Born. Died. He was here – and then he wasn’t. For every name in the cemetery, what separates the dates of birth and death — is a dash, a line that connects all the living in between. A dash not only separates a whole bunch of years but also connects all we were meant to be. At least that’s what we hope for anyway.
A dash says ‘you were here’. You toddle around in diapers, go to school, run headlong into becoming an adult. And then what? Dates of graduation, wedding, children born are markers that all fall into the living. Jobs are listed on resumes, annotated with a succession of start and end dates. Even vacations are hyphenated periods of time we set aside to explore and relax.
How about marriage? The years spent with the person we marry carry their own dash. Sometimes they stretch far into the horizon; other times years can only be the length of an eyelash. However long or short, the dash attaches pieces of our all parts of our lives. Fortunately, even though my husband and I didn’t get much mileage out of the dash that strung our marriage years together, we had a small but pretty cool chunk of the ‘before’. Now the dash is in my court. And, at the moment, I can’t predict what it will say about me.
What I try to remember today are all the moments, strung together like sparkly beads, that create a life. When I remember our first dates, before we committed to that dash, I envision the man who handed me a glass of wine as I waited on the long ladies room line to see Broadway’s Hairspray. I think of the moment he gamely agreed to go dancing after dinner one night — just because I asked. (He would heartily preferred watching American Roadshow.) Having just commemorated the second anniversary without him, the necklace of time is very much in my mind, as is the small dash between the years I got to share with him. Sure, we somehow knew our dash would be a bit shorter than most. When cancer is part of the marriage deal, it draws its own shaky line. All you can do is hold on tight and ride it as long and best you can, kind of like that iconic bucking bull in a Texas bar.
I think Linda Ellis thought about just that when she penned the words: “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.” We were together for only part of my guy’s dash until he slipped out of mine. But, we’re ALL smack dab in the middle of a dash. All we can do is remind ourselves that, though we can’t know or change when or how we die, we can decide on how we live. We can be more generous, kind, and real. We can slow down, rise up and show more love. At least we can really try.
“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.”
It’s easy to wonder, knowing how many do-overs we’d request, if, given the chance, we really would. There will always be days when we say, ‘this can’t be my life’. But then reality smacks us upside the head and we realize, um yes, yes it is. Last week, I hit an emotional pothole that saw me wallowing a wee bit in leftover Easter chocolate. It was hard not to remember it was another holiday without my other, the ying to my yang, the last minute grocery store runner and talkative safety net. All my personal pity party could envision was an interminable groundhog day. I could foresee all the 24/7s stretching in front of me, tinged with the monotone hue that frames life without the person who gave your days color, crazy, and cuddly leaves. Whatever it is or isn’t, THIS is my life now. And, I gotta tell you, some days, even with all the remaining wonder and goodness, party hats are in short supply. Yet, my dash is being drawn in these very days. The line does not stop – until it does.
“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.”
Sure things happen we can never prepare for, that we never signed on for, as I know too well. But the reality is, we are here right now today and, if our life isn’t what we envisioned, it is still LIFE and while we are still living it, we have a chance to define the dash. I know, that’s not not what you want to hear, but guess what — it really is what it is. The only way we can make anything better – is trying to make it better. It might be a long dash, folks. Or it might be shorter than we expected. But, like a life sandwich without the good stuff in-between, it’s just two slices of bread.
This dash isn’t just a line – it’s your life. Make yours COUNT. In fact . . . crush it.