As an editor nothing makes me happier than properly used punctuation. Without an appropriate period, comma, semicolon, and my favorite, the exclamation mark, the words, numbers, and symbols of our expressions would just be a jumble of marks with no significance. So which one is most important? The period that helps to end a sentence? The comma that helps to organize our thoughts? The exclamation mark that I love to use to express my joy?
I’ve discovered in the last year that the most important piece of punctuation is the en-dash (-). It’s a tiny mark that typically indicates a range between times, dates, and numbers. And more than anything I’ve learned in 2012 that the most important en-dash of our lives lies between our dates of birth and our dates of death.
Having had to deal with my mother’s passing very early in my life, I’ve always been very acutely aware of death, life, and what we do with our time in between. Whenever I read obituaries or look at tombstones, my eyes immediately zoom to look for the en-dash to see how long the person lived and I try in my finite mind to make a judgment on whether their life was long enough. Sometimes I get frustrated and sad that my mother’s en-dash was only 46 years long. But my God did that woman work her en-dash! Every time my siblings and I get together for dinner, a family gathering, a funeral, or just spending quality time together, I am reminded that her en-dash is still at work through how we love each other, pray for each other, and support each other without fail. With nine siblings and nine VERY distinct personalities, that is NO small feat. But it’s a true testament to how well my mother lived.
When I look at the life of Whitney Houston, I’m like, “Sweet Jesus, she was on the verge of a comeback. Why did you have to cut her en-dash so tragically?” But that diva sang her en-dash off! I have NEVER listened to her version of “The Star Spangled Banner” without crying. It’s SO powerful. I’m grateful that her en-dash will live on forever through her AMAZING catalog of music.
My mind has yet to make sense of Travon Martin’s violent death. My heart says, “God, 17 years was definitely not enough time on this Earth.” But his powerful en-dash sparked a national movement and reminded all of us that racism is STILL alive and well in America and we need to be ALERT and VIGILANT to keep its seething ugliness from destroying us and our children.
I still weep over the way too short en-dashes of those precious babies at Sandy Hook Elementary. I don’t think anyone can make sense of that senseless moment of violence. But I pray that the en-dashes of those angels will remind us of how important it is to truly see and value ALL of the beautiful children around us.
Death is NEVER an easy thing to wrap our heads around or to accept. But one thing DEATH does force me to do is LIVE. I am GRATEFUL to God that in 2012 he allowed me to use my en-dash WELL. My en-dash has now traveled to Vancouver, Cape Cod, and Chicago; my en-dash is now 20 pounds and 40 inches smaller; my en-dash was able to be a live witness to the brilliance and re-election of Barack Obama; my en-dash got to breathe the same air as one of my sheroes this year–The Mighty Oprah; my en-dash had the privilege of coaching three of the Most Amazing women I have ever met (love, love, LOVE you Rose, Sally, and Tiffany); and most importantly my I used my en-dash to fall more deeply in love and in appreciate for the unique gift that is Leah Lynette Lakins.
I hope and pray that my en-dash will be longer rather than shorter; but whatever God’s plans are for the date that comes after February 23, 1979, I pray that my en-dash will be well-loved, well-laughed, well-written, and well-used for God’s HIGHEST glory.
So as we come to end of 2012, I’ve got one question: What are YOU doing with YOUR en-dash?