The Dash

On December 18th my mother died.

Exactly four weeks later, a beloved colleague died in his sleep. At the second funeral, the funeral director read this poem, which had been shared with me by my rabbi 19 years ago on the death of my father. I had tucked it away in a file that I call “Favorites” but over time its message faded from my mind: life is short, live every day as your best self. I share it now hoping its message will resonate for you as it does for me and to remind us all to be our best selves every day.


the poem by Linda Ellis

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 of 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
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.

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 still can 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 lived your dash?


When it comes to reading this poem, what comes up for you?

  • Do you wonder whether writing in a journal would help you clarify your thoughts, feelings, perspective, and even give you beneficial insights?
  • Do you feel you might be missing out on an important message in the busy-ness of life?
  • What if you were able to create a better, more meaningful and purposeful life through the power of reflection and journaling?

My free Best Self Program does just that.

With weekly journaling prompts that inspire, celebrate, reflect, as well as explore life’s toughest challenges; I share the transformative power of journaling — an easily accessible,  inexpensive tool to navigate your life’s challenges and become your best self.

Want to receive this week’s prompt around The Dash?
Be sure to click here to sign up for the Best Self Program by February 29, 2020.

Sarah Birnbach is a writer and author who shares the transformative power of journaling, providing encouragement and insights to help people on their journey to their “best self” and is the creator of the free Best Self Program.

Best Self Program | Sarah Birnbach


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