Living the Dash

Posted: January 17, 2012 in Life & Times, Random Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In my line of work as a pastor, I’m often asked to do funerals.  One of the most inspirational thoughts I’ve shared over the years is a poem called “Living the Dash”.  I hope it encourages you to live life to the fullest.  You see, the question is NOT “How many years did you have in your life?”, but “How much life did you have in your years?”

James S. Stewart said, “Let us live as people prepared to die and die as people prepared to live.”

“Living the Dash” (anonymous)

I read of a man who stood to speak

at the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on his tombstone

from the beginning … to the end.

He noted that first came his date of birth

and spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all

was the dash between the years.

For that dash represents all the time

that he spent alive on earth …

and now only those who knew and loved him

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 little dash

might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read

with your life’s actions to rehash,

would you be proud of the things they say

about how you spent your dash?

  1. George Griffin says:

    This really is a well captured thought, and worth contemplating: I appreciate your sharing it in print, since it was the first place I was able to come across where I could see the words, rather than merely video/audio of it being read.

    I had not heard of this poem until my church recently started a Teaching Series called “One Month to Live,” by Kerry and Chris Shook, which happens to lead off with a session called “Living the Dash.” So, curious at what seemed an unusual phrase, I looked it up on the Web. The poem is apparently far from anonymous: it was written by Linda Ellis, copyright 1996. Her Website is and I noticed that she has terms of use for this and other poems she’s written, although I didn’t read those terms, myself. She may have no problems with your posting it here — with proper credit, of course — but it would probably be a good idea to check, if you’re going to keep it up on your site.

    I appreciate your thoughts expressed here, and the things that inspire you. “The Man in the Arena” is one my favorites, although I’ve often seen the words incorrectly attributed to others besides Teddy Roosevelt — probably since it has been so often quoted. Calvin Coolidge and Richard Nixon were both quite fond of it, and used it more than once in speeches. Anyway, thanks again for sharing.

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