And every time I go to one, all it does is reinforce my view stated in the title! If you can, it’s best to avoid them.
But when my cousin Glenn lost his amazing wife Jenn to cancer two-weeks ago, back to the gravesite we went.
Sadness ensued. Jenn was far too young to be taken from her family: Glenn, three kids, two grandchildren and a dog named Scrappy.
Glenn and I grew up together in the paint store. He’s the oldest in the line and I’m the youngest so of course as a kid, I idolized him. I still do! Glenn has the biggest heart of any person I have ever known.
And now it’s broken-and so, so is mine.
For many years Glenn's father (my Uncle Chuck) was partners with my dad in Tremont Paint. Chuck went on to become a painting contractor at EXACTLY the right time and he ended up as my father’s largest customer for a few decades. “The Force,’ at least of paint, is strong in Glenn!
I can’t say that I recall much about other gravesite funerals I’ve been to. They’re not generally memorable events! Although Glenn and his brother Todd and I had a BLAST at our grandmother’s funeral! Generally though when you're at a gravesite, it’s just cry and go home.
Jenn’s funeral was different. I don't think I'll soon forget it.
Of course, there was a rabbi there and he was speaking some words. He actually never even KNEW Jenn, so I was not expecting to get much from the service.
But the rabbi caught my attention when he started speaking about the dates on a gravestone.
There’s never much to say about the dates on a gravestone. In-fact, I don't recall EVER having a conversation about them. The date you were born and the date you died speak for themselves! What could the rabbi add?
But it wasn't the dates that the rabbi was talking about that got my attention.
It was the dash!
Your day of birth is a big day; at least for your parents! For you though, I’m thinking that you don’t recall that much about it! And I’m pretty sure the day you die will mean more to those who love you than it will to you!
But the dash- it represents all that you were!
With the day of your birth and the day of your death clearly marked, every other breath, every step, every smile and every tear is represented-by that dash!
I use dashes often in my writing-maybe you’ve noticed?
Rarely does that little punctuation mark that could, represent anything more than an extra pause, on a day I’m out of colons. Or it reflects my desire to connect two words which I feel go-together.
But as we stood there in February’s cold, hugging each other for support and warmth, we reflected on the dash. It represented a life. Jenn's life!
All their children were born on that dash. Every time I laughed with Jenn was on that dash. Every time she heard Glenn and I talking about our lives in the paint stores, it was on that dash!
Back at the Shiva (it’s like a wake but with better food) chowing down on some good New York pastrami, I started to think about my dash!
What will my dash represent?
All the cans of paint I’ve ever sold will one day be on a dash. All the tennis I’ve played, all the words I’ve written, all the times I’ve told Buck Wheat to stop shopping so damned much…..will all spend eternity on my dash!
For those who read this far, I’m sorry I can’t find a paint lesson for you in all of this; I know that’s why you’re here! But today, I just want to talk about my dash!
This blog is going to get read about 5000 times or so, if history is any indication. And so that’s 5000 opportunities to tell someone-YOU- focus on your dash!
How many cans of paint you sold, how many brushes, how many podcasts you record, and the dates on a tombstone are just markers for the living! But eternity wants to know what we are doing with your dash?
Jenn knew her time was over: the one mercy that cancer gave her was a chance to say goodbye. Few are that “fortunate.’
For us there's still time. You cannot make your dash longer-it's length is determined for you! But you CAN make the most out of your dash! I hope that these words help you do that!