Saturday, 8 November 2014

What's in a 'dash'?


Carpe Diem!
Nanu Nanu!

Seize the Day!

O Captain, my Captain!

Good morning, Vietnam!

These phrases were echoing in my mind for a short while after I heard about the death of one of the most gifted comedians that I’ve ever heard and seen – Robin Williams at the age of 63. These were also the words that reminded me of his career. Social media sites were also full of these famous quotes taken from an assortment of Williams’ TV and movie appearances.  Newspapers, radio and television were all clamoring to shed light on Robin Williams’ brilliant acting profession and the struggles he had most of his adult life with depression and substance abuse. And every time I saw the year of his birth, 1951, and the year of his death, 2014, I saw the same thing over and over between these two dates. A dash. Just a 2-3mm dash.

But is it just a dash? What if all you ever thought and did was compressed into that little dash? So, that if the dash was magnified hundreds or thousands of times over, it would reveal your life’s story. Or, what if the dash was replaced by a phrase – a few words – of how you lived your life and what your memory will be for generations to come? Would Williams’ have read: 1951 “A comedian like no other” 2014 or 1951 “Depression knows no social boundary” 2014?  Perhaps, the dash, when magnified, would reveal what Williams said in an interview when asked what would God say to him when he died. And, according to Williams, in his customary lightning-quick fashion, God would have said, “Mr. Williams, there’s seating in the front!”.

Truthfully, I was saddened by Robin Williams’ death. He was one of those comedians who dominated the airwaves when I was growing up and again later in movies over the past several decades. I’m not completely sure why I felt so impacted by his death. It was the same mental nudge, although not as strong, as when I read the daily obituaries and scan the lives of people I’ve never known.  Maybe it’s because the little dash I see between birth and death years reminds me of my own life’s story. And I wonder, what will the dash between my years of life and death say about me?

Will my dash be a long soliloquy, an elegant reflection of my life’s accomplishments and record a long list of my progeny? Or, will it be summarized by a few words or even a single word? My wise neighbor, whose garden puts many gardens to shame said that to be remembered like King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:10 as a man “who loved the soil” would be a very wonderful and noble thing.

When we are born, our dash is virtually non-existent. Not much can be written in the first few years of a person’s life. But as we grow and as God graciously allows us to live longer the dash grows. Layer upon layer of life’s intricacies are added to the dash. Sometimes our dash will be only a few words like King Uzziah’s or it will be several hundreds or even thousands of words in the cases of written biographies.

I hope my dash will read… no wait… I’ll try to live a life that’s remembered for making an impact on those whom God have placed in my path.

And then I’ll leave it to others to find the words - or word as it may be.