I Believe in Last Chances

Maril - Mission, Kansas
Entered on February 13, 2009
Age Group: 65+
Themes: carpe diem
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I Believe in Last Chances

I believe in last chances – real and imaginary.

What if, standing on the railroad tracks with the train rushing toward you, you had a last chance to jump off? Even if you jumped into deep water or thorn bushes or desert clay, most of us would take the risk, take our last chance and jump.

Last chances give us hope. A last chance can be the first step in drug and alcohol recovery. A last chance to take a fresh breath can kick you to the surface of whatever depths you’ve sunk to.

Yesterday I found out that the “This I Believe” series would be ending soon. I woke this morning believing this was my last chance to write an essay for it. I’ve been holding back, frozen in my own doubts and fears, held still by the habit of tomorrow-thinking: tomorrow I’ll have more time, tomorrow I’ll be brilliant and articulate.

But if today is my last chance, I have to take the risk, throw myself off the tracks, kick myself up to air, find hope and the right words. I remind myself it’s my last chance to join that vast community of people who have found the courage to offer themselves and their beliefs, who offered a dish for this great potluck feast of human thought.

Last chances have also helped me be patient when I wanted to leap too soon and have allowed me to encourage someone else to find a time to speak. “It could be your last chance to let us know you feel,” I said to a timid teenager at a town council meeting, and she got in line for the microphone.

When my father died, I was 500 miles away but I remembered his words six months before, as we worked in the kitchen after the holiday meal. “Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked. “Because it could be the last time we’re together as a family.” His words shocked me. I thought he was hinting at a divorce. Or maybe he had some forewarning that he wouldn’t survive for another holiday together.

I leaned over and whispered “I love you, Dad,” as I hugged him. Then we went back to washing dishes. I learned from him that my last chance could be any ordinary moment. Last chance to say hello, goodbye, I love you, safe journey. I try now to live as if all we have, each day, are last chances.