The Last Minute…

A phrase I have a love/hate relationship with. A phrase that strikes fury into the heart of many moms (including me). “Why did you wait until the last minute?!” followed by the knowledge that all previous hopes for a good night’s sleep have been dashed! And yet, some of the most memorable, glorious and joy-filled moments also seem to come at “the last minute.”  

In a family of 6, there is a lot more of “the last minute” than there is of the planned and organized minute. A minimum of low level chaos is the bread and butter of existence. Now that my oldest two have flown off to college (even this decision came down to that inevitable “last minute!”), there are fewer things that fall through the cracks to demand attention at the last minute. 

This last weekend life took a sudden turn to the more chaotic due to an opportunity afforded to my youngest. (Being an actor comes with a bevy of “last minutes” that take a bit of getting used to!) I unexpectedly found myself scrambling to check flight and hotel prices at the last minute. How would I ever manage to pull together all the details and be organized enough to make this happen? I sat at the computer running searches and adding options until I had so much nervous energy built up I had to get up and pace the house for several minutes with thoughts swirling through my brain faster than I could make sense of them. Yet within all this chaos I found a certain measure of satisfaction and enjoyment at how wonderful this experience would be for my son (and husband who would accompany him and my daughter who was now determined to join them). With each task I checked off my list, the stress and panic decreased while my joy and excitement increased. There was a buoyancy in me that I knew meant, despite all the current stress and chaos of trying to pull it together, I was going to always hold happy memories of the moment and the excitement that shone in the midst. 

This started me thinking about how many other times in my life had “the last minute” carried with it more joy in the outcome than frustration of late planning? Sure, there are lots of memories in college of miserable last minute scrambling due to procrastination; and staying up all night to complete 25 page research papers prior to class the next morning. (After all, they only gave us the entire semester to work on it!). But more memories came flooding in of “last minutes” that provided adventure and fun and ended up being more perfect than many of the planned ones!  Date nights with my husband that turned in to lovely, memorable evenings and a favorite new haunt to visit. “Last minute” dinners with friends that led to long comfortable evenings filled with laughter and good wine. I ended up taking a “last minute” trip with my oldest daughter last Spring to accompany her to the Cannes film festival (see what I mean about the actor’s life?). I was still thinking “I just can’t make this work,” when I boarded the plane to meet her and now I am forever grateful for amazing memories we made together that will bring me joy for a lifetime. 

I have lovely memories of times when one of my besties needed a “last minute” ride to radiation or a transfusion during her battle with Multiple Myeloma. Although the purpose of the outing was not pleasant, the conversation, laughter and “normal” moments we shared were the best and much needed medicine. It is a rather odd thing when someone becomes very ill, especially with a long-term disease.  I liken it to becoming famous in some quirky way.  Suddenly the friend you felt free to call on at any moment, and spend much of your free time with becomes someone you worry about inconveniencing because they are constantly in demand with their family and other friends who want to cherish each moment with them as well. I had to make a conscious decision to not allow this fact to intimidate me from communicating with her. Thanks to this decision, one of my favorite “last minute” memories is one I share with this dear friend. 

I was driving back from delivering kids to school and starting to plan my day.  There was a long list of things I needed to accomplish for the week and with my day open I was planning what to tackle first.  I thought of my sweet friend and prayed for her as I did every morning and lamented the fact that our relationship felt hindered by her cancer. I picked up the phone and called her to see if she could spare time for a cup of coffee or brunch.  She was thrilled to get out of the house and met me 15 minutes later for what ended up being one of my favorite memories with her. We sipped coffee and ordered breakfast dishes while we laughed and caught up and solved a myriad of problems for the world to our way of thinking. She shared with me many worries she had for some different things her kiddos were experiencing and her concern for how those might be handled if her time here were to run out. I listened intently and shared ideas with her and promised her repeatedly that if she were to journey on without us I would do my darndest to insure her lovely nurturing thoughts and decisions would be imparted to her children. As the hours flew by and our meals had long been finished we went back to sipping coffee. There was an unspoken lingering for both of us, not wanting to let the moment go and slip into the harried afternoon carpools and dinner prep.  I like to think that in some way our hearts were attempting to memorize each other so that in a time to come when we could no longer share laughs and love, tears and coffee, we would still be able to conjure the loving warmth of our long and deep friendship.  

That turned out to be the last time she and I shared a meal together. Her health took a rather sudden turn for the worse and although I did see her again, it wasn’t with the same levity and freedom we enjoyed that day. 

So, while “the last minute” may continue to wreak havoc on even the most calm among us, I hope that the vast majority will bring unmitigated joy and adventure! 


I’ve heard grief described as swimming in an ocean…just as you come up for air and think all is calm, another wave hits you, knocking you under for another tumble. I think this is a very accurate analogy, especially during those initial days of shock when your heart and mind are trying to decipher this impossible information like a child attempting to comprehend hieroglyphics. I think I was fairly prepared for this portion, although I did not care at all for the sudden blinding pain of being smacked in the face with those huge stinging swells. 

         What has come more of a surprise to me; however, is that grief is not content to scurry on its way after the plundering, but instead decides to take up residence like an over-extended house guest. It often sits in the corner pretending to be politely staying out of the way so you can go about your business, then suddenly you notice it clinging to your coattails, weighing you down until you give in to its cloying and focus all your unwilling attention on it. 

         Oddly, what I have found in recent days is that giving in to its persistent tug has a surprisingly contradictory effect. I thought that giving in meant that it would overtake me and somehow swallow me whole so I could never escape it. Instead, I have found that the confrontation soon shrinks the size of the monster considerably until I actually find comfort in the cleanse of fresh tears. A few moments later, tears of sadness transform into tears of happiness over welcome memories of secrets shared and successes celebrated. Soon a burst of laughter escapes me as a particularly funny moment resurfaces, as fresh and joyful as when it originally occurred.  It is in this moment that I realize I do not need to continue playing an unending game of hide and seek with Grief. That in fact, Grief is indeed my friend, albeit a bit bipolar in the emotional swings it carries me on, but a necessary companion on this journey nonetheless. 

         In the coming weeks and months, I will try to remind myself that although most days I would prefer not to host this guest, soon enough the visits will diminish and in the wake I will find myself a little more wise and kind and a lot more grateful for every moment I am graced to share with the family and friends I hold dear.