For my dad
My mom took this picture. I just found it. The nugget was only a few months old. Now he's walking and talking and way too big for that pram. Its the nugget with my dad. Its at the cemetery that looks out onto the Pacific Ocean, where when I was nineteen, we scattered his ashes.
Today is his birthday. Tomorrow is the anniversary of his death.
Back to back - joy and sadness, as if to be a yearly reminder to never forget that they belong together. And then in full circle. Today marking the beginning and tomorrow the end, in perfect metaphor.
But what happens between today and tomorrow is a lifetime of memories like sardines on saltines afterschool, his bellowing voice at my brothers' soccer games, perfectly creamed onions at Thanksgiving, the life size leprechaun he crafted for my 3rd grade classroom, the collapsible and mobile picnic table that I found unbelievably embarrassing and the way his left eyelid kind of dropped and slanted over his eye.
And between these two days I think of this poem that was written 2 years after he died. I remember it because none of the other books and cards that were given to us in condolence in 1994 made any difference - they focused on the end and the finality of his life. And for me, focusing on the end and the fact that it was too soon or too tragic, meant we didn't focus on the life. And well, that just wasn't good enough for me. And then somewhere I read or heard this...
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
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.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
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?
The Dash by Linda Ellis
This post is for my dad
Jonathan Rutledge Tower
June 28, 1939 - June 29, 1994
Because I am part of his dash