The Hyphen of my Life This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 25, 2009
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Years from now, far into the future perhaps, someone will be walking through a cemetery when they come upon my tombstone. It will be a nice tombstone, I hope, with a smooth, gray face and clear-cut letters. It will be in a patch of healthy green grass, speckled sunlight falling through the trees overhead. They will see my name etched deeply into the stone face. Perhaps there will be an epitaph, a brief and thoughtful comment on my life, succinct and not at all inclusive. They'll see my birthday followed by the date of my death, hopefully well into the future. This person—whether a descendant, an old friend, or merely a passer-by, will know when I was born and when I died, but they will not give a second thought to the most important feature on my tombstone: the hyphen between the numbers. Within the span of this hyphen, I lived. This hyphen will represent my life, and anyone who sees it can only guess as to what the hyphen contained.

What could this small piece of punctuation possibly tell them about my life?

Will they know that I have lived in McDonough, Georgia for most of my life?  Will they know that I live with my mother and father, that I had a sister, and that I love them?  Will they know that my mother 's side of the family is huge, and I have too many cousins to count?
            Would they be able to tell that music is a big part of my life?  Could they figure out that I played the tuba for seven years, and that I was in marching band and the symphonic orchestra?  Will they know that I listen to music almost constantly when I can, that a day without music is a bad day for me?

Will they know that I grew up in church? Will they know that I am Christian, that God is important to me? Will they know that I was in children's choir and AWANA, and went to Vacation Bible School every summer? Will they know that I am active in my youth group, going on mission trips and having fun?

Will they know that I become sad when summer begins to fade and the days grow long, the sunlight fading? Do they know that, even though summer is over, I love fall even more, with its changing leaves and crisp air? Do they know that I sweaters, toboggans, and scarves?

I doubt that they will know that I like strawberry ice cream and pumpkin pie, that I hate black olives on pizza. I don't think they will know that I dip pizza in ranch dressing or that I put potato chips on sandwiches. Will they realize that I like burnt hot dogs and mayonnaise on my hamburgers?

Will it be obvious that I like to read and draw and write? Will they know that J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Margaret Atwood are some of my favorite authors? Will they know that Bones is my favorite television show, and that I was National Geographic for the fun of it?

Will they know that I am studying anthropology? Will they care that I aspire to be a forensic anthropologist, helping to give names, faces, and voices to those who can no longer speak for themselves?

Everyone preaches about the importance of punctuation, and the hyphen, my hyphen, is perhaps the most important punctuation that anyone will ever use.

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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

mish said...
Dec. 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm
You should feel well about yourself! ;-)
mish said...
Dec. 8, 2009 at 12:47 pm
You did a great job, Owen!
megalegalis said...
Dec. 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm
Owen this was awesome! i liked it a lot! even though i already knew everything in ther just because im your favorite cousin! it gives other people a view on another side of you and get to know you better! I love it! <3
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