January 19, 2011

The Dash

Tim's uncle passed away Sunday evening.  He was alone at the hospital, which apparently he'd been in and out of for over a month taking dialysis treatments.  His kidneys had already failed him and his other organs were following suit.  It was, we're told, his choice to die.  He did not want to be kept alive.  He wanted no viewing, no service, nothing.  Just cremation and then.....? 

One of the two remaining sisters is flying in tomorrow to take care of it all even though he has children in the area.  He wasn't on speaking terms with them.  We don't even know if they know he passed because they don't have anything to do with us, either.  The rift with their father was so deep that they want no connection to anything connected to him.  We understand how they feel.  By all accounts the man was an abusive, womanizing, lying, cheating, no-good.....well, you get the idea.  We spoke to him if we saw him, but we did not seek him out.  My guess is that his final wishes are what they are out of a fear that no one would show up.

This brought to mind a story I've heard before (it makes the rounds of the Internet every so often) about an older woman who died and a man who spoke at her funeral.  He talked about how when we're gone, the stone placed on our grave will carry nothing more than a name, a birth date, and the day we die.  Oh, and that little dash between the dates.  That little dash that represents the whole of our lives.

Wow, huh?  What will your dash represent?  Will it be crammed full of loving family and friends, happy moments, tragedies survived, fulfilling work, things that made a difference to someone else?  Will you leave behind anyone who will remember what made up your dash?  Or will your dash be filled with things that bring you shame in your last days, break the hearts of others, or just be empty and barren?

What if you knew today was your last day on Earth?  Would you be satisfied with what your dash contains?  None of us knows how much time we have and eternity is a very long time to live with your regrets.  If you aren't happy with what you're filling your dash with, change it.  Beginning today, start living in a way that will have your dash bulging at the seams with all the good things it represents.

Here is the original poem, The Dash by Linda Ellis.

I read of a reverend who stood to speak
at the funeral of his friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth…
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard…
are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at "dash mid-range.")

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read
with your life’s actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?


4 comments:

Coffeypot said...

Picture #2 is the winner of the Miss Alabama Beauty Contest. See her tiara? Her talent was walking up stairs and unfolding and sitting in a lawn chair without spilling any of her beer. It's a talent, ya know!

blueviolet said...

That's pretty thought provoking about the dash. I think my dash is in pretty good shape at the moment. :)

Wendy said...

Actually, I think about what I would "want" people to say at my burial etc..creepy to some, but it's really like thinking about the "dash." What legacy do we want to live? You're a true philosopher today.

quilly said...

I think my dash is in pretty good shape. I can point to a few things in my life I am really proud of and very few things that shame me.

About that nose sniffing thing: I have allergies and I often blow my nose. One day in my classroom 10 year old Jesus raised his hand. He said, "Ms. A., do you have to blow your nose in class? It is gross." I said, "You are right, Jesus. Listening to people blow their noses is gross. I'll go ahead and quit blowing my nose and we'll just let the snot run all over my face." Jesus thought for a moment and said, "Never mind."

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