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 the date of her birth
And spoke of 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?
© 1996 Linda Ellis
I have this poem up on my bulletin board at work, but I had forgotten about it until recently. (A presenter handed out laminated copies at a conference I attended years ago.) There was discussion about reading this poem at my grandpa's funeral, but we already had plenty of great stories to share during the service. On Friday, I paused for a moment in my workday to read the poem. Usually I am so wrapped in the things that I am not doing, that I forget about the things I am doing. I worry that I am not exercising enough or cleaning my house enough, but nobody else is going to remember these parts of my life. People don't base eulogies on how clean your house was or how organized your files are or if you exercised thirty minutes everyday. It is about how you treat the people in your life; that is what is important.