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How We Spend Our Dash

Updated: Mar 3

The Alpena News


NOV 5, 2022


Everyday Faith

… For that dash represents all the time

That they spent alive on earth.

And now only those who loved them

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 …

These two stanzas come from a poem written by Linda Ellis.

As you read the poem in its entirety, it explains the story of a man standing graveside giving a eulogy for a friend. The observation that this man makes is that the deceased person’s life will forever be encapsulated by the dash on the tombstone between their birth date and their date of passing.

Out of all the things a person could be memorialized by, the “dash” seems so inconsequential, because every dash represents a life story.

Over the course of the last six weeks, I’ve lived out that scene twice.

You see, my dad went to be with Lord the beginning of September, and my mom joined him six weeks later. Both of them were 93 and had celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary.

To look at what held their story together, the question naturally pops up, “What was their glue?”

Well, here’s the dash for my mom and dad.

They met in high school, performing together in a play. I’m not sure the details of their first conversation or date, but what I do know is that my mom’s side of the family questioned her dating my dad.

My dad came from the other side of the tracks. He was born into a family that was poor — 12 kids, and all of them had lots of obstacles to overcome if they were going to make something of themselves.

Both my mom and dad decided that they wanted to go to college to be teachers. So Dad went to a two-year county normal school to get his career started and Mom went to Central Michigan University.

During that time, Dad worked his way through school. A furniture store took him on, and they also had a room upstairs that they let him stay in. I don’t know how long it lasted, but Dad would say that the only hot meal he got during that time was on Friday nights … the rest of the week, he ate a lot of pork and beans, because it was cheap.

But his lack of money didn’t stop him from going to visit my mom. He would find rides or hitchhike his way up to see her. For his accommodations, he would tell stories of sleeping under a bridge.

You see, God’s merciful hand was on my mom and dad from an early age. Problems that would normally have derailed a young person didn’t my dad. Some of it was my dad’s determination, but God was watching over them as a couple .

My mom didn’t see the issues that surrounded my dad. She simply fell in love with a guy trying to make a better life for himself.

To fast-forward, Dad went to work as a teacher and never looked back. He became a leader in his school and community, and my mom made the decision to stay home with us five kids.

To be clear, Mom and Dad made a life for themselves from not much of anything … they started out living in a trailer, built their own house, operated a farm while Dad was working at school, raised five kids, and put all of us through college — literally by selling acreage off our family farm.

You might say it’s a remarkable story exemplifying the “American Dream”, and that would be true, but it’s not the point.

My mom and dad raised us kids in the church, and God got a hold of both of their hearts. The decisions and choices that they made came from their faith in God, the needs of the family, and what they could do to help the community — in that order.

When my mom and dad passed, I had the privilege of listening to story after story from family and friends about different times Mom and Dad had helped make a difference in their lives. Some I knew of, but what struck me was the number of times I listened to stories where I had no idea of what my mom and dad had done.

They quietly lived out their faith, and it was humbling to listen to the impact both of them had made.

Their “dash” was rich — not monetarily, but with the things that mattered.

Their lives were transformed by God’s grace, and they passed this message loud and clear on to us through their life’s actions.

Each of us has the opportunity to choose how we live our lives, but I am so thankful for the legacy of faith my parents left behind! It encourages me to live my faith out well and inspires me to pass it on to the next generation.

Our starting point in life isn’t what defines us. It’s what God can do for a heart and life in tune with him.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” — Galatians 5:22-23

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