As seniors, we find ourselves attending an ever-increasing number of funerals. It is hard, as we sit listening to the eulogy of a friend or family member, not to wonder what will be said about us when that time comes.
One observation that we can count on being made is the two events that we all share: our birth and our death. Whatever else is inscribed on our eternal marker, it is a good bet that it will include those two dates. And, between those bookends of our life, there will likely be one more engraving – a dash – which represents everything in our life, including that for which we will be remembered.
That record may be in two parts: the objective facts, such as our career, family, interests, etc., which is mostly general, public knowledge; and the more private part, such as how we lived and loved and treated others, which may be known only to a few, or maybe only to our self, but is basically who we really are – or want to be. How will they remember us as men or women, ophthalmologists, leaders, husbands or wives or parents or friends?
This is obviously not an original thought of mine, but I was reminded of it at a funeral I attended last fall, in which the eulogizer noted the significance of that humble, typically ignored symbol. The dash, he suggested, essentially represents everything in our life, from the time we are born until the day we die.
The sentiment wasn’t original with him, either, but was taken from a poem by Linda Ellis, entitled The Dash, the idea for which she apparently got from someone else, and who knows where it began. In any case, as we enter a new year and once again take stock of our lives and what resolutions might be in order, I thought it might be well to share her poem with you.
The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis
Letter to the Editor
I read Dr. Sadun's fascinating article, "Losing an Eye; Losing a Kingdom" (published online as The Eye Injury that Changed History) in the 2017 autumn issue of Scope.
The history of how King Harold died, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, is disputed. The arrow held by King Harold may have been a later addition to the tapestry, following a period of repair. The arrow is absent in 1729 engravings of the tapestry by Bernard de Monfaucon. Of note, it was common medieval symbolism that a perjurer dies with a weapon through the eye. Since Harold broke his oath to William, perhaps he is merely symbolically shown here dying with an arrow in his eye.
Lee Shahinian, MD
Dear Dr. Shahinian,
I am delighted you enjoyed the article. The controversy on how King Harold died was referred to in my article, as well as the fact that most scholars believe the Bayeux tapestries are still the best documentation available. Your point is plausible, though untestable.
Alfredo Sadun, MD, PhD