There's a small pond tucked into the bottom of a hill down the road from our house. It can be counted on to hold water when the others have all dried up, deep enough that our Max puppy could really swim in it sometimes, not just wade. He loved it.
One morning on our walk a few weeks before he left us, Max started up the trail that leads to the pond. I was nervous, because the sides of the pond are so steep and deep, and his legs were so weak, I knew if he went in, he'd never make it out by himself.
But after just a few steps in the direction of the pond, he stopped and looked back at me, as if he was thinking the same thing.
"Let's just go back to our pond, Max," I told him. "You can swim there."
He must have agreed, because he immediately turned around and headed back down the road to our house.
I visited that little pond yesterday morning for the first time since Max's last swim. I thought about him and all of the mornings Belle and I stood on the trail above the pond and waited for him while he soaked and swam.
I wondered if the last time he swam there, he knew it might be his last. (I know I didn't. He kept surprising me.)
Whether he realized it or not, I bet he cherished every minute of it, and gave thanks in whatever way dogs do that it was there.
We rarely know when we're experiencing the "last" of something ... the last conversation or hug or kiss. The last walk with a beloved old puppy dog. Or the last Thanksgiving with a loved one.
All too often, we take it for granted there will be a "next time". We're human, after all, and life moves fast.
Last year we traveled to Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving a day late with my mom. I knew it would be the last time we celebrated in my childhood home, and that knowledge weighed on me every minute.
It was also the first Thanksgiving without Daddy. I was grateful for the chance to be there for Mama, but it was definitely a bittersweet celebration. In fact, I completely forgot about it until my sister reminded me yesterday.
I'd rather remember all the Thanksgivings there that came before it.
Today I'll be celebrating with my son, my daughter-in-law, and her extended family, just as we did last year. It might be a new tradition. It might not.
But it will be the "last" in some way, that's guaranteed, although I don't want to think about it like that. I just want to slow down and savor, to imprint the people I'm with and the moments of the day into my memory, and give thanks for them and all of the many blessings in my life...
...which includes you. I'm so grateful for you, and wish you a blessed Thanksgiving!