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Thinking about mortality

Lisa Sygutek

Oct 18, 2023

Thinking about mortality and what makes for a life well-lived and well-loved.

I’ve been thinking about my mortality lately and it really started me down the road of musing on what makes for a life well-lived and a life well-loved.

It really is the existential question, but one I find myself thinking about a lot. 

With all the turmoil in the world, the war in Ukraine, the horrific actions of Hamas in Israel, there has never been a time that I worry more about humanity than I have recently. 

We print a lot of obituaries here at the paper and I’ve always said that you can tell how much someone is loved by their obituary. It can be one line or it can be  a story about the person. 

I recently attended Deacon Renso Castellarin’s funeral with over 350 people, and I’ve attended a funeral where the only person there was myself and husband of the person who died.

I came across this poem and boy did it say everything about what is going through my mind. I’d like you to read it and see if it resonates with you on any level.

The Dash Poem (By Linda Ellis)

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 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?

Throughout the poem, Ellis calls the reader to think about how they want to live out their years in between those two significant dates.

My advice is that it’s a short trip. One day you wake up and you wonder where the time went. I hope we wake up each and every morning thankful we are breathing and to try to make the dash matter. It doesn’t matter how fancy your car or your house, what matters is the people you touched and the lives you ultimately affected.

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