After The Dash

You may be familiar with the concept of “The Dash”—which refers to the hyphen between date of birth and date of death that indicates the expanse of a person’s life here on earth.

In that context, The Dash is used to reflect on how we’ve spent our time in this world.

Which is a concept with which I totally agree—as long as it helps us prepare for what’s next.

For what happens After The Dash.

The time that begins after the last breath.

Dad’s Dash

I’ve been thinking about my wonderful dad a lot recently because his birthday was last Thursday.

In my time of Bible study this week, there was a reference to John 21:25, which is the very last verse of the book: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. …” (NKJV).

That sentiment is similar to how I feel about my dad and all the wonderful things he did throughout his life.

Trying to list all of his acts of love for me would be impossible, let alone trying to capture the same for everyone else—much of which I’m not even aware.

My dad died 20 years ago, and he lived his Dash brilliantly with deep faith, love, and integrity—providing a powerful example for me to attempt to do the same.

Dad was a railroader for 37 years, and after he died, I found something he wrote on a Penn Central Transportation Switch List which captures a bit about how Dad lived his Dash.

These aren’t Dad’s original words, and although some sources list the author as anonymous, others say this was written by W. Hartsill Wilson, and that legendary football coach Bear Bryant had it on a card in his wallet and read it every day.

Since Dad loved college football, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that’s how he came across it.

One thing’s for sure, it definitely made a powerful impression on him:

“This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place that I have traded for it. I want it to be ‘gain not loss,’ ‘good not nil,’ ‘success not failure.’ In order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.”

~ W. Hartsill Wilson

After The Dash

By the time Dad was nearing the end of his life, I’d been a nurse long enough to have been with a number of people as they’d taken their last breath.

But Dad’s death was the first that impacted me on such a deep and personal level.

He was surrounded by family in those last hours, and I remember vividly the moment we realized that his next breath had not come.

While that was painful for everyone, there was peacefulness, too.

Because we knew what would happen after Dad’s Dash.

Since he knew Jesus, he had just stepped into His arms.

And all that was hard in the context of his imperfect human body was immediately perfect within the Paradise of Heaven.

Which, in my view, demonstrates the importance of living The Dash in a way that prepares us for what comes after it’s through.

And something I know Dad believed, and would want me to share with you.

Because when we know Jesus, God can help us live The Dash the way He wants us to.

And most importantly, that relationship is what ensures that our time After The Dash will be magnificent beyond anything we can imagine.

Sue Montgomery is a Christian writer/content creator who's also been a hospice nurse, family caregiver, health coach, and professional organizer. Now she's helping Baby Boomers like herself embrace the Boomer Continuum™ of agile caregiving, graceful aging, and peaceful dying—with Christian faith and simplicity to focus on what matters most.
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