When the kids are younger we recognize the "lasts" only after the fact. We do not remember exactly when they last held our hands, or rode their scooters, or slid down the playground slide, or crept into bed with us. Only later do we realize it won't occur again. In contrast, we can savor the last cheer for the high school team, the last elementary school fair, and the last birthday they spend at home.
Having older kids who have already left makes this round of "lasts" a little easier. When our eldest graduated from high school, we tried to be excited and join the celebratory mood. We gathered the relatives and hosted a party, but we were just going through the motions. Inside we were grieving, it was difficult to celebrate the graduation as it meant our son was leaving. As each one leaves, our family feels like a game board with another missing piece. But after a period of adjustment, it becomes the new normal. The younger siblings miss the older ones, but family dynamics reshuffle, and new opportunities and roles become available to each of them. And, even though the older two are physically absent, the emotional ties persist undiminished.
There is great joy in seeing our older two make their way in the wider world, living places we have never been, doing things we have never done, and learning things we know nothing about. Our world expands through them.
We try to focus on all the wonderful possibilities that are to come, while relishing these "lasts".