The Reverberations of a Hyphen

2015-09-07 16.29.49

What’s up Family?

It’s been SO long since I’ve asked that question…as a matter of fact, it feels really good to do so. So much has happened since we’ve last had a chat…two years of life changes would be a bit much to reduce to a single post…so naturally, I’ll have to spell those things out over time. But it’s good to be back. To suggest that I am back on my own accord would leave me greatly remiss. God knows how to touch the right people’s heart, at the right time, to speak a word of encouragement to get back to the work you know you’ve been destined to do. More on that later, but I am grateful for the divine provocation.

20150907_163234One of my favorite genres of movies would have to be those that replicate Ancient Greece and Rome. Those old war movies are truly awe inspiring for me. I would have to say my favorite would be “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt. I can almost quote the movie; I even purchased the soundtrack. It’s those one liners that truly resonate with me…there are so many in that film. But over the past week, I have taken in a few more that I haven’t seen, to the surprise of many. I watched “300” and “300: Rise of an Empire.” But the one that really gripped was “Gladiator.” There was a line that was stated by Maximus Decimus Meridus, portrayed by Russell Crowe, (and my research shows that “Maximus” was a fictional character). That quote was, “Brothers, what we do in life…echoes in eternity.”

How true a statement when consider the centuries that have passed since the days of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome…and today the stories, yielded from the common biographer’s scroll or hieroglyphic chisel still matter today. That’s why writing means so much to me because it encapsulates a moment in time, a breath of thought, that can always be looked back to, as a cenotaph of sorts…memorializing a people, a school of thought, buried throughout the annals of time. Which leads me to this point…

Not being foreign to the funeral service industry, (I finally got my funeral service license!) one of the most awe inspiring things to me is going through a cemetery and looking at the headstones that adorn the landscape. At the very minimum, there is the name of the deceased, the year that they were born, and the year that they died. But the most striking thing about the headstones aren’t the epitaphs…the last words used to memorialize the life. It’s not the basic mathematics required to determine how long  that life was lived. Nor is it the name. It isn’t how ornate or simple it may be. The greatest to me, represents the greatest mystery… a mystery so great that a glance at a grave marker couldn’t possibly reveal. That is the mystery of the hyphen.

The hyphen, the simplest character on the headstone, holds the greatest revelation. It is that one symbol that holds the entire story of that person’s journey from the womb to that grave. But that is the frustration of the hyphen…while it holds all, it withholds all. That simple dash stood as a witness to all of the accomplishments, the failures, the hurts, the dreams, the triumphs, the pleasures, the pain, the love, the retribution…all of it is contained in that dash. But that dash won’t tell one jot or tittle of the story…it simply swallows the chronicle of your life just as the body is swallowed in the belly of the grave. The hyphen knows so much, but tells so little.

So then, what is the proverbial anti-hyphen? What will speak for you when the hyphen of the grave, with arrogance, silently screams? Your work. What we do in life echoes in eternity.

I had the honor of visiting Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York to stand at the grave of both Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Out of the 196 acres of rolling hills, and amid over 75,000 resting remains, these two individuals have the distinction of having signs from the cemetery road leading all the way to their grave. To stand at their grave is the crossing of two eras, whereas I am a beneficiary of both of their works. It is in that moment a mere six feet of earth, but in excess of a century worth of time, separates me from having audience with them. Space and time separated me from a man born into slavery, though fathered by a white rapist. Beneath the soles of my feet lay remains of a resting soul that became one of the greatest orators and abolitionists the world had ever seen. It was at the grave I stood, the grave of a woman courageous enough to speak on the behalf of half the greatness that is the women of our Nation, and declared that they too deserved their stake in the political determination that crafted the laws by which they too would be governed. These two were giants in their time, and their titanic reach yet reverberates in eras beyond their allotted time on earth. However, on their graves, just like every other grave in every cemetery, is two years separated by a hyphen. But it is their labors that betrays the secrecy of the hyphen, and defies its silence, and ensures the mysteries are revealed.

So what’s the inspirational nugget you are to leave with? It isn’t your possessions. It isn’t your words. But it is your works that will ensure that the hyphen on your grave reverberates through the annals of time. Live your life in a manner that your hyphen isn’t shrouded in a cloud of mystery and assumption. Instead, let you life matter. From the example of these two lives, that were but brief moments in time, we learn the best way to ensure that your life matters is when you live for a cause that is larger than your life…when you live it in the service of others. All of our names won’t bedeck the pages of history books, nor will we all have holidays ascribed in our honor. However, there is somebody, somewhere, or something, that can matter to us so much that we make a difference. Everybody doesn’t have to know the story behind your hyphen, but somebody should feel the effect before your hyphen is followed with an inevitable date. As each day puts us further from the first date, and closer to the second, marking our impending end on this side of the grass, live with purpose. Make it your business to touch someone’s life. Don’t think that you are too small or insignificant to make impactful change. As I stood in Mount Hope Cemetery, and at countless other graves down through the years, there are two things that we have in common with every great person that came before us, and that will come after us:

  1. We live
  2. We die

It would be to the discredit of your creator to suggest that you can’t male a difference… It all starts with your willingness to decide and act.

Number one tells what kind of influence you have in the world…but two tells what kind of influence you leave in the world… What legacy are you going to leave? What story will you hyphen have to share?



John 3:30

About the Author

My name is Timothy Wright, Jr.... this is my blog. the autobiographical posts to learn

1 Comment on "The Reverberations of a Hyphen"

  1. Great to “read” you back in action Timothy !
    The symbol of the *hyphen* as representing our entire life from cradle to grave on a headstone is a stark one image, revealing a life lived but not the contents of the life as you point out, a fact and a mystery at the same time. I took encouragement in your final words to live life in the service of others, to make a difference, to leave a legacy…yes, that is a core message we (especially as we progress farther into the life span) need to be reminded of–i would add the word “love” to your message–learn to love G, self, others, and the natural world–for me, a “hyphen of love” is a life well lived.
    peace, Dr B

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