Copyright 2017 Linda Ellis
20 years ago, I experienced an epiphany that literally altered the next two decades of my life, an inspiration that slowly transformed everything I was and everything I believed, the catalyst that would lead me to meet so many of the wonderful people I would come to know. 20 years ago, I wrote The Dash.
Upon first glance, these seemingly simple 36 rhyming lines appear similar to any other poem. But The Dash is different. I could literally write an entire novel consisting of only the stories, the people, and the places this unique creation has brought into my life. There is something about it, perhaps it is the simplicity itself that directs the words straight to the heart of the reader.
Then there are the wonderful coincidences, literally hundreds of them that have occurred over the course of our journey together, so many instances that cannot be explained away or contributed to mere fluke or happenstance. The Dash has the inexplicable ability to reach peoples’ lives at a time when they need it most.
Of the many stories I’ve received over the years, the one that stands out in my mind the most is the smiley face story…
When my daughter was a senior in high school, one of her friends was tragically killed in an auto accident. Our community was stunned and saddened. Hundreds of well-wishers and mourners poured in and out of his parents’ home. I brought a book about The Dash and shared it with his mother. She placed it in the foyer and visitors began to write a favorite memory from her son’s “dash” as they entered. The Dash, as she told me later, thus became an integral part of the grieving process for her and her family, entering their hearts and minds to help heal the tremendous hole left by her son’s sudden absence.
Growing up, many children have a “thing” as they say…a symbol…something they are known for among friends and family. My “thing” was rainbows, my best friend loved Koala Bears. Well...her son's "thing" was smiley faces. He had them everywhere. He wore them on his shirts, had posters on his wall and when he worked at a local restaurant he would use olives, carrots and tomatoes to create smiley faces on customers' salads. On styrofoam cups, he would carve a smiley face so everyone would know that cup was his. I didn’t know this fine young man well, though in hindsight, I wish I had. After learning more about his cheerful personality, I can understand why he felt a connection to smiley faces.
After some time had passed, this mom decided to attend a seminar to receive support and encouragement among other grieving parents. As she sat there, she glanced around wondering if she had made the right decision. Perhaps these tears and desolate energy would only worsen her feelings of loss. Then the first speaker walked out on stage. He stood at the microphone, took a piece of notebook paper out of his pocket and began to read The Dash poem. This, in itself, would not be a grand coincidence if the young man speaking had not been donning a bright yellow smiley face t-shirt. The mother said right there she knew. She knew with certainty that this was a sign from her son reaching out to her, sending his love, and telling her that he was alright and in time, she would be, too.
Though The Dash represents that little line in between the dates of birth and death, the poem wasn’t written about death. It was written about LIFE. Your date of birth is known, followed by the dash, and the latter date no one can anticipate. That little line in between those two dates stands for everything that transpires, representing in a single stroke all the laughter, the love, the tears, the joy…the life we experience.
LIVE YOUR DASH!