Dashes into Ashes

By Joel A. Hess

He noted that first came the date of her birth 
And spoke of the following date with tears, 
But he said what mattered most of all 
Was the dash between those years. - Linda Ellis

Sadly, you have probably already heard of this sad poem. Worse, I have heard this read at a funeral. I’m not sure what was more depressing, the death of a loved one or the cheesiness of this collection of words (I refuse to call it poetry).

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?

But even sadder than the aesthetics of this Jr. High English assignment is the hope that the author offers. Would you be proud of the things that they say about how you spent your dash? Do you really want to add it all up?

I don’t. My story is more about God dragging me kicking and screaming through life. I thank God for the opportunities I have had to serve others, but I would be pretty bold to claim it flowed purely from my heart. I can definitely count the times I have disappointed and hurt others. I certainly mourn the ways I wasted my so-called dash.

The only hope the author offers is more time to get things right!

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.

Thanks for the pressure! I better get things right. Who knows what time is left? Now, for sure, this poem serves the Law really well. Carry your dash, sinner! The reward? People will speak well of you at your funeral for a couple of hours. Here’s the joke. I have never heard anyone at a funeral speak poorly of the dead guy. Never. And it isn’t because everyone is good. We don’t have the guts probably. It’s like pay it forward. If we really list out everyone’s failed dashes, then we have to take a good long look at our own!

There is a better poem for the next funeral you have to speak at. It’s not about the dead guy’s dash. It’s about the only one who truly lived out the dash: Jesus. He loved His father, and he loved His neighbor. He received all our short, ragged dashes as nails in his hands, thorns on his head, and a stone over his grave.

He turned all our dashes to ashes, then He rose again! 

In Baptism, Jesus gives wasted dashes life—a new beginning and a never ending! You are swallowed up in His story, in His dash. Just like Jesus told Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, “You have to be born all over again!”

So at your eulogy you won’t have to be afraid of the dash. Your hope and peace have absolutely nothing to do with that! 

So after this poet says her worst 
And every way you wasted your dash is addressed
Look away from yourself and to the Lord
Who says, “Come to me all who are weary and I’ll give you rest."

One thought on “Dashes into Ashes

  1. The poem by Linda Ellis speaks to the angst we face as we reflect on the meaning of life and death. Poets are often sad people just trying to express in words the universal feelings of our feeble humanity. I love poems which tap into things I cannot readily express, yet remain trapped and elusive within my thought life. There is a sense of melancholy in living, even when things are going well, and the presence of death hovers above us, along with fear and uncertainty. If I could recommend one particular psalm to anyone, I would urge them to read Psalm 73. When you go though this psalm from start to finish, you quickly learn that the psalmist is expressing our thoughts as well. I like the conclusion of your message in this posting, the Lord says, “Come to Me all who are weary, and I’ll give you rest.” Amen to that, my brother.

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