Live Your Dash

Though we don’t often use poems or quotes from other people on our sign at Heartworks, The Dash Poem, by Linda Ellis and the story of how it came to us warranted a rare exception. We were so moved by the poem and the meaning it holds for one of our families that we wanted to share it.

Twice a month, we hold Advisory Council meetings where we decide which families we can help and what we can do for them. This month, Heartworker Melissa brought us the story of Liz, who lost her 27-year-old son Connor last year. Now, as the year anniversary of his death approaches, Liz is also enduring the emotional toll of putting her mother into hospice care. We were discussing ways we could provide some care and kindness for Liz to help her through this difficult time, when Melissa shared the following poem that means so much to the family.


I read of a man who stood to speak at the 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 mattered most of all 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?

By Linda Ellis, Copyright © 1996-2019 Southwestern Inspire Kindness, Inc.,

This poem was very special to Connor. It touched him so deeply when it was read at his great grandmother’s funeral that Connor got a dash tattoo on his finger and encouraged some other family members to do the same. The family then read the poem at Connor’s funeral and more family members got the dash tattoo in honor of him. Now over 15 family members have the dash tattoo. The words of the poem and the symbol of the dash have become an amazing source of strength and comfort for Liz and her family.

We hope that these words inspire you as well. We invite you to “look inward,” reflect on your life experiences, and think about how you can use your particular talents to “give outward” and help others. How will you “live your dash?”