“I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end. He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.” – excerpt from The Dash by Linda Ellis
Until I read Linda Ellis’s persuasive and tear-jerking poem (which can be found, here), I had never really thought about a dash ( – ) as representative of anything metaphorical, really; until it meant more, I viewed it just as a grammatical element used to connect words.
Today, on the third anniversary of the death of my beloved mama, Joan Leader, aka Grandy (1936-2019), my Campowerment co-founder and Matriarch to many more than she gave birth to, I want to honor her legacy…her Dash, in the hope that you might stop what you’re doing to think about yours.
As a creative writing college professor and a journaling facilitator at Campowerment, Grandy shared her love for this poem and its message, the way she shared most of her favorite ideas – posed as a prompt, using it as a guide to teach. In individual conversations that she had with so many of us, she “borrowed” The Dash as philosophy on legacy, as a guide to living.
“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?”
. . . .
In November of 2019, Grandy’s Dash culminated in three long, spiritually enlightening days of soul preparation (hers and ours, really) for the next step of our journey together.
And when it came time to eulogize her in front of the 600 people whose lives she touched enough to get them to show up at her funeral, all I had to do to honor her the way she would want to be honored, was share the words she had recited, time and time again…alongside the many versions of the thoughts the prompt inspired for her. So, I read The Dash, to a group of folks who’d, no doubt, already heard it from my mom herself.
That is legacy.
The week she died was a lot of things for us, and one was shared.
In the days after her funeral, a few funny things happened that gave Grandy’s Dash new life:
~ Meryl Russo, a cherished member of the Campowerment community and one of my mom’s daughters by choice, created wallet-sized, laminated keepsakes of Grandy in one of her top Campowerment costumes (perhaps the most infamous): a skin-tight catsuit, alongside Linda Ellis’s poem. (Raise your hand if you’ve still got yours in your wallet? I do!)
~ My sister Jodi and I got talked into something we never would have otherwise considered: getting tattoos with our kids!! What one symbol did we all value and live by, with permanence? A dash!
~ And that has fed a daily ritual that has us kissing our dashes daily (at least once) at 11:11, knowing that for at least one moment, every single day of our lives, she’d be with us, and we’d be together in channeling her. Plus, when we’re together, we kiss each other’s dashes, and ping ourselves, to make sure we’re living the way we will forever want to be remembered.
The list really does go on and on (it’s longer than a CVS receipt, so we’ll keep it tight – you get the gist). But the moral of this story?
Take the time to think about YOUR Dash – and whether you’re living YOUR living a life in line with THAT.
If not, time to get this party started…
If you need or want s’more guidance, I’m leading a guided craft session based on The Dash, to help you manifest what you hope constitutes the line between your years. I’d love you to join me there.
Rest in peace, Grandy.