If you aren’t aware, my father recently left this life. As you can probably imagine, I’m doing a lot of processing since he passed on. As you can probably imagine, I’m doing a lot of processing since my father passed on from this world. And, appropriately, Dad keeps teaching me stuff – like, to think about my legacy. The lesson started as soon as my family posted news of his passing and the tributes began to pour in. Without exaggeration, hundreds of people – some known to our family and some not – commented about the impact my father had on them.
You see, along with his brother, Dad operated a business and for many years they were the only auto mechanics in a small Ontario town. And Dad had a reputation. He was honest. He was fair. And my Dad would tell you what he thought – often with a quip or a joke. One woman posted about how Dad told her that the best way to fix her car problem was to post a sign that said “Steal me” in the back window! Dozens of people posted fond memories of visiting Petty’s Garage. Fond memories of visiting a garage? Yeah.
And there was nowhere Dad could go where he didn’t bump into someone he knew. Florida. Venezuela. Montserrat. Coming off the stage at Dollywood. He was that guy. He was memorable in the best possible way.
As my sister and I sat on the couch together reading some of these tributes aloud to each other, my sister reminded me of the significance of the dash. You know, the small line that separates your birthdate and your death-date. Although Dad had a simple life, he used his dash really well. He loved thoroughly and was (and still is) thoroughly loved. He had a few regrets about his life – like that he didn’t learn to dance with my mother. And in the same moment that he declared that he regretted not learning to fly an airplane, he took it back because of the reason he didn’t learn to fly: He had children to support and flying is an expensive hobby. In other words, he made a choice based on his priorities.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dash. We can’t control how long or short the dash is, but we can decide how deep and rich it’s going to be. We can choose to live so we have no regrets. (I don’t mean to avoid mistakes – I mean to learn from our mistakes, because a rich dash requires that we make them!) We can be sure that there is nothing we want to do that we leave undone when the dash ends.
We can make peace with our choices. We can remember that we don’t have to be a superpower to change the world: We can create meaningful ripples of change in our simple, day-to-day interactions with people right beside us. We can authentically be who we are and be loved for it. Oh, and we can always look for the funny.
Of course, in order to dive deeply into the dash, we need to be really clear about who we want to be and what we want in this lifetime. And while I’ve always done that, I’ll be focusing on it a lot more.
How deep is your dash?