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What’s the meaning of the dash between Born and Died on an obituary?

The dash is a compelling symbol that represents the complete journey of your life, starting from the moment you took your first breath and continuing through all the ups and downs, twists and turns, and milestones along the way, up until this very moment in time. It’s a powerful reminder of the preciousness of life and the importance of making the most of every moment we have. Ask yourself, “What pivotal events have had their hand in shaping who I am this day?” Think about how these life-shaping seminal moments and turning points have profoundly impacted your life.

While you consider the events that make up the essence of your ‘dash,’ I’ll share a little about one of mine with you.

One Meaning of My Dash

In 2020, I found myself unexpectedly retiring. The piercing reality of what the rest of my life would become nagged at me. Yet, I experienced a tremendous sense of inner peace. Seemingly coincidentally, a friend who worked at the printing company I had submitted several obituaries for family and church family asked if I wrote them. Most of them, I had written. She suggested that I extend my craft as a service to other people. I chuckled and dismissed the thought. I couldn’t imagine writing for anyone other than family or friends of family. One afternoon, she called, informing me that she offered my number to a lady who needed help writing an obituary and then hung up abruptly. This occurred a few more times, but when the owner of the company called me with the same request, I discerned that fate had led me their way. My dash had taken on new meaning. 

 I’m compelled to help others share their last story. It may seem morbid to fancy writing about the goings and comings of the dead. So here it is: I’ve always enjoyed reading personal narratives, especially if the story traveled through the struggles and tragedies that catapulted the person into the victor’s circle. But that’s a far cry away from writing obituaries, right? Did I mention,” I found myself intrigued with obituaries that cross my path, even those with whom I had no close relationship, strangers even? Weird, huh? That’s what I thought, but I’m fascinated by events that helped shape this individual’s dash.

I’m taken in by the meaning of the dash between the Born and Died dates on the obituary.

A little over twenty years ago, I became keenly aware that this person’s life contained more substance than the grocery list of disconnected facts I had just read. In my mind, I thought, “Ok, I get it. He was a devoted husband and father, but what evidence proved it?” What imagery or written picture presented him as this doting husband and father? This document, this obituary, should enclose his “dash,” his personal story, but it didn’t. I earnestly yearned for more. I longed to connect with the person introduced in the obituary I held in my hand. All I learned was that his life began in 1946 and came to a screeching halt in 2000. Wait! But what made up the canvas of his 54 years of living? What momentous events shaped his life between those two imperial dates? What about his ‘dash’? What about his story?

My mind reeled, and my heart longed to herald this man’s life, this devoted husband and father, into the annals of history with more than an honorable mention. Everyone deserves a life story commemorating who he truly is among friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, and even among those disquieted naysayers along life’s journey. I could lament over his current state of affairs, as I had done many times while reading other obituaries or life-listings, as I once muttered. Or, I could stop criticizing and get involved. Do something to help others experience the beauty, struggle, and life highlights in all those missing “dashes” waiting to be told. I feel compelled to bring the ‘dash’ of people’s lives alive. 

I wish everyone to embrace the meaning of the dash between Born and Died on an obituary, which reflects the grand inheritance of all who knew and loved this life. The quest of my dash is to craft life stories with vibrant character, personality, dignity, and honor because this obituary is the last story to chronicle the ‘dash’ of each person’s life.


The Dash Between Born and Died

I don’t like the sound of the word “obituary,” even though it’s Latin (obitu+arius) for “pertaining to death”? I prefer the perspective of life-story (bio+vivus) life and living, taken from Greek and Latin, respectively. It settles the heart so much when we focus on the life lived as, alternatively, the life lost. Celebrate the dash, no matter how short or long the life. There’s something powerful and liberating about revisiting memorable moments from a loved one’s dash.

Now that you’ve learned more about the meaning of my dash, I trust that you’ve reflected upon your ‘dash’ and how to honor and celebrate every family friend’s dash in your circle.


Share the Meaning of Your Dash

If you’re brave and want to share a highlight with your circle of family and friends, share what meaning your dash holds for you with those who would benefit most from hearing it. This act of tender transparency helps ensure your life story and the essence of your narrative with authentic grace and sincerity when your ‘dash’ ends.

If you want to share your dash with us, feel free to contact YLS at yourlaststory.com . If you want to store the details of your dash for safekeeping, I found a source that seems quite useful at storyworth.com .

Live Long, Prosper, and Make the Most of Your Dash,



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