You see that moment when you have a soul-lifting and life-fulfilling conversation with someone and it hits you deeply? You have to sit back, take in a deep breath and analyze the entire conversation just to appreciate its depth once more? Well, it happened to me. It isn’t the first I have had such conversations but this particular one got me thinking for hours, hence, the birth of this article, Between Now And Then.
Under the scorching sun of the Osu Streets, right in front of “Breakfast To Breakfast“, one of my bosses and I sat enjoying a snack after our errand to Ghana Parliament House on 22ND July. Our earlier journey had been tiring and the heat from the sun didn’t do anything to help the situation. So as we sat catching our breaths and talking about just anything, an issue I brought up led to a whole conversation about the life humans live on earth from the day they are born to the day they die.
This boss of mine, who obviously has a lot of depth, talked deeply about the topic which left me in awe. After that conversation, I had a monologue or self-reflection (if you want to call it that) with myself. Right then and there, Linda Ellis’ poem “The Dash” came to mind. I went to reread it, reflected again on the depth of the message it carried then I knew I had to share my new found revelation with you guys.
So, let me ask…
What’s bulging when you look at the gravestone of a deceased loved one? Is it the date of birth? Or the date of death? The date of birth, evidently, marked the start of an exciting journey (or not) for the deceased, and the date of death, just the culmination. So what is actually sticking out or calling for attention isn’t the date of birth nor the date of death but the dash (—). The dash is a summary of the life this person lived.
This is to reiterate the assertion that, the day we are born and the day we die as etched on the head of our gravestones are not important as the dash in between them. When each of us passes away…kick the bucket…pop our clogs…fall off the perch…take a dirt nap…or whatever metaphor you can think of for “dying”, the two significant dates on our headstones will be used to remember us, alright, but it is the dash in between those dates that will say a lot. The tiny dash mark reflects the entire time that you have lived on this planet—what you did with your time, what you involved yourself in, your very first love, your first kiss, the cake you had for your 16th birthday, the car you ditched, the staying up late to wish a friend a ” happy birthday”, the countdowns on the midnight of 31st December and the resolutions you never fulfilled, the heartbreaks…the ups and downs you have been through…Everything.
Now, the only important question at this point is, How are you living your dash? The way you want? With what matters to you? Or you are just living on the whims of others? Do you let others’ opinions about you get to you? Are you just existing and waiting for the day you will breathe your last breath?
To ‘Live Your Dash’ means to live every day to the fullest. Live for the moment you’ve got right now. Motivate yourself to see life clearly for what it is even through blurred vision caused by the tears you shed every day. Life may be tough for you but you have to remember to “live your dash.” Cherish the simple euphoria of life that are in front of you every day. Even if it’s caused by the littlest acts. Occasionally we forget to be appreciative for what we have in our lives: our family, our friends, our health etc. Even being strong enough to withstand the downfalls of life is a “thing” to be appreciative of. Take the time to realize how many things you’ve got in your life that you’re thankful for. Be happy for those and allow joy into your “dash”. Don’t just be another leaf that existed on the tree and withered away just like that.
When met face to face with suffering and sorrow, and the threat of your own demise, difficult questions arise: “Am I living my life to its fullest?”, “Am I doing my best?”, “Would I be alleviated with my legacy on earth if I were to die tomorrow?”, “Have I been happy?” among others. You wouldn’t want to regret how you “lived your dash” when you are faced with death.
Again, “living your dash”, certainly, isn’t just about you and how you carpe diem your way out of life’s trajectory. Ultimately, it is also about the impact you made on the lives of others while you lived. The smiles you manage to put on the faces of those who would rather not smile (because life isn’t kind on them). The little acts of kindness that somewhat brought a change to the lives of others. If you are a writer, simply coming out of your shells and making sure you create the worlds that others may get lost in…writing that article or poetry that changes the lives of others is a way of ” living your dash.” If you are an artist, that painting you make which speaks volumes and brings a smile or hope to the face of others when looked at is also another way to “live your dash.” As a musician, that song you made that always gets people jumping up and down, that right there is also a way. Every little thing counts. At the end of the dash, you have to make sure you lived a fulfilled life.
Between now and then (the day you die), how you live life is the most important. How you react to situations do matter. How you live by others does matter. The choices you make do matter.
They say it’s important to live every day like it could be your last because you never know when that final day will come. Thinking of what you’ve done so far in this lifetime, are you happy with how you’ve lived your dash? Start living your life for today, and let this article and Linda’s poem (shared below) remind you to live, to love, and to make the most of your dash.
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?
(“The Dash” has become a memorial service staple that thousands of families recite each year when burying their dead.)