Lifetime measured by dash, not dates

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

Rusty Galloway is the Clovis News Journal’s circulation guy. He introduced me to the concept of “the nugget” in the daily edition of the CNJ.

The nugget is that story, that thing in the paper that makes you think, “Isn’t that something?” when you read it.

Not too long ago I was chatting with Rusty along with Tammy Garner from The Master’s Center. Rusty was showing us what he considered the nugget of that day’s CNJ edition, the obituary for Larry Wooten of Roswell. What made that particular writing leap off the page was the folksy, down-home, western style of the writer who was apparently one of Wooten’s grown kids. Reading the obituary, I too was struck by the lively writing.

I suddenly remembered who Larry Wooten was. Working in radio in Roswell years ago there was many a morning I called him for the report for the local livestock auction. His booming, gritty voice seemed as big as The West. I looked at a line in the obituary, “…more than anything he LIVED.” Yes, yes he did. You could hear it when you talked to him.

Wooten’s obituary made Tammy think of “the dash.”

“The dash is everything that happened from when you were born to when you died,” she said.

I told her I didn’t understand what she was talking about.

“The dash,” she said. “You know, on your headstone. They put when you were born and when you died. There’s a dash in between the dates.”
“Oh, I get it,” I said.

Tammy’s point was the dash is everything that happens between when you were born and when you died. And when you think about our lives compared to the age of the Earth, the sun and the universe, well, it is just a dash.

I was thinking about life and death when I told The Lady of the House about “the dash.”

“The dash is your life,” she said. “It’s not about death.”

The Lady of the House doesn’t like me talking about death. She’s trying to teach me to live in “The Now.” Often I find my mind wandering to reminiscences of the past and concerns of the future. Living in The Now is hard for someone raised in Virginia, a state steeped in tradition and Southern sentimentality. For example, the joke goes, “How many Virginians does it take to replace a light bulb? Three, one to do it and two to say how nice the old one was.”

I thought again about “the dash” as I watched “Secondhand Lions,” a 2003 movie with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine. It’s a tale of two eccentric uncles who take in a neglected great nephew. As the boy stays with the men he comes to understand that they lived life to its fullest.

The dash may be as simple as how you’re remembered. I’ve kept in my memory something my mother told me years ago. She told me one concept of heaven or hell is how you’re remembered. After you’re gone and people reminisce about you fondly, with a smile, well, that’s heaven. And if you’re remembered bitterly, that’s the other place.

And maybe that’s one of the points of being here in the first place. To make our individual dash the best it can be. And to make sure we LIVE.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: