The Dash Between Our Years

Shobana Vetrivel   |   March 16, 2015 


I recently attended the funeral of a pastor from one the congregations of my church. He had been struggling with an illness for a couple of years and was quite critical towards the end, so much so that he planned his own funeral service. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people at a funeral, which spoke volumes about his life and the impact of his life.

As I heard people – colleagues, friends, family and mentees - share the ways in which he influenced, cared for and passionately dedicated his life to ministry, I remembered the evenings I attended theology classes taught by him and the Tuesday mornings where he would share from the Scriptures. The way he would ask us to read aloud verses and then finish our sentences, preach in a thundering, yet gentle, voice and help us understand and grapple with great truths using simple analogies. It was truly a life well-lived.

I started to think about my own life and what people would say concerning me at my funeral. I know that seems morbid and selfish but funerals have a way of ruthlessly throwing the reality of death and your own mortality in your face.

I wondered if what people say would be true and honest, or if they were just being nice and allowing death to cover over a multitude of sins. Of course, it made me think deeply and carefully about my life and what it stood for. What I came away with through this time of contemplation were the lessons I had learned from this man's life.

The first lesson I learned is that people are not interruptions. Even though I did not work closely with him, I did interact with him a lot while booking tickets for his travels. Most of these were train tickets and if you have ever tried to book a train ticket on Indian Railways online, you understand the exasperation of the process (though it’s a lot better these days). While most of the time I really didn’t mind, there were times when I had a ton of other things to work on and it seemed like an interruption.

Looking back now, I am thankful for every opportunity I had to book a ticket for him, because I know in some small way it aided his ministry – a passionate dedication to serving God and people. More so, because people mattered to him, they were not interruptions.

When I was sick and on bed rest, he travelled a long way on public transport to visit and encourage me. Even though he had to make a trip to the hospital for treatment twice a week, he calmly brushed that aside when asked, and gave me a perspective on caring for people despite limiting circumstances. No words spoken, just the example of his life.

The second lesson is that less can be more in terms of the number of years we live. He died comparatively young, middle-aged in fact. But there is no question in anyone’s mind that his life was full and significant. Length of years doesn’t matter when it comes to impact and influence.  What matters is the way we live the dash between our years.

I heard this poem many years ago in a sermon and the words began to echo in my head this week.

"The dash serves as an emblem
of our time here on the earth,
and although small, it stands for all
our years of life, and worth.

And our worth will be determined
by how we live each day.
We can fill our dash with goodness,
or waste our life away.

To ourselves, as well as others,
let’s be honest, kind and true,
and every day, live the way
we know God wants us to.

May we look for opportunities
to do a worthy deed,
and reach out with compassion
to those who are in need.

For If our hearts are full of love
throughout our journey here,
we’ll be loved by all who knew us
and our memory they’ll hold dear.

And when we die, these memories
will bring grateful, loving tears,
to all whose lives were touched
by the dash between our years.”

The Dash Between by Ron Tranmer

I’m grateful for the lives that have testified to this truth and shown me that it is not an impossible task. That each day we live matters – the way we love God and the way we love people.

To be faithful not only in the seemingly big things but also in the ordinary small things, things which can seem like interruptions.

 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12


Photo Credit Unsplash

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Shobana Vetrivel

Shobana Vetrivel enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life and the adventure of living in New Delhi. She has an educational background in social development and theology and has worked in both development and ministry settings. She currently works with Delhi School of Theology and is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology. Books, travelling, theology, coffee and deep conversations are a few of her favourite things.  

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3 comments on “The Dash Between Our Years”

  1. what a beautiful thought on the life of pastor Ivan. People are not interruptions and less can be more, exactly what I need to remember right now. Thanks Shobi.

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