On my usual trek with my dogs, I walk past a cemetery and always look at the graves as I pass by. There is an assortment of tombstone sizes and shapes, but for the most part the markers are generic.  The granite contains a name and dates, but not much else.  

In Boston, there are graveyards that are older than our country.  Those, too, have similar appearance and now barely legible dates or names.  We have made huge advances in so many areas, but the cemetery remains eerily similar to those of hundreds of years ago. What stories these markers could tell about our heritage and the people who helped craft it, if only we knew about the people behind the dates.

In death, there is so much similarity, but think about the differences in lives that the stones represent.

I wonder what tombstones would look like if they did not need to withstand the elements. I think of people whose lives were filled with vibrancy, color and action having it all reduced to a few characters chiseled into stone.  What if instead a person could put mementos from their life on display, much like the AIDS Quilt or makeshift memorials after a tragedy…what would commemorate their grave then? 

Tombstones are a mini-canvas of a life. Think of what you would put on yours to tell your story to the next generations.

— beth triplett


  1. Yes, I know and love Ally. And I love this poem too. I thought of that while writing this — it was the point of today's post: how do you bring the “dash” to life on a tombstone. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi beth! Thanks for the great post today! I thought I would share this back – I got it from Ally Crust (whom I believe you know) in our time together at WIU.

    The Dash
    by Linda Ellis copyright 1996

    ​I read of a man who stood to speak
    at the funeral of a friend.
    He referred to the dates on the tombstone
    from the beginning…to the end.

    He noted that first came the date of birth
    and spoke the following date with tears,
    but he said what mattered most of all
    was the dash between those years.

    For that dash represents all the time
    that they spent alive on earth.
    And now only those who loved them
    know what that little line is worth.

    For it matters not, how much we own,
    the cars…the house…the cash.
    What matters is how we live and love
    and how we spend our dash.

    So, think about this long and hard.
    Are there things you’d like to change?
    For you never know how much time is left
    that can still be rearranged.

    If we could just slow down enough
    to consider what’s true and real
    and always try to understand
    ​the way other people feel.

    And be less quick to anger
    and show appreciation more
    and love the people in our lives
    like we’ve never loved before.

    If we treat each other with respect
    and more often wear a smile,
    remembering that this special dash
    might only last a little while.

    ​So, when your eulogy is being read,
    with your life’s actions to rehash…
    would you be proud of the things they say
    about how you spent YOUR dash?

    ​Copyright 1996 Linda Ellis

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