It was a cool, breezy morning. The cemetery grounds, once a beautiful bright green in the summer, had begun to be covered with fallen leaves. The smells of autumn were in the air as Jim looked down at little Tom kicking the leaves. Jim scanned the grounds trying to remember where the gravesite was located.
“I think it’s this way,” he said.
Little Tom looked up and smiled mischievously. “Come on, dad!” Off he ran in the direction Jim was pointing.
Jim hurried to catch up, and when he did, he grabbed little Tom and twirled him around. They were both laughing when something caught Jim’s eye.
“This is it! This is the one we’re looking for,” Jim exclaimed!
In front of them was a headstone that read, “James Scott Walters.” Underneath the name were the dates, August 30, 1960 – December 29, 2060.
“Who is that,” little Tom asked?
“That is your great-grandfather,” Jim replied.
“Wow, he lived for 100 years,” said little Tom.
“He sure did, and he lived a full, rich life,” Jim said.
“What did he do,” little Tom asked?
Jim replied, “He lived an exciting life and went on many adventures when he was young. He served his country and helped many people. Helping others became his passion. He taught your grandmother, his daughter, how to live life the right way. As he became older, he began to write down his experiences and lessons, sharing them with the world.”
As little Tom stared at the headstone and ran his fingers over the carved letters and numbers, Jim knelt next to him.
“Do you see those dates?”
Little Tom pointed to August 30, 1960, and started tracing it with his finger.
“Those two dates are not the most important things on this headstone,” Jim said. “The two dates simply represent two moments in time. The day your great-grandfather took his first breath and the day he took his last.”
“The most important thing is the dash in between the two dates. That little line represents his life and everything that he did. There are 100 years in the dash. Every headstone in the cemetery contains a dash, and they represent what everyone did with their life.”
Jim continued, “Your great-grandfather’s dash is filled with good decisions and bad. Happy times and sad times. The births of children and the deaths of friends and family. It represents everything that he did in his 100 years. He lived life to the fullest. I don’t think everyone’s dash would tell the same story.”
Little Tom gazed upward at Jim and quietly said, “How can I make sure my dash is as full as my great-grandfather’s?”
“Make sure you live your life like your great-grandfather lived his. We can read about him when we get home. Are you ready to go,” Jim asked?
As they walked through the cemetery towards the car, Jim looked down and held Tom’s hand. “Son,” he said, “Your great-grandfather accomplished many wonderful things in his life. One day, he told me that the most important thing he ever did was learn to love. That was why we are put here on earth. God didn’t give us life to be divided and hate each other. We are here to love one another. If you can learn to love, then your dash will be full.”
Jim and little Tom climbed into the car and buckled up. Jim started the engine and began to pull away. He stopped and looked back at the headstone. A smile came over his face as he said, “The old man will never stop teaching us lessons.”