How Will You Spend Your “Dash”?

How Will You Spend Your “Dash”?

Every year, about this time, I like to take myself off to a quiet location and spend a few days reading, reflecting, thinking, planning, and taking long walks.

So last week, I found myself in a cosy cottage by the beach on the South Coast, with winding coastal paths to navigate after my morning coffee. I loved the opportunity to slow down, take in my surroundings, and avoid the usual busyness of London life.

It was during one of my walks that I began to notice the inscriptions on the benches along the pathway facing the beach. I stopped to read each one and found that almost every bench had a dedication to a loved one, now deceased.

Each one has two dates – the year of birth and the year of death, with a dash (-) in between the dates.

As I read each one and the names and dates, I reflected on the lives and experiences of these people, now sadly departed. Each one, an important family member: a father, a mother, a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister, a son, or a daughter. 

Each had a life, some long, some tragically short. Each had experiences, no doubt some good, some bad.

None of the names were around to witness what I was experiencing in that moment;: the waves crashing, the seagulls soaring overhead, and the sun making a welcome appearance through the fluffy clouds. 

The experience reminded me of these  profound words I heard a few years ago:

I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on the tombstone

From the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of 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 they spent alive on earth.

And now only those who loved them

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 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?”

Linda Ellis

I encourage you to pause and reflect on your own ‘dash’, heed the words, and ensure that when it comes, it’s as full and inspirational as you’d hope it to be.

Alan Smith

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