The Dash Between Birth and Death

I have referred to my “10 day journey” quite often in my writings over the last few weeks. That time is so special to me and since returning home, I find myself being sucked back into the vacuum, trying to do too much. I have to remind myself by rereading through my journal and the notes I took on the things I learned about myself:

1. like how rushed and frantic and fragmented and upset I had become over the last few months

2. why I overcommit in the first place, offering to do for others without their even asking for my help

3. how I access my worth and value from what I accomplish in pleasing people.


It’s not yet become a habit for me to make myself slow down and remember that “living a truly mindful and in the moment, present life with the people I love and find some joy in” is what I am trying to make myself do. And living in the mindful and present moment SHOULD NOT be just one more thing I’ve added to my “to do list”, (see enclosed photo) however, if it’s written at the top, it’s vitally important.


It’s not about just working less, doing less, saving time, having take~out meals over homemade, or groceries delivered to my car door or doing the grocery shopping myself. It’s not about part~time work over full~time, being more efficient or managing my time better; no, it’s not at all.


It’s about whatever I am doing, wherever I am; whether having a cup of coffee with my dad; sitting down and eating with the family and chewing my food slowly and savoring each bite; washing dishes; folding and ironing clean laundry, or driving around doing errands; I can take my time, be more mindful, less distracted and pay attention to my surroundings more, the people who are with me at the moment and shut out my thoughts of what else I should be doing and need to do and what am I going to do next, tomorrow or the next week.


I can choose to just be where I am and soak up what’s going on, the life that’s happening at this moment that I am a part of but have missed out on in the past. All because I was trying to hurry up and get to the next thing, you know this present I’m in now. I’d be trying to anticipate what’s happening next and what am I going to do next and that keeps me from enjoying now. Oh it is a vicious rambling, never~ending cycle like spinning on a hamster wheel, but I’m determined on getting off of it. I realize, it goes nowhere!


Being asked by a friend what moment of my “10 Day Journey” was the most significant to me, I’d have to say a day that my friend Elizabeth and I drove down several east Texas red dirt roads covered with archways of big oak trees and meandering past cow pastures and old farms. We ended our leisurely and relaxing afternoon at her family cemetery.


It was a perfect day, the clouds moved in and a fine mist was in the air and neither of us wanted to use an umbrella, we didn’t care that our hair got damp. Neither of us had make up on or fancy clothes, we were a mess really, but neither cared. We were fresh-faced, comfortable and relaxed and enjoying getting lost and going nowhere in particular, no agenda to follow. We weren’t out to impress anyone. We were just “being” our messy unkept selves! I loved it, I craved it and I needed it!


(Liz and I always say we would make great traveling companions: no agenda, no itinerary, no schedules, no planned tours; just wake up, have a leisurely breakfast (brunch) and just do whatever it is we wanted to do that the locals do. Relax, rest, read, visit a museum and library, shop local artisans, a fresh market, take a long walk followed by a long nap, enjoy a long leisurely dinner and listen to live music.)


Anyway, being with her is so easy, so calming and I enjoy it immensely. This is where I needed to be to decompress, alongside my calming friend that does not get in a hurry.


We pulled up to the cemetery and amidst the clean scent and backdrop of tall East Texas Pines🌲, there laid at rest behind a fence, my dear friend Liz’s ancestors. Buried deep within the Texas soil, were her Mother, her grandparents, great~grandparents, Aunts and cousins and some she wasn’t quite sure how she was related, but they were family somehow.


There was something so peaceful, so serene, haunting and almost holy as we walked amongst the graves of her family. We spoke very little to one another, other than the occasional mention of her relation to the stone I asked about, signifying who they were, their birth, a short dash and then the day they died. She had heard stories and tall tales of some, but never knew most of them personally.


