Truth on a Tombstone


Today is a very special day because this is the first blog post I have ever written and posted.  I am committing myself to writing and posting every week by Monday morning.  The post will be ready for you to read first thing each Monday, before you head out to work or school.  I hope this blog will become an enjoyable weekly time of reading and reflection for you.  I pray it will help “set the tone” for your week.  The over-arching theme for my blog this year will be living for things that really matter, because life is so short.  I believe the key to living a meaningful life is looking at everything though the lens of a short life.

Death clarifies everything. Thinking about our death can teach us how to live for what really matters. Linda Ellis’s famous poem “The Dash” encourages people to think about the dash that will one day be carved on their tombstone. Tombstones are inscribed with two dates—a date of birth and a date of death—usually with a small dash in between. What matters most is not when you were born or when you die, but how you lived during the period represented by the dash. This is what my blog posts will be about: living for what matters during the short time we have on Earth. Sometimes, when I officiate at a graveside service, I encourage participants to look about at the surrounding tombstones. I remind them that one day, a stone will be etched with their own name. Then I challenge them to spend some time in reflection before returning to their cars and homes, examining their lives to see how they are living during the dash.

I have a friend who loves to spend time in cemeteries, especially when facing a big challenge or an important decision. She says that doing so gives her perspective. Focusing on your own death might seem morbid, but I have found it just the opposite. Death clarifies everything, helping us realign our priorities. And because the thought of death can motivate us to do the important things that we should be doing, I think we need to think about our own death more often than we do.  So why don’t you try to think about your death this week—a lot, and see how your perspective changes.

Maybe you can write your date of birth on a card, then follow it with a dash and a question mark.  Then put the card someplace where you will see it every day.  Good spots might be on your desk, your bathroom mirror, or your car speedometer.  You might want to set aside a regular time each week or month to think intentionally about your death, perhaps in a nearby cemetery.

Question: Are you ready for a trip to the cemetery?

“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days . . .”

Psalm 39:4

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