The Dash, by Linda Ellis

Cantor Jodi Sufrin gave a copy of the poem “The Dash” to Elaine soon after the bus tragedy.  This poem seems to have particular meaning when thinking about Steve, Kayla, Melissa and Greg’s brief yet vibrant and loving lives.

This poem is often attributed to an anonymous poet but we recently discovered (thanks to Jon Coravos and the research he did for his freshman speech) that it was written and copyrighted in 1996 by Linda Ellis.  It is reprinted here with Linda Ellis’ gracious permission.


The Dash

by Linda Ellis


I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on her tombstone

From the beginning… to the end.


He noted that first came her 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 she spent alive on earth…

And now only those who loved her

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’s being read

With your life’s actions to rehash…

Would you be proud of the things they say

About how you lived your dash?