In August 2011, we spent our family vacation in Lake Tahoe while my late wife Cay's cancer was in remission.
Moments before we drove off to go home, I took Cay out on the dock where we'd spent so much time and let her sit. She sat there for 30 minutes without saying a word, knowing this was the last time she'd ever see the magnificent landscape.
Most of us go through life celebrating our firsts: first kiss, first job, first home and so on. What we really should be paying attention to, however, are our lasts. We should be living each day and experiencing each event as though it will be the last.
Imagine how satisfied you would be if you had dinner with a few friends and, when it came time to go home, you told them how much they meant to you because you did not really know if it would be the last time you saw them.
One of those times, you will be right.
We say goodbye to our friends and family as though we are 100% certain that we will see them again, perhaps soon, but we don't really know. So many things could happen to prevent another meeting.
Because you were not at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 or working at the West Fertilizer Co. plant in West, Texas, on April 18, you are still around to read this column. Eventually, though, it will be time for you and me to go.
If in the past few weeks you have grown tired of the "be-here-now" drum I have been beating since my wife died in June, I make no apologies, for what I have been trying to convey to you may be the most important message of your life.
For those who have not been reading, here it is in a nutshell: While you are worrying about tomorrow, you are missing today.
When you put off doing the things you really want to do while you are alive, you move closer to regretting those decisions as you die. Most of what you worry about is meaningless. Most of what has meaning –— a smile, a hug, a kind word, a beautiful sunset — you treat with indifference.
This is my last column for the Daily Pilot — at least for now. I started writing almost 15 years ago.
Yes, I know you've read that once before, but that was different. Back then, I accepted an offer to write for the Orange County real estate section of the Los Angeles Times and did not believe I would return to the Pilot.
This time, I will be serving on the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee for the city of Costa Mesa, which prevents me from writing for this newspaper.
Today's column may not be my last, but I have no way of knowing. So, I want to thank all of the editors with whom I have had the great pleasure to work. Thank you, too, readers, for making this one of the best periods of my life.
Editor's note: The Daily Pilot staff wishes to thank Steve Smith for his many years of service and to let him know that the door is open for his return when he concludes his volunteer work for the city.
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.