Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Dash

Among my many quirks is that I happen to like reading obituaries. With Halloween being tomorrow, I guess my macabre confession is fitting.  I find it interesting how people's lives are summarized in a paragraph or two. Most obituaries are typically mundane.

This weekend I read an obituary in our local newspaper that was most unusual. It was of a man who grew up in a nearby town (Fairmount). He had died after a hard-waged battle against cancer. His obituary described him as "world-famous' and later it stated, "when God made me, he was just showing off." I smiled and chuckled, and continued to read his obituary with fascination. It described a man who "escaped Indiana" for Vietnam the day after graduating from high school. It goes on to describe this man as one who lived his life in an extraordinary way. He rode with the Hell's Angels in California and was kindly asked to leave the state by "the Judge." He then moved to Texas. He was at different points in his life a cowboy, an exotic animal showman (and did Rattlesnake shows as well), and was a river-boat captain. His obituary left the reader with the sense that he was quite a character, a rather unique man who had lived his life to fullest. Definitely not the typical obituary, and it made my morbid reading hobby a bit more interesting. I quietly wondered if he had might have written the obituary himself.

I have heard that it is common in certain writing-classes for the instructor to give the students the assignment of writing their own obituary. Wow, what a genius but terribly difficult task. Would mine be typical, mundane, and boring? After giving this idea some thought, I realized how much more in my life that I still want to accomplish. This kind of exercise gives one pause. How do we really want to be remembered? Who wants to be thought of as mediocre? Or having lived a bland life? One who went to work for 45-50 years, retires, maybe to Florida, and dies largely unforgotten?

Depending on one's perspective, I guess, there are different ways to look at what constitutes a successful and fulfilled life. I know of businessmen who have sacrificed their personal lives & families on the alter of the corporate ladder. Many of them are renown for their executive prowess and will be remembered for their huge business successes. But I wonder about their loved ones that they leave behind. What will they think?

I remember hearing of a wise man who once said no-one on their deathbed would say, "If only I had spent more time in the office." Kind of gives a different perspective, doesn't it?

A few years ago I faced a serious health crisis. I was told that my prognosis was unsure. I was suddenly uncertain of my future, and spent a lot of time thinking about the things I still wanted to do. I spent the next several months getting treatment and years of having frequent medical tests. Things at this point are fine, thank-God! But looking at one's untimely demise gives a serious and fresh appreciation of the things in life that are important.  I realized that there's a whole lot of things out there I haven't yet experienced that are now on my bucket list (another blog for another day!). During this time in my life, Tim McGraw's song, "Live Like You Were Dying" was a top song on the charts. To this day I have a hard time listening to that song....guess it hits too close to home. Not sure about the sky-diving part, but yes, there's a lot I still want to do.

I once heard a minister at a relative's funeral say something that has never left me. The pastor asked, "Have you ever noticed the dash between the dates on an obituary? It's the shortest part of the obituary, but that dash encapsulates that person's life, from birth to death. It's the dash that's important; what they did with the time between those two dates."

I want that dash to represent more than the mundane and ordinary. If I had to write my obituary, I think I can say that, in recent years, I have given more of myself to the things that I believe to be important. I still haven't accomplished everything yet that I want in life, so hopefully that dash between the two dates are still many, many years apart!

How would you write your own obituary? How would you want to characterize "the dash?"


  1. Wow... powerful post! I need to work on that dash and that is a great way to remember to make these days count. Thanks for sharing!


Thank-you for taking the time to comment!

About Me

My photo
I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
Real Time Analytics