By Kim Longden

I was surprised at church yesterday when my six-year-old daughter asked me to hold her during the liturgy. I almost told her no, that she’s too big; but instead I grabbed her into my arms. The older, mellowing-out parent in me is learning that, uncomfortable as holding her would be, these times are fleeting. 

As I held her I thought about all the lasts we have as parents that we don’t realize are lasts until we look back: that last time our little one asked to be carried, the last time they snuggled into our bed in the middle of the night, the last time they needed help zipping up their sweatshirt…

There’s no grand announcement of these lasts—you just realize, looking back, that they don’t need to be carried anymore, their nighttime fears have subsided, and they’re doing more and more things for themselves.  We often can’t pinpoint a date and time when these lasts occurred: time moves so fast and the changes happen by such small degrees that we don’t realize they’re happening. 

These lasts with our kids are bittersweet. The sadness of the ending of one phase is mixed with the excitement that they’re growing and learning and becoming more independent. There is a tension of wanting to hold on, but also wanting to see our kids spread their wings and fly. 

As I held my daughter and thought about these lasts, our pastor began reading the names of those from our congregation who have departed this earth over the last year as part of our All Saints’ Day service. I thought of the voicemail I have saved on my phone from May 19, 2020. I recalled that that night was a last I didn’t know was a last at the time: the last time I talked to my mom.

I thought about how grateful I am that I actually called her back—I wasn’t always great at doing that. There have been so many “should haves” and “could haves” regarding the time I had here on earth with my mom. I’m so thankful for the passage of time and the healing power of Jesus which has made these lasts more bearable to remember. 

As the All Saints’ Day service progressed, I was reminded that these more painful lasts are not the end of the story. They may be lasts as far as my present life is concerned, but I have a New Creation hope and assurance that someday I will see my mom and many others again, and spend eternity with them.

When I come to the table of Holy Communion, I am gathered already now with the eternal communion of saints around the throne; and someday we will join together, face to face again, in resurrection worship, with our Savior himself at the center. 

Just like the lasts we experience while our kids are growing up, the lasts with our departed saints are bittersweet, as well: bitter, because I miss them desperately, but sweet because my loved ones are already in the presence of Christ. Even better yet, someday they will rise to New Creation life, and I will join them.

This blessed assurance gives me hope: in the pain of these lasts, which often come upon us unaware, there is the promise of a future reunion that will never end. Come quickly, Lord!

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