Last week was certainly one to remember. My brother passed away a little over a week ago, on Friday, August 13th. Then, this past Friday, August 20th, two good friends both passed after valiant fights with different diseases. The differences of how the three lived, and more importantly how they died, is stark. It is a tremendous reminder that “how you spend your dash” will make a huge difference in the end. 

I first wrote about the “dash” in 2017 when discussing the 1st anniversary of the passing of David Depaolo. As I wrote then, “The Dash” is a poem written by Linda Ellis (available here). It discusses the existence of dates listing the span of a person’s life, with a year of birth, year of death, and a dash separating the two. The gist of the poem is that the years listed do not matter, it is how the person “spent their dash” that determines the value and quality of their life.

My brother was 73 years old. Despite excellent longevity in our family, a life of hard drinking and heavy smoking took its toll. His lungs just couldn’t function anymore. Normally such an event would evoke tremendous sadness within a family, and it does; just not necessarily in the manner or for the reasons you might expect. The previously mentioned drinking, along with spectacularly poor decision-making, meant that my brother had been largely removed from our lives for many years. He was, in reality, a brother lost long ago. Estranged from everyone, including his only child, in the end, had no friends. He died alone. It was the unfortunate end of a sad and lonely life.

Dinner with friends

My two friends, on the other hand, were both active and generous members of the community. I first met Bud Hurter and Ken Allen 20 years ago in a civic group, the Sertoma Club of Greater Sarasota. They were excellent members who contributed much to the group and our community over the years. They had a strong sense of family and a great sense of humor. Both men and their partners became regular dinner companions for my wife and me, where we enjoyed good food and the excellent company of friends.  They gave us many happy memories. Ken battled Leukemia, while Bud had suffered from congestive heart failure. Both died in the company of brave and caring women, surrounded by families that loved them. While we were aware that both men’s days were nearing the end, to have them both pass within hours of one another came as quite a shock.

Bud’s wife Di and Ken’s 5-year partner, “Blue“ (who ironically spent a long career in workers’ comp, recently retiring from TPA Johns Eastern) were stalwart protectors of these men in their final months on earth. I have immense respect for all they did for them. Perhaps it was part of a grander scheme; a just reward for the lives they lived. They had given much, and in the end, received back for their efforts.

Karma might just be a thing after all.

To Ken and Bud, rest in peace, my friends. The loss we feel is immense, but the memories you left with friends and family live on. Congratulations on a life well-lived, and for “living your dash” in an excellent manner.

To my brother Steve, I also hope you rest well. May you finally find the peace that so eluded you in your time here on earth.

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