How Are You Spending Your Dash?
Years ago, my wife, Jill, changed her approach to life. As she tells the story, she went from being an angry young woman to appreciating every second she spends on this earth. She was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2018, but her transformation started years earlier.
Jill had our daughter, Alexus, when she was 20 years old. I am not her biological dad and didn’t meet them until Alexus was 8. But when I fell in love with Jill, Alexus became my daughter in every sense of the word.
One of the first things Jill told me was that Alexus changed her life. It’s one of the many reasons why they are so close. A lightbulb went off in Jill’s head the day her daughter was born, telling her that she needed to let go of her anger because it would poison her life and hurt Alexus.
Years later, Jill discovered that part of her anger stemmed from not knowing if she had inherited the Huntington’s gene. When she was young, she didn’t know if her father had it, since genetic testing for Huntington’s wasn’t prevalent at the time. He eventually developed the disease and passed away from it.
Subconsciously, she always felt she would one day show signs of Huntington’s, but she didn’t let herself worry about it because she said there was no point in doing so. Denying her fears about what was to come caused her emotions to come out as anger.
After Alexus was born, Jill started liking inspirational sayings and poems. One of her favorites was “The Dash Poem” by Linda Ellis, which is about how we spend our time on earth.
Ellis describes a speech a man gave at a funeral. He talked about the dates etched into the tombstone, but explained that they weren’t as important as the time between them, signified by the dash. All of the stuff we accumulate isn’t as important as how we spend “our dash,” he said.
He went on to warn people that we never know how long we’ll live, so it’s important to make the most of our lives.
The poem encourages us to have empathy with others, treat one another with respect, and give our love away.
Ellis concludes the poem by asking, “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 spent YOUR dash?”
Jill tries to live this way every day. She has told me that, if and when Huntington’s changes her mentally, she wants me to read this poem to her.
Although I hope her rare disease never changes her personality, I know I want to spend my dash loving and caring for her.
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