Last week, my friend’s father passed away unexpectedly. The funeral was intimate, and towards the end of the service, people stood up to share stories. One story in particular struck a chord with me and I wanted to share it with you.
The Story of the Dash
The hard fact of loss is that there was a beginning, and now there is an end. Walk through any graveyard, and what you’ll notice is that while the names vary as do the messages, each tombstone contains two years and a dash. The year of birth, the dash, and the year of death. Three sections defining a life. The substance lies in that small dash.
Death is such a hard thing to process. In the immediate aftermath of loss, it’s human nature to focus on the loss, the finality, the end. The experiences this person will not have because they are no longer here on earth with us. These thoughts can be too much to bear, the weight of finality impossible to ignore. The sadness can stop each of us in our tracks and make life feel as if it’s come to a screeching halt.
The story of the dash shifted my perspective ever so slightly. As I listened to the story, I slowly became enveloped with a sense of peace. My focus pivoted just enough so that instead of being consumed by the grief connected with the loss, I could find my way toward a place of gratitude for the dash. I was thankful that my friend had the time and the experiences with her father that she did. These are the moments she will cherish forever. During her father’s ‘dash’, he helped shape her into the firecracker she is today. He taught her the importance of family, hard work, respect, and the value of regular photo documentation.
I also couldn’t help but think about my own dash. Am I focusing on the right things and doing my best possible work during the time that I have while I’m here? It’s not an easy question to ask, and it’s even harder to sift through the muck to try to find an answer. I went for a run and was thinking about all of this, and what came to me was this: Give 100%, Live 100%. For me, in order to fully live life, I need to give 100%. I know…it’s simplistic, idealistic, and most likely unobtainable. It might be easy to waiver on this, to shrug your shoulders, smirk and say to yourself – screw it. However, to not give it a shot, to not try because of doubt, fear or exhaustion is not living up to the potential of my own dash.
I don’t have a sexy way of closing out this post, and so in lieu of tidy & meaningful words, I will leave you with this. Please take another look at the picture in this post. I take my dogs for a walk almost every day through the woods near my house at a place called Steele Farm. It’s my short escape from life, where I can leave behind the stress and worry of the day and slip into the woods for solitude. Last night, I found a new cairn at the top of a small hill on my regular loop. I was captured by the structure and it’s beauty. It brought back the sense of peace I felt as I listened to the story of the dash, and reminded me that life offers us something new and unexpected at every turn, even when we are walking down a very familiar path. Open eyes, open heart.