The Dash Between The Lines


The only 100% certainty in life is that we will all die.

If you follow me on Facebook then you’ll know that I had to travel to attend a funeral this weekend. The funeral was that of my great aunt who was a wonderful lady, always larger than life, generous to a fault and called a spade a spade. It was very strange to attend a family situation without her presence because as far back as I can remember she was always an attendee at the weddings and funerals I have been at, of which for someone of my age I have attended far too many.

My grandad was the first, followed by a school friend who died in a car accident, an aunt, a church youth group friend who died of leukaemia, my mum, my second cousin, my husbands workmate and my great aunt. Too many funerals. Since my mums death I really struggle with funerals. I find them to be overly emotional affairs that bring back far too many memories and have me crying like a baby, even if it’s not directly as a result of my relationship with the person who has died. In fact, it can be rather embarrassing and I try to hold it in but inevitably do a very poor job.

This funeral was a very beautiful affair with a poignant poem that I have never before heard. Considering the number of funerals I have been to, I’m surprised not to have come across this poem before. It’s called The Dash.

The Dash – A Poem by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came her date of her birth
And spoke 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,
That can still be rearranged.

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 is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash

Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Isn’t it funny that we have all seen the inscription below people names displaying their year of birth to their year of death and never taken in the significance of the dash. I’ll never look at that dash the same way again after hearing this poem. Let’s take a minute and think about that dash and what it would represent in our own lives. Would your dash have significant impact on the people who know you? Have you done all you want to achieve in life and lived it? Or has life been passing you by?

I realised the other day that if I were to die at the same age my mum was then I have little more than 8.5 years left to live. That is one very very scary thought. My boys would be 13 and 12. Far too young to lose a parent. I’m definitely not taking care of my health as well as I should be and plan to make changes in that area. Mortality is suddenly front and centre in my life.

Is it something you think about?


Linking up with: #IBOT @ Essentially Jess 

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9 thoughts on “The Dash Between The Lines

  1. We attended a funeral last week for someone who was our age. Cancer. We didn’t know her that well … she’d been to a few of our parties as a +1 over the years … but she was a lovely lady with beautiful grown up kids. Her funeral was lovely and also had a lovely poem that we got to take home. Every funeral I attend makes me think of my own mortality.
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  2. I’ve never heard this one before either, it’s wonderful! And yes, I think about what would happen to my kids if I wasn’t here anymore. I haven’t even written my will yet because every time I get to the bit of thinking who they would go to in the event my husband and I went at the same time, I suddenly find something else I absolutely have to do first… Must get on it though.

  3. Beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing. I find funerals necessary and comforting, but still always lose my shit at them. I remember attending the funeral of a friend’s father, thinking I’d be there to support the friend because I knew what it was like to lose a father. I’d be the rock they could lean on. NOPE. I was a wreck. THEY hugged ME. That’s just not how it’s supposed to go. x
    Emily recently posted…Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories – Dr Seuss (book review)My Profile

  4. That is a sobering thought, Haidee. Definitely too young to die. It does make you take a closer look at how your live your life and treat your health. That’s a great poem. I’ve never really thought of the dash that way. Thanks for sharing.
    Renee Wilson recently posted…This is 39My Profile

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