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9 min read

The Dash - The Canvas for Cause and Purpose

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When I first wrote this blog, I was at my parents’ home in South Louisiana with my family, visiting during spring break.  It had been a couple of years since we had visited.  It was a good week, not just of spending time with family, but also time for retrospection and introspection.  That week of reflection was impactful, and it brought forth an “aha!” moment that I’d like to pay it forward to you.

At the time I wrote this I was in my early forties, living life at a torrid pace. During this trip my thoughts drifted to purpose – what impact was my life having? (I guess some might call that a mid-life crisis.)

Time to rest and ponder made me reflect from a place of “thinking and being” rather than “doing” – where I most often live.  One of my long-time team members who is a great nurse leader often reminded me: we are human beings, not human doings.  

One of the most profound experiences of that week was spending time at my family farm which has been in our family since the 1800s.  At the time, it was on the market to be sold.  Earlier that day I was reading my family tree with my dad at the farm.  As you can see from the pictures below (my kids call it the wall of the dead) my dad has pictures of every generation of Comeaux forefathers, all the way to one generation short of the Comeaux who migrated from Nova Scotia to Louisiana.  What always strikes me most are the small frames beside each photo that summarize each of my grandfathers' lives and mine. 


“Onezime Comeaux II. Occupation: Farmer; July 10, 1835 – December 16, 1897. Served in Civil War as a corporal, was wounded and had a limp the rest of his life.”

Also, at the time of this writing, the matriarch of the hospice where I worked had just passed.  She lived an incredible life; at the age of 60, when many were thinking of retirement, she was getting our hospice started in her living room. That hospice grew up to become Four Seasons, the Care You Trust in the Hendersonville/Asheville, NC area.  She died at the age of 95 and was still volunteering at Four Seasons within months of her passing.  During her life she buried four husbands and lived with the mission of service to others.  She also helped start other local nonprofits and the community was better off because of the life she lived. 

Reflecting on the tremendous impact of all these lives got me thinking: what will they say about us when we are gone?

I invite you to take a couple of moments to watch the “Dash” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsY6UrFIsNs, which is based on a well-known poem by Linda Ellis.

When I looked at the little placard next to all my grandfathers' pictures, it listed their date of birth and date of death, and right between those was the dash “-“, followed by a summary, like the example above, of their life.

The “dashes” I was reading and reflecting on were weighty ones.  Service in the Civil War.  Plowing hard ground to make provision, not long after our nation’s founding.  Facing death and sorrow but making the hard choice to focus on others and give of oneself repeatedly.  Putting others before oneself and fostering a legacy that impacts