In the summer of 2012, I sobbed for three straight days on a beach in Dennis, Mass., while I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
There’s a paragraph in the book, almost a throw-away, really, in the John Green-scheme of things:
“One of the less bullshitty conventions of the cancer kid genre is the Last Good Day convention, wherein the victim of cancer finds herself with some unexpected hours when it seems like the inexorable decline has suddenly plateaued, when the pain is for a moment bearable. The problem, of course, is that there’s no way of knowing that your last good day is your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day.”
This idea of the Last Good Day stayed with me. It doesn’t just apply to “cancer kids,” you can bring it with you through life, sticking it like a Post-It note here and there. As you age, as you enter that phase of life where it seems like more things are coming to an end than they are beginning, it comes up almost too often.
Of course, the flaw with this concept is that when you realize you’ve had a Last Good Day, it’s too late. Hindsight is 20–20 and all that. Hindsight is also annoying as hell. Who needs clarity when the moment has passed? So you are left with the nagging question, was it enough?
Was it enough? Did we do enough? Laugh enough? Hug enough? Did I even say “I love you”? What was the last conversation we had?
In the social media world, your “Last Good Days” are literally served right up to you, time stamped and geo-located. Sometimes that memory is so welcome, and sometimes it’s a jarring reminder of a Last Good Day. Which you were unaware of in the moment, and so you sit there for a few minutes and wallow in the “was-it-good-enoughs?”
The photo at the top of this page hangs in my dining room and for the last 10+ years it has been a daily reminder to me of how life can change in an instance. From left is my best friend’s husband, Jay, my husband Joe, me, Jay’s wife Leanne, my other best friend Karen, and her husband Paul. Leanne and I went to college together; Joe and Paul went to college together. As we each added on…