The Dash


It’s always an adventure to see where my brain is likely to go in the early morning hours when I’d like to get back to sleep for a couple more hours. This morning it chose to ponder on death. I don’t recall exactly how it started but given that I am ever closer to that inevitability it wasn’t shocking or surprising. From wherever it began it then moved on to thinking about where I’d like to be buried when I finally do die. There is a cemetery at the end of the street where we live. It’s on a hill, extending down to the lower area nearby, next to the main street that leads into town. In the fall it is absolutely beautiful; the trees are a riot of reds, oranges and yellows. It makes for a beautiful drive or walk, peaceful and contemplative. Resting there until the Lord returns has great appeal.

Having gone there, my brain proceeded to envision my children coming to visit our grave. I would tell them to come in the fall for the reason outlined above. Then, of course, my brain had to consider the headstone. I’d like it to be simple: just my name, date of birth and death, and the DASH. Because I remembered a poem by that name, written by Linda Ellis. If you’ve never read it, find it on the Internet and read it. It will tell you the most important mark on that headstone is that dash between the dates. It represents the entire life of that person.

When I’m gone, I won’t be leaving much of anything behind in the way of material goods (and I suspect that my children or grandchildren won’t want too many of those). I won’t be leaving a “legacy” as the world defines it. I have no buildings named after me, I’ve never achieved fame by worldly standards, and I daresay most of the world will have never heard of me. What I hope to leave are memories, preferably good ones, for those whose path I’ve crossed in the course of my life.

I want my family and friends to know they were loved. I want them to remember good times filled with laughter and love. I want what few possessions I leave behind to be a reminder of all of this. Most of all, I want them to remember where my faith and confidence lived, in the One who loved me so deeply He was willing to give His life to have and keep me.

I don’t know for sure if we take our memories with us to the next life. I kind of suspect we do, especially if those we love are there with us. An eternity of being able to give praise to God and Jesus Messiah would be more than enough, but to be with our loved ones and say, “Do you remember when..” would be almost as sweet. I imagine there will be laughter in Heaven as well as we recall all those blessed times we had together. Best of all will be hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Whatever we had to endure in this life will all melt away when we hear them.

Sadly, those who choose to reject Christ won’t experience any of that. I think that whatever memories go with them will be filled with anguish, regret, and remorse. The Bible tells of eternal torment and punishment for those who are condemned. In Luke 16 Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (there are some who believe this is not a parable but an actual account as told by the Master). The rich man satisfied himself with all the earthly pleasures while Lazarus, covered with sores, had to beg for bread at his gate. When both died, the rich man found himself in ‘torment in Hades’, evidently in the midst of fire, as he sees Abraham far off holding Lazarus in his arms and begs him to just dip his finger in water and let a drop fall on his tongue to cool it ‘because I am in agony in this flame’. Abraham’s answer is instructive: “Son, remember that during your life you received good things and Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony” (v. 25). Jesus made it even more emphatic in Luke 6: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort. Woe to you who are full, for you will be hungry.”

Which brings me back to the dash. It matters a great deal what your dash contains. If your dash is full of accumulating stuff and selfishly seeking your own pursuits and pleasures, someone else ends up with your stuff, and you will be dead and forgotten. But if it contains memories, acts of compassion, love for family, friends, neighbors and enemies, and most of all obedience and surrender to God and His Son Jesus Christ, your memory will live on long after you’ve moved on to an eternal reward.

The poem ends this way:

“So when your eulogy is being read, With your life’s actions to be rehashed, Would you be proud of the things they say, About how you spend your dash?”

The Dash by Linda Ellis

Don’t waste your dash.

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