The Meaning and Value of the Dash — Your Life

This past weekend I had to bury my wonderful sister, Jan. Her death was sudden. Jan was the heart of our family, and after a year of incredible loss, including my father, I’m trying to process everything.

My Sister, Jan

In some way, shape or form, Jan was the one looking after me since our childhood. One time, when a bully was on the school bus beating me up, it was Jan who quickly came to my rescue. Of course, as a big kid, I could have fought my own battle, but that was Jan. She was always there for me. And, when our father died earlier this year, she was the one who took my mother into her home.

Jan was the heart of our family. She was a mother to her son and a grandmother. She was a sister and daughter. She was a landscaper who loved gardens and natural beauty. She was a good-natured soul in this world who greeted others with, “Good morning, Sunshine.” More than anything else, Jan was a fighter. Her life wasn’t an easy one. But, she always fought hard to overcome.

At the service as I listened to the words in what seemed like an alternate universe for me, I heard the pastor who talked about the day of our birth and the day that we die. We’re given a birth certificate and then our families are issued a death certificate. And in between those times a whole life is lived. They become the bookends to our story. In an obituary or when our names are written somewhere, those dates of our time on earth are represented by a dash.

The Dash

It is in finding the meaning and value in that dash, our lives, that we make sense of it all. If you know me or read my books, you know that I live my life with my foot hard on the gas pedal. I live and breathe urgency to do things and make things happen.

But, with the loss of my father, close friends and now my sister this year I’ve stopped. I’ve hit the pause button. Yes, I believe you have to charge forward. But there are moments, like this one in life, where you have to stop and reflect. It’s in those quiet spaces in between all the ongoing commotion of life that you find the meaning of the dash. It’s in those silent moments when you measure the meaning and value of life.

As much as I wish I wasn’t sitting here writing this in response to Jan’s passing, she’s left those who knew her a gift. In her leaving, she has given us an opportunity to reflect on that dash. Her dying has allowed someone like me to pause and make sure the path I’m on is where I want to be. It is. Jan, thanks for helping your brother yet once again.

How Are You Going to Live It?

And so, I know that in the coming days and weeks ahead, I will settle into a new reality. But, we all have those moments that simply stop us on the journey. Whether it’s a death, an illness, divorce or job loss. There are those moments that are simply profound enough to give pause.

Perhaps like me, when you’re at that crossroad in your life, you use the time to understand the meaning of the dash. What does your life mean? How do you want to live it? How can you get from here to there and then over there, because the journey never ends while you breathe?

Today, as I write these words, there are millions around the world in a moment of reflection about their lives. Countless people are experiencing what I just lived through in the passing of my sister. Untold numbers are suffering a life-changing divorce, illness or loss.

My hope is that each and every one of us who has had the world shift beneath his or her feet make something of this time. When heartbreak happens in your life, be good to yourself. Take the time you need to reflect on the dash of your life. Re-evaluate things. Affirm the path you’ve chosen is the one you actually want to journey. Make adjustments if necessary. It’s never too late while you’re here.

And, when you’ve taken the time you need to think about the meaning of your life and where you want to head, get on with the business of living.

My Gift to You As Author of Get Off the Couch: Grip & Rip and Break the Barriers Holding You Back in Life.”

© 2015 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.