Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Looking forward...

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."

Funerals are strange. They make you think. They make you ponder, assess, and remember. But then... a few days pass, weeks pass, and eventually years pass.

One of the most difficult parts of a loss is the change of focus. Life is like driving a car. We glance in our rear-view mirrors, but we don't gaze in them, at least not while we are moving. Life moves and as drivers we are required to look forward.

Upon losing a loved one, or a job, or a home, sometimes our focus becomes the rear-view mirror of life. I've learned not to dwell there. The heart of the wise may be in the house of mourning, but the heart of the wise also recognizes that life has seasons, or times...

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."

Times change and we learn to change with them. Last year I changed teaching assignments. I put in a transfer from a junior high to an elementary school. This self-inflicted change brought with it an unexpected period of mourning, especially as the summer was ending. I thought, I'll miss my old friends. I'll miss the students. I'll miss the events and the routines I've grown to love...

I caught myself looking too long in the rear-view mirror, so I got the keys to my new room and started building some new memories. I still have the old memories, but they are not my constant focus. Sometimes when I'm driving, I notice a really good vista, in the rear-view mirror. I'll tell my wife to check her side mirror. We ooh and ahh for a moment, then we re-focus on the road ahead.

There is a time to look back, and there is a time to look forward. The past and the future deserve some consideration, but we must not forget... the only day we have for living is today. The house of mourning helps us realize what matters the most, what present moments to savor, and what choices to make... today.

My Dad would have been 80 on August 23rd. He died in 1996 about three weeks before my first wife. I visited Patti's grave yesterday. "Born 1952 - Died 1996." We picked out the gravestone before she died. (She had cancer.) We put my name on it too. (Not an idea I recommend in retrospect.) Your name may not be on a gravestone, yet, but if you're reading this... you are... living your dash... that little line between day of birth and day of death.

So, as long as it is called today... live. the. dash. (Look forward.)


  1. "The world is three days, as for yesterday it has vanished along with everything in it,as for tomorrow, you may never see it, as for today, it is yours, so work in it." -Hasan Al Basri

    and yes, I agree, Kanye West is very dispirited, I just find the quote funny because me and my friends are getting ready to graduate and have went through so many frustrated semesters of trying to register for classes and being told that we have to wait ( I shoulda graduated last semester!) and we joke how we'll all end up working at Kinko's after all this hard work. But you're right, any job is better than no job, especially these days!

    Sorry if the Ear Candy startles you!

  2. What a great thought- "live the dash." I guess I've never considered the Carpe Diem theme in that way before. Your story is what makes it stick out even more. Thanks for sharing, and Thanks for the reminder.

    We have the first day with kids today and considering this thought is a great way to walk in the door. :)

    I hope you have a great first day too (even though you still have a little time yet)!

  3. Yikes...when you put it that way...I better make my dash as meaningful as possible!

    Out of curiosity, in what way does your name appear on your first wife's grave???

  4. @its_all_good: I'm sure it's frustrating not being able to get classes. Doing four years of college in four years is hard to do these days. (Glad you agree on Kane's "spirit," but I do see the irony. "If we weren't all crazy, we'd all go insane." - Jimmy Buffet. Humor helps.

    @Miss_H: Glad you liked the post. I know carpe diem is a favorite theme of yours, so Living The Dash is just an alias. ;-) We had a back-to-school staff BBQ today. Good to see my friends and co-workers. Hope your first day was good.

    @Saphron: No time for doom... just do-the-dash! The grave plot we bought was a double-deep. It's when your pre-plan, you bury the first casket deep, and later, a second one fits over the first cement buried encasement that surrounds the casket. The grave stone has a Bible verse, then on the left side, my first wife's name, birth, and death. On the top right of the grave stone, my name, birth and (__blank__). (A bit sobering.)

  5. That's a great one to "live the dash". We waste so much time in negativity. Make every moment count. Terrific post, Don. Thanks.

  6. @September: I have to think that this post is, for you, more of a reminder than a new insight. Reading your blog, you have little choice but to live the dash. But even with younger kids, we can miss out due to negativity, worry, grudges, etc. Living the dash is a choice and a focus: Looking forward, but living now. Thanks for your comments. They are always welcome here.