Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: The dash

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: The dash

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Nov 03, 2008
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The dash

It was my birthday not too long ago. Another year. I am 57, but I tell people that I read at a 58-year-old level. I am so old that I remember Preparation A. My little niece asked me, “When is your birthday?” and I said, “September 23rd.” She asked, “What year?” and I said, “Every year.”

I am old enough now that I have seen tremendous changes: changes in the world, changes in our society, and changes in our profession. I am old enough now that my friends and contemporaries are starting to die, and that is startling. No matter how you couch it, it is sobering to stare into the awesome teeth of your own mortality. What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to remember? That you worked all the time? That you were a good veterinarian? That you were a devoted family person? That you were community-minded? I wonder.

A few weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a dear friend from my high school class. He had it all: He was an athlete, a scholar, a beloved family man, and a valued coworker. The same age as me, he was taken much too early by a cruel disease. As I knelt in the church before the service, as the people quietly filed in, I noticed a large college graduation photo of my friend at the front of the church. It had his name at the bottom and the dates of his life, 1951 - 2008. The black numbers were stark on the white board. As I looked at the harsh numbers counting his life, I realized that they meant nothing. It was the dash between the numbers that marked all that my friend had accomplished. It was in the dash where he lived his life.

Once in awhile, we get a glimpse of our own mortality. Sure, it is intimidating, but it is also liberating. We must make every moment count! We must take advantage of every opportunity! We have to love our friends and family with real passion. Nothing is worth doing halfway, and we cannot waste any time. Your life is in that dash. Live your life with unbridled joy every day. You have been given innumerable gifts, and you are still alive to use them. Make your dash a swath through life that no one will soon forget. Make people remember you were here, and do it with balance, kindness, and grace. Every day.

See you next week, Kev