The title for this post is stolen from a post I read recently on LinkedIn, by Thomas LaRock, a fellow Microsoft MVP though one I’ve never met. The post gave me something to think about, or perhaps more precisely, helped focus some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head for the last while.

I’m at the stage of life now where the generation before me is starting to pass away. I’ve been lucky to make it to my mid-50s without much of that. I never thought about the potential of something being the “last” of something until this past year, I’d forgotten what loss is like.

I recall a period of about 5 years, in between the ages 11 and 15 or so, 10 of my relatives passed away, nearly the entire generation ahead of my parents’ generation. Their aunts, uncles, 3 of their 4 parents. Most of a generation gone just like that. Funerals twice a year. It felt like a constant stream of “family reunions” where I would see some family multiple times in that five year span and I’ve barely seen them in the 40 years since then. It became such a normal part of life that I didn’t think much of it at the time. My parents, now that I am doing the math, were only in their late 30s through all of this. OMFG. I realize now how young they were for that, to be (basically) the oldest ones remaining in their families. (My dad’s mom was still alive at the time but she had already been in a nursing home with dementia for more than a decade already by then so it was as if he’d lost her years ago, in a sense).

My “father-in-law” [1] passed away in September. He was 89. It was unexpected, as much as his age may make that statement seem odd. As we approach Christmas, I think back to a photo we took last year of the four of us, myself, my partner, her mom and dad, who (other than age) were reasonably healthy.

A December 2022 picture of me, my partner’s mom, dad, and my partner, in front of a Christmas scene at their retirement facility.

What might we have done differently if we realized then that it was his last Christmas? The thought didn’t cross my (or our) mind(s) last year. What would you do differently this year if it were to be the last Christmas (or other holiday) with someone in your life?

I’m struggling this year with some of my own familial relationships but know that no one knows how much time we have left with anyone in our lives. One of the first things my partner missed was hearing her dad’s voice, even as he was living his last few days unable to communicate. We realized too late how few video or audio recordings of him we had, to allow her to keep a bit of that memory. I’m more mindful lately of keeping voicemail messages to listen to again and taking a few more videos of seemingly mundane moments in our visits that may give one of us comfort some day, month, year down the road.

I don’t know how to wrap this post up, I don’t have any sage advice to give anyone. I’m going to be mindful of what I might do differently now, as if I knew someone might not be in my life a year from now. Happy holidays to those reading this, and wishing everyone all a safe and healthy holiday.

[1] We’re not married, hence “father in law” in quotes, but we’ve been together long enough that the term feels like it fits.