I gotta be honest here. I’m sending more birthday wishes to heaven than I care to. This will be the 10th September 23rd since my mom went home. 10 birthdays since she joined my grandma and grandpa. Since then, I’ve sent the same birthday wishes to another grandpa, my oldest son and my daddy. The roll call in heaven includes many of the loved ones that I miss, and my budget for birthdays isn’t what it used to be. I’m not even sure they celebrate those days anymore, as each of them have a new birthday - the day they stepped into glory and became what they were created to be. That’s the day to celebrate, and I do, but I’m still left with the earthly days that belonged to them while they were here.
An obituary has both of those dates, and of course the dash. It gives the beginning and ending dates of a life. And sometimes, it tells you about the dash, giving you insight into who they were and their accomplishments. The dash is who they were to me, how I was loved by them, and loved them, what I learned from them and about myself because of them. So that dash represents more than their lives here. It represents my life with them. Each of them and their dash helped shape me and form me into who I am. I appreciate that dash more than the dates on either side of it.
I wrote two obituaries in less than a year. Hagen’s first, and then not even 11 months later, my daddy’s. Neither were easy to write. Not because I didn’t have anything to say to honor them and give more insight to their dash, there were plenty of beautiful, rich attributes of both that I wanted to share.
I admittedly got carried away with Daddy’s because it took up half the page in the newspaper, but there was just so much to his dash, and I had to get some licks in as well, knowing he would have gotten a kick out of me making fun of his dog and his crappy camper. Hagen’s was long, as well, and while I was able to detail his short but impactful dash, it was who he left behind that took up most of the space. When you leave the world at 22, you’re leaving behind far too many. But it wasn’t his age that made that list so incredibly long. It was the number of lives that my boy touched in a genuine way. No last names were listed, because on that day we all had the same last name as members of one family - Hagen Jones’ family. It started out with the words “Hagen is survived by...”
Those words with the name of every person reading this will one day appear in an obituary. Your dashes detail your life, and it’s so important to make sure that the dash story is a good one. Until you’re the headliner, remember this. We’ve all made a guest appearance in at least one obituary, some of us more than others, and preceding our name are the words “survived by”. That is a weighty place to be after profound loss. We’ve been identified as survivors, but many do not live as though they are surviving. They find themselves, and their dash, overshadowed by the headliner.
I choose not to merely get by. I choose to make the absolute most of this life I’ve been given, and I choose to take from the dashes of the ones I love so much and remember them and what they and their love taught me to honor who they were to me.
The birthday wishes going up are increasing in number, and some of those days weigh on me, including this one. Selfishly, I would much rather her be here, because let’s be honest....I’ve lived a lot and lost a lot since she left and sometimes a girl just needs her momma. And I miss her cooking. But there’s that whole dash thing. Mine and hers. And since I’ve been listed as a survivor in every obituary of those I love and miss, I’m going to embrace that identity and do just that. Survive with joy and fullness, giving myself grace to miss them.
So, happy earthly birthday, Momma. Half our family is there to celebrate with you, if y’all do that there, and while I miss you and all the life we didn’t get together, I wouldn’t have you back for one minute. We’re doing just fine. Better than fine, even though I cannot figure out how to make your round steam. Why didn’t you write that down?! Thank you for your dash. And thank you for mine.