Friday, September 30, 2011

The Dash

In the past week I've spent a fair bit of time in cemeteries. More than I usually do for sure.  In one cemetery we were looking for a particular headstone, so we spent a lot of time looking at headstones trying to find the right one.  It was a very large cemetery and I may have gotten a little bit lost, and we didn't find the stone we were looking for that day (we went back the next day when the office was open and found it), but I read a lot of headstones. The headstones were all different shapes, sizes, and colors.  They had lots of different things written on them, but there was one thing that they all had.  They all had a dash.
The dash spanned from between when the deceased was born and when they had died.Sometimes their birth and death were listed just as years, other times with months and days in addition to the year.  Sometimes there was an epitaph, other times it was simply a name and date.  Sometimes there were pictures.  But on every headstone there was a dash.  That dash summed up more than anything else.  That dash summed up anywhere from mere hours to decades.

We all will end up with a dash.  It's just the way life is.  The mighty dash, the space between when we take our first breath and when we take our last.   The dashes all looked the same, but they all meant something different.  For my uncle, who we buried this week, his dash summed up a very full, very broad life.  2 military tours, involvement in the space project (he helped put man on the moon!), lots of work with Midwest Old Treshers (50000 volunteer hours after he retired!), Lots of volunteer work with boy scouts, many awards including awards from the president, close friendships with many politicians (including the governor of Iowa), and so much more.  To sum his life up in a dash seemed inadequate, but that's how we all end.  Our life summed up in dash.
It made me wonder and think.  What will my dash sum up? When people who know me look at my dash, what will they remember?   None of us know how long or short our dash is going to be.  We can hope for a long dash, but there are no guarantees.  Each and every day that we are alive is a chance to influence our dash.
How am I going to influence my dash today?  How are you going to influence your dash?

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