The Dash

I was privileged yesterday, December 10, 2021, to be able to watch the funeral service of the late senator Robert Dole, held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. It was humbling and reminiscent of John McCain’s funeral. Tributes to Dole came from members of both political parties, a statement of his character as a person rather than a politician.

During the service, the Honorable Sheila Burke read a well-known contemplative poem, The Dash, written by Linda Ellis twenty-five years ago. It’s a poem worthy of sharing…

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?

Published by

Curt Hinkle

I am a practical theologian. A theology that doesn't play out in one's everyday life is impractical, or of no real use. A simple definition of theology is the attempt to understand God and what he is up to, allowing us to join him in his work.

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