On every headstone is the engraving of two sets of 4-digit numbers separated by a hyphen that will one day rest at the end of each of our names. That little dash between the dates of our birth and the dates of our death is the same dash that separates humanity’s powerful lives from its ordinary. It’s easy to sit back and coast through this journey, allowing mediocrity to make its home in our dash. To kind-of ride on the coattails of others. Afterall, we are surrounded by plenty of people who are generous, kind, and live their lives out loud. So why shouldn’t I just settle for sitting in my comfy little self-centered life? In the past two and a half years, I’ve attended the funerals of four extraordinary individuals.
My Grandpa Reed… his name was Russ. Russell Max died in May, 2008. Grandpa was a hard-working, generous, jovial man who left no doubt of his love for his friends and family. When I smell cigars I am left with cozy memories of him. =) He was my grandpa, so I already knew what a wonderful person he was, but when I attended his memorial service, my eyes were opened to what a huge impact his single life had on the people he was in contact with.
My Grandma Dye… her name was Jean. Lola Jean died in March, 2009. Grandma was such a lady. Even as she lay in pain, dying, she indicated several times how important it was to her that my grandpa was dressed properly for her funeral. She spelled out what she wanted him to wear. She gave details on what she, herself, wanted to be buried in, and she asked that special care would be given in picking out her casket so that it would match her dress just right. One of the last things I heard from her was, “Yes… I’m going out in style!” My grandma’s dash is a beautiful one. She lived a life of beauty and service to others. Not only was she a lovely woman on the outside. She was also a beautiful woman on the inside. Grandma was very generous. Selfless. She opened her home to all kinds of people: orphans, troubled teenagers and missionaries.
My mother-in-law… her name was DeeDee. Diana McKinney died in June, 2010. DeeDee was a generous woman. She would give her last penny to help someone in need. She literally kept herself poor by giving to others. DeeDee lived a life of sacrifice for my children (her grandchildren) too… She worked difficult shifts and long hours and still managed to squeeze in lots of time to make memories with Emily, Reed, and Nelson ~at the cost, even, of losing sleep for the day.
My Grandma Reed... Her name was Shirley. Shirley Lois died in December, 2010. I will never forget the phrase my grandma repeated time and time again when I was a little girl: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” ~A line from the Bambi story. And a wise piece of advice! Something else I heard her say often was, “Well, at least when I’m gone, you’ll know I tried.” This sentence played into many contexts but ultimately, I knew what she meant: “Please know that I did what I knew was right.”
Those were 4 extraordinary people who had lived their lives on purpose, touching hundreds of people along their journey, making their dash count. So, I wonder if that dash between the dates of my existence will just be a plain old hyphen or will it symbolize a lifetime of significance to others? Will the dates on my headstone promote memories of selflessness, laughter, generosity and friendships? Will my dash serve as evidence that I one day made a choice to not settle for mediocrity? Am I leaving a legacy of purpose to my children and this little corner of earth around me? Or will that inscription just be another set of dates divided by a hyphen… a mere notification of existence?
I personally don’t want to ride on the coat-tails of others. I don’t want to mooch off of the energy of others. I want my life to count for more than self-seeking gain and self-interested profit. I don’t want that dash between my date of birth and my date of death to serve as an insignificant symbol between two insignificant dates.
Donna Jean (Reed) Moore
|Grandpa and Grandma Reed|