WILKES-BARRE — Linda Ellis wrote the famous poem, “The Dash,” 25 years ago and it remains as powerful and meaningful as it did when first heard.
“Who knew 36 lines I put together more than 25 years ago would still be impacting people’s hearts and lives?” Ellis wrote to me in an email. “Keep livin’ that dash!”
Indeed, Linda. And today, I will write about another dash that symbolizes a life well-lived — a life that impacted many other lives in the brief time this person was alive.
Amanda Lynn Durkin, 40, of Nanticoke, passed away Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Guardian Elder Care Center, Nanticoke, after a long battle with cancer. She was the daughter of dear friends of mine — Joseph and Cathy Cicero Senick of Wapwallopen.
After graduating high school, “Mandy” became a salesperson for the medical industry. Her greatest joy was being a mom, helping other people and watching the Philadelphia Eagles.
Looks and sounds like a simple, yet happy life. But there was much more to Mandy’s life.
Sitting in the Strish Funeral Home last week, we listened to a beautiful presentation by the funeral director, which included a reference to Linda Ellis’ poem, The Dash. And once again, we got to see just how meaningful and powerful that poem and its message is.
In The Dash, Ellis talks about a tombstone that has the name of the deceased and their date of birth and date of death — the two dates separated by a dash. That dash represents all the time one person had spent on God’s Earth. In Mandy’s case, it was just 40 years.
Every human being will have that dash on their grave marker, but few outside their circle of family and friends will ever know what that dash actually represents. As the poem says, that dash is what matters most of all — it represents how each had spent their time on Earth.
“What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash,” the poem reads.
After the service ended, the funeral director asked if anyone would like to share a memory of Mandy, a story, a joke, anything at this final farewell. Let me tell you, several people decided to speak.
One by one, these friends of Mandy’s rose to speak — each of them fighting tears and strong emotion to tell their story of how Mandy supported them, advised them and stood by them through some very difficult times and decisions.
These were relatively young people, men and women, who struggled with deciding how to live their lives. They each said they had decided to live alternative lifestyles — a lifestyle perceived to be outside the “cultural norm” — and when it came time for them to “come out,” they struggled. They said they feared what others might think — especially family and friends.
Mandy, as most called her, or Amanda, was their strength.
Each of the speakers said Mandy never judged them — she supported them. She assured them they would be OK and that they should be who they are. These friends of Mandy wanted to make sure Mandy’s family and friends knew just how much she meant to each one of them.
It was a continuous tribute to a young woman who meant so much to so many. It was an evening filled with sincerity and love and appreciation for all Mandy did for them.
And there were lots of tears, as you would expect. But there were laughs as well. We learned that Mandy was a character who brought many smiles to many faces — that she was a person that people loved to be around.
We learned that Mandy had a sincere and deep concern for her fellow human beings and that she was always there for anyone when needed.
Quite a dash, wouldn’t you say.
Read these words from Linda Ellis’ “The Dash” —
“For that dash represents all the time 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 still can be rearranged.
“To 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 lived your dash?”
Mandy surely would be proud of her “dash.”
As are her parents, family and friends.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]