Recently I came across an old photo someone posted on Facebook of my daughters with their friends and the Easter Bunny. I’m guessing the girl’s ages were around five and seven at the time the picture was taken. Those same adorable faces are now thirty and thirty-three. I’m not a particularly nostalgic person, nor one to wax poetically about the past, but this picture caught me off guard and did give me a moment’s pause. Reflecting, I thought about all the years that have passed since that photo was taken.
I once read something, based on a poem by Linda Ellis, about living the dash. You know, the dash on a tombstone between the year we are born and the year we die. That dash is all of the moments of our lives boiled down to a short line etched in stone. Now, I believe that there is WAY more to life than can be distilled into a single dash and it is up to each of us to create a life that brings us and others contentment, happiness and moments of joy. I know that there are things in life that we cannot control (like my lupus) and there are moments that are heartbreaking and so very, very difficult to understand from our human perspective, but these have a way of making the good seem so much better.
Because I have lupus, I do not take things for granted as much as I did prior to the diagnosis. I know that when I’ve been sick for a while and I walk outside, the sun seems to shine brighter, the sky looks bluer and a cool breeze (which means 75 degrees in Tampa) brings a smile to my face. Before days of ill health, I may not have noticed these things nor stopped a moment to enjoy them. And I don’t know if it is because the dash means we are creeping closer to the end date, or because we may have more time on a regular basis to simply notice more, but a benefit of aging can be a deeper appreciation for some of life’s more mundane things. Perhaps this is the wisdom of growing older? Regardless, there seems to be more brightness in life following darkness as we age.
I love Erma Bombeck and her poem, If I Had My Life to Live Over. The last verse is my favorite:
“There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute back until there was nothing left of it.”
That verse represents the spirit with which I want to live my dash. This may seem odd to you, but there is an element of having lupus that I am grateful for; certainly not all of the hardship and stress it has caused our family, but for the lessons it taught me early about prioritizing the important things in life. Nothing like life challenging and life-threatening illness to help you get your priorities straight!
So, as I look at the old photo with the smiling little faces of my once-young daughters on Facebook, I think about the dash as I’ve lived it thus far, I remind myself once again how precious life is and just how important it is to prioritize the things that add meaning to my life and those around me that I love. The dash is simply too short to waste time on the petty things!
About Cindy Coney: Ambassador of hope and author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Living with Chronic Illness, Cindy Coney is a nationally acclaimed speaker, trainer, human resilience expert, and philanthropic force. Dedicated to helping both children and adults achieve optimal health and success, Cindy has taught thousands of people to move beyond coping with limitations to recapturing joy and fulfillment in their lives.
Diagnosed with lupus in 1980, Cindy has since driven a race car 124 miles per hour; completed the Chicago Marathon; championed countless nonprofit organizations; presented to the World Lupus Congress as a keynote speaker; and shared her inspiring, empowering story from Belize to Baltimore.
Follow Cindy’s Blog at www.cindyconey.com