Carvajal: ‘The Dash’

There’s a noticeably high level of destructive anger in the current

political discourse and an even more destructive spread of misinformation in the current scramble for safety from Covid-19. Thus, I thought I would do a piece on a theme that could bridge the gap between people.

Chilean writer Isabel Allende in her book “Paula” (1994) had this to say about life as she grappled with the reality of her daughter’s sudden illness, prolonged coma and eventual death:

“Silence before being born, silence after death: life is nothing but the noise between two unfathomable silences.”

In 1996 Linda Ellis, wrote “The Dash,” a poem where she tells us the kind of noise we should be making in between the two silences:

“I read of a man who stood to speak at a 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 matters most 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.

To 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?”

Our society is not making meaningful and productive noise at this point (in the dash) of its socio-economic life. We would do well to ask with the poet: “Would we be proud of the things they say about how we lived our dash?”

In parting, I’d like to dedicate this piece to Tio Pabling, Atty Pablo P. Garcia to you. He made constructive noise and lived his dash in a manner that his loved ones could be proud of him forever.