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The Hyphen…..

Life and death. Most of us truly only know life and we experience death as a bystander. The rare few who have experienced near-death share a unique perspective. Like life, death is a journey, each of us experiences it differently. Some view life and death through the eyes of religion, others as a journey with Source Energy, the Universe, God. Some fear death, others accept it as another transition, and the rest are somewhere in the middle.

Many of us have been asked to write our obituaries as part of a philosophy class in high school or college. It’s tough to do. During one class I took in high school, we went to a cemetery, placed pieces of paper over the grave markers and colored the paper to lift the impressions from the markers. Cemeteries are interesting places, in their own way, peaceful and serene.

Grave markers come in all shapes and sizes, and each one represents the evidence of a life lived. Ornate or simple, they all have one thing in common; a hyphen. Most have the birth and death dates separated by a hyphen and others bear only the birthdate in silent anticipation of the day of transition.

After transition, the hyphen sits between the dates, quietly and inconspicuously, yet it represents so much more than a place holder separating the two dates. The hyphen represents all the missing information and experiences of a life lived. Kind of a sobering thought, really. The sum of our lives is represented by the simple hyphen. The grave marker with its hyphen levels the playing field; all are equal in the cemetery. The simplicity of the dash doesn’t judge the life lived. How does one judge the rightness or wrongness of a life lived as defined by a hyphen?

I am a nurse by profession.  Lives come and go every day in the world of nurses, and now that I am living on the other side of fifty others in my life are dying, not just the patients. I will admit when those close to my age pass on its a little unnerving. Do young people think much about their own mortality? I don’t remember giving my mortality much air time as a young person, but these days the thought niggles when people close in age pass away. And, I have given the hyphen a bit more thought.

The sum of our lives are the moments and experiences; the triumphs and tragedies, loves and losses, successes and failures, and all are contained within the hyphen. What will the hyphen say about us as it sits between two dates…..?

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