There will be a time in your life when you will have experienced everything for the last time. Memento Mori is a message from the Stoics that reminds us of this fact. You don’t know when the curtain will draw on this life of yours, so any day could be your final act.
Long before you die however, there are many experiences that you do for the last time. Sometimes you are somewhat conscious of it, like going away with school friends before you all go your separate ways to university. Other times you have no idea – like when your family Christmas tradition comes to an end one year after the kids move away or get partners. The year before that when you were sat around the table, you probably had no idea that you would never do Christmas like that again.
Sam Harris gives the example of being a parent of a young child. When is the last time that you pick your child up? The last time you tuck them into bed? Sam tells us that his daughter says the word “aminals” rather than “animals” and he isn’t correcting her. It is immensely cute, and there will be a time when she stops saying it like that. He isn’t going to work to bring that time forward.
One thing is for sure: whenever you do something, you are one step closer to the final time that you will ever do it. Whether it be a good thing or a bad thing. On top of this, like with the Christmas example, you rarely know when that last time will actually be. Remembering this, even with the most mundane thing, can make you appreciate it even more.
Remembering that there will be a last time when you hug your lover, when you drop the kids off at school, when you take a ride in your old car, brings you back to the present moment. It is a form of mindfulness, and it helps bring your attention back to your life.
There will be a last time for everything. And remembering that can change your experience from one moment to the next.
P.S. an interesting post that demonstrates this concept in a refreshingly scary way is Tim Urban’s “Your Life in Weeks“