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?