in the unforgiving earth, and I was there to see it.

I think of other last times, and I never knew they would be the last either. The last time my grandmother recognized my face. The last time I wrote a letter to my Aunt Kay. The last time I made love to Keith. All the last times we never know are coming, so we can never see them for what they are.

If we knew they were coming, would they mean more to us? Or would the knowledge ruin them?

I don’t want to hoard the experiences of my life, worried this may be the last time ever, but I also don’t want to be a spendthrift, always assuming there will be more where that came from. Perhaps the secret is just to remember, every now and then, that you never know what may happen on a summer afternoon.


  1. A dear friend died a couple of months ago. My mind knows he's gone but my heart still refuses the reality. I trip over "last time we did this" memories often enough to keep me off balance. "Never" is an awful long time to do without someone who was so much a part of my life.

  2. Jen,

    A heartfelt post that has given me pause to remember some "lasts" and some good memories as well. Thanks for this!

  3. This is only my first time visiting your blog tonight, and already I am so thankful for the honesty in your posts. I know my experience can't possibly compare to losing a friend, but when my parents divorced last year I found myself wondering about the "last times," too. I wish I'd known that the last time we all spent Christmas together, or sat around the dinner table and laughed, or went to the beach together and celebrated a birthday, or rented a movie, was really going to be the last time. I remember telling my cousin this and she said: "But if you knew it'd be the last time, wouldn't it have been full of sadness instead of happiness?"

    So maybe it's better to, like you said, just appreciate each moment while it happens because you never know.

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