What do you want written on your tombstone? Some friends and I were discussing the question recently.

32 years ago I sat with my mom and discussed what we should write on my father’s headstone. It was such a tender time to be trying to sum up a good man’s life in a few short words.

Some years later I heard a poem called The Dash. You’ve likely heard it or read it. I imagine the author had reflected long and hard about family and friends who had passed away.

I have visited some famous cemeteries and memorials over the years. From the Holocaust Memorial in DC to the Killing Field Memorial in Phnom Phem, Gettysburg, PA, Arlington National, The Vietnam Memorial, and, most recently Colonial Park in Savannah, GA.

Each sacred site (& there are so many others) represents lives lived and celebrated. Each stop for reflection represents someone attempting to sum up a good persons life in a few short words.

I suppose it’s why The Dash has stuck with me all these years. We should wonder about the dash in the lives of those who’ve gone before – and we should consider the dash that our own lives represent.

Today, as we deal with the inconveniences and frustrations of our day and as we deal with the joys and laughter that await us as well, it’s important to examine life and go a little deeper than the surface of things.

Beneath it all, we are changing the world somehow for the better or for the worse.   We can’t necessarily change what causes the good or the bad, but we can choose our responses. We have to look in the mirror of truth and examine our lives, in light of the current goings-on of things. And there, examined and exposed, we ask for grace to bathe us.

Grace and Truth are critical to live fully into the life we want. We are imperfect people living in a broken and fragile world. We can be confined or defined by the context of our lives OR we can be refined and renewed through it.

Jesus (& his church) are often rejected because the ease-of-use strategy does not apply for Him. Yet, as we follow Him deeper still, we begin to see life redemptive and renewing. So we stay, always at the intersection of trading our ease-of-use dreams for the grace and truth filled hope that even death, in the end, is not the end.

As Easter approaches I’m reminded that Jesus never got to have a headstone erected in His honor. His life on earth was short but the whole writing the dates, dash and memorialized words on the tombstone thing didn’t happen for his family and friends. I imagine they were thinking about such things as they walked to the tomb where his beaten and executed body was laid to rest. But they were met by the truth that He was alive yet again.

I think I’ll go with that on my headstone too. He’s alive yet again.

Make the dash count today, my friends. May we live so fully that the dash of our lives testifies to the promise that the grave cannot hold us either.


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