Everyone knows about the tombstone epigraph. We know about the emphasis on the dash, but the dates themselves are only important to the person who died and those close to them. The dash, on the other hand, represents everything in between, and that means all those people we touch between birth and death. So much of the time we’re busy living our lives, and our focus is rarely on how who we are and what we do impacts others.
Recently this subject came up in my classroom. One of the great things about ninth graders is they have one foot in childhood and another in the adult world. Their unique perspective is always enlightening. Their take was that the real importance of the dash isn’t that it reflects the person’s life, but that it represents that person’s contribution. I had an epiphany as I listened to them discuss it. They understand something that few adults do. We get so busy living our lives that we forget what they are supposed to be about. The dash, my very adult students proclaimed, is about making your life matter.
So, when the tombstone is carved on your life and that dash entered, what do you want it to mean? That you lived? Or that your life mattered? It’s never too late, as the adage goes, to make your dash matter.