Earlier this week, I was reading Lucky Larry's story about his daughter's first day of school. Like Lucky, it's a bit of a stretch for me to remember my first day, but I do remember my last, first day of school. My senior year was special. I had great teachers and mentors, and I had one that brought into sharp focus the reality that our class would not experience a first day of school again. My journalism teacher, Mrs. B, had already influenced my schoolwork and life in a variety of ways.

She was not only a great instructor, but she genuinely cared about her students and the paths they were choosing to take. Looking back, she has influenced my daily life in many ways. Our high school journalism program was top notch. We were a tight-knit group that spent many extra hours in the classroom writing, editing and bonding like a family. I imagine it was not only a gift, but a burden, that she felt affecting so many lives so intensely.

In addition to teaching journalism students, Mrs. B also taught the senior Psychology class. This class was filled with a diverse group of students. It was like a cross-section of our senior class. Jocks, the popular girls, the quiet kid and the over-achievers we were all there. On our first day of senior year, Mrs. B took us for a walk through the high school. In the film, Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ character took his students on a similar walk.

She invited us to look around, observe every detail of the hallways. She encouraged us to engage all of our senses, to inhale the scent of our school, touch the lockers, notice the spirit posters, clocks, benches where we gathered between classes, everything. She was helping us to soak in the experience of our last, first day of school.

In that short walk and the subsequent class she reminded us that life is short, precious and that we should suck the marrow out of life. Throughout the year she would remind us when we came upon a last, first. From our last, first football game - to our last, first final exam. The memories are bittersweet. Looking back over the years, there a few things I might have done differently, but mostly I wish I had been more present in the moment.

If you are about to experience their last-firsts, I invite you to close your eyes, take a deep breath and soak in the feeling of anticipation and excitement that floats on the air. You won't get that moment back. Take it all in, and enjoy every moment of it.


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