Life consists of stages and as we transit each we find that our worldview and the methods used to cope with the relentless march of time changes with each new stage.
Over the past few years the wife and I have been thinking about folks who were once important in our lives, those who have moved away, and using the magic of the digital age we tried to connect with some of them. What we found, with increasing regularity, instead of viable contact information, were obituaries.
One common feature of each of these terminal announcements is that they contain two dates and a dash. It occurred to me that those dates are fairly irrelevant, it’s the dash that matters. The dates convey a time period and the relative brevity or longevity of each individual’s lifespan. Ah, but in that mysterious dash resides all the interesting stuff. The dates will give an indication of what limitations might have been placed on a person’s ability participate in life based on the technology and medical science of their day, as compared to what we think of as modern times. Beyond that they are of little practical use.
I was asked to say a few words at my mother’s funeral a few years ago and I concentrated on speaking about her dash, limiting my remarks to the attention span of her fellow congregates at St. Helen’s Catholic Church. It opened with, “At age 16 she was the prettiest girl in her high school class and just before her 20th birthday she was a divorced mother of two, struggling to find a place for herself and her two little charges in a strange new city.” I went on to describe a lifetime of smashing glass ceilings which culminated for her in a very happy retirement.
The dates, 1917-2012, did nothing to tell her story. That was hidden in the dash. Thus it ever was and thus it will always be.
We each have that first date carved in stone, the second is still shrouded in perhaps, but we are living in the dash. We are the architects of the dash. Today and tomorrow form the matrix upon which we construct our dash. Someday someone will be tasked with writing those obituaries describing the dashes we leave behind. The way that we will be remembered then depends on the choices we are making now.
If your dash were to be set to paper today what would it say? Would you be pleased with it? If not, now is the only time you will ever have for an edit and a rewrite.