September 1, 2014

The dash between the years

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In just a couple weeks, young children, and some who are not so young, will celebrate Halloween. This holiday has to be one of the most fun holidays for children simply because its whole premise is a public stamp of approval to disobey parental and dentist recommendations and eat as much candy as is physically possible.

But like most of our modern holidays, the day draws it roots from a deep history of mythology and religion. Despite all of the superstition surrounding it, Halloween actually draws its origin from the three-day Christian celebration of All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. This time was used to remember all those who had passed away, especially saints, martyrs and all of the faithful departed.

As time passed, the celebration morphed into more of a celebration of superstition than remembering those who had died, and became Halloween.

This may be because of a modern culture that values youth, immortality and productivity. As humans, we are naturally scared of the unknown and have little desire to think about what comes after death. However, death is a natural part of life — it’s just part of the circle of life, as we all learned in “The Lion King.” Nonetheless, many of us push off any thoughts about the process until later in life when we are forced to face the inevitable.

This may be a good thing, as it keeps us from spending all of our days worrying whether today will be the day we will meet our end. But on the other hand, the only thing that is certain in life for all people is death — well, death and taxes, of course — so I don’t think it would be so awful for us to ponder death from time to time and to remember our loved ones who are no longer living. And Halloween provides an opportunity for us to do just that.

But to think about death, we must first think about life. When we think about our own end time, we wonder what we can pack into our life before that time comes. And when we remember our friends and family who are no longer with us, we recall their life.

A date of birth and date of death are inscribed onto every tombstone, but so is a small “dash” that separates those two dates. What we do during the time that small dash represents is what defines us as individuals. Therefore, our death will only be a reflection of how we lived our life.

I remember as a child, visiting the cemetery and using a crayon and a piece of paper to take a shadow sketch of the headstones of my relatives. I was always a little wary about walking into a cemetery, but as I have gotten older, I find that it is more of a peaceful place than a scary one.

As Halloween approaches, I want to take some time and remember my lost family and friends. Although it can be a difficult task, it is important because memories of them play an important part in my life. And it may not be a bad time to take a pause from the busyness of life and remember that my time on this earth is finite. And whether my time comes tomorrow or years from now, I am going to enjoy every minute of my “dash.”

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