There were some that had “Beloved Mother, Wife, Daughter” or “Beloved Father, Husband and Son” and some had served in the Military in World War I and II and in the Vietnam War and The Persian Gulf War. A few died as infants, dying on the day they were born or lived only a day or two or three. Some of her ancestors died as teenagers or very young adults before they really had a chance to live their life in full. What happened to them? Why did they die so young? Was it an illness, an epidemic, an accident that claimed them so early? Some had a favorite scripture or poem etched in their memorial stone.


But what I noticed missing in this final farewell memorial of the person laying six feet under me, was what was not mentioned and inscribed on the stone, is the life this person lived, who were they really? What brought them to this East Texas area? What was their family like? Were they oil field workers, did they own the land that oil was drilled on? Were they farmers, cattle ranchers, sharecroppers? What kind of child were they? What about their teenage years? Were they quiet, shy, reserved? Were they outgoing, funny, boisterous, rebellious? Did they wait around to be asked to dance or to get their first kiss, or were they the one to take the initiative and go after what they wanted? Who is it that was the object of their affection, the one they fell head over heels in love with and who was the one that they let get away? Did they marry for true love or out of necessity for convenience? Did they get along with their in~laws? Did they ever pursue their dreams? Were they happy with their life choices, did they just settle for less than and what about their regrets, did they have any?


There’s no mention on that cold stone of the celebrations they enjoyed and the times they laughed and danced and sang. No mention of the deaths of family and friends they must have mourned, the losses they endured in their life. Did they ever have to bury a child? There’s nothing about the prayers they prayed and the answers they received, the many meals they shared with their family, the love they made, the smiles and the tears their face felt, the laughter and the sobs their ears must have heard. Whose shoulder did they cry on and whose hand is it they held for comfort? The hard stone failed to mention the love they gave, the lives they touched and what is it that burned with such passion from within their soul. Did they fulfill their God~given purpose in life? Were they ready to leave this world when they did? Did they leave their mark and make a the difference? What is their lasting legacy? I don’t know!


But what I do know is that what happens, the life we live between our birth and death date matters greatly. The dash represents life~love~lessons learned~the lasting intimate relationships~the marks we leave and the lives we touch~leaving an intentional life well lived~love filled legacy!


What makes our life worthwhile, meaningful and valuable is not what we accomplish, but it’s who we are, it’s who God says we are and the way we made people feel loved, cared for and welcomed. It’s how honestly and how deeply we connect with others in our lives. It’s about how much of ourselves we give to making the world better through our love ❤️, our kindness and our courage and our being authentic and vulnerable and our making a difference, even if it’s just one life at a time.


I can be present, I can be more mindful over trying to be perfect and accomplishing the most. I can be different, I can change and be truer, more honest and genuine. Change is possible and each of us can be the change we desire to see and bring into our lives and into our world. It all starts from within our hearts! ❤️


Liz and I continued walking around the cemetery for a little while longer that day. I put my arm around her shoulder as we stood at her Moms gravesite. Liz says to me that this is where she wants to be buried, right next to her Mom. I looked at the spot where my friend will lay in rest one day. She wiped tears from her cheeks and I did too.


We straightened flowers in the vases that held them and wiped off the dirt and cobwebs from the headstones and monuments of the rest of her family members. We felt at peace, very calm, it was extremely quiet as we soaked up the moment being present as friends.


The lesson I learned in the cemetery on that grey cloud covered cool and drizzly late afternoon, walking amongst the graves of people who lived long ago, was that they really are not so very different from me and Liz and all of you reading this now. We all have dreams and wishes and desires and callings and a purpose to fulfill. We all long to be loved and accepted for who we are; messy, flawed and imperfect in all our craziness. I realized that we are more than a birthdate and a death date! Life is the dash in between our birth and death date and I am intent and purposeful on filling mine up with the best life I can live with the precious people God has placed in my life.


Liz and I walked slowly back and got into her car. We inhaled deeply, smiled at one another and sat in silence as we drove back to her country home down a red dirt, East~Texas county road.