The last time of anything has the poignancy of death itself. This that I see now, she thought, to see no more this way. Oh, the last time how clearly you see everything; as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn't held it tighter when you had it every day. What had Granma Mary Rommely said? 'To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.'
These lines come at the end of the book, when Francie is saying her good-byes at work, and then around her neighborhood. Francie has always been a great observer; as a child she found joy in so many small pleasures. In fact, Francie all along has looked at the world around her as if seeing it for the first or last time. As a small girl, she loves the brass scales in the coffee and tea shop, the Chinaman's counter and lichee nuts, Flossie's closet filled with dresses. She and her father stop to look at skates, and she shows him the beautiful school she has found. These moments make life more than hard work, hunger, and suffering. This quote should also be thought of in terms of the moment when Francie hears that America is at war. Time seems to stop as she notices everything—the lining of her purse, the dates on coins, the textures of her cosmetics. Then she prays to God that He will let her "be something every minute of every hour of my life." Also, in a more general way, as a coming of age novel, this book is filled with firsts and lasts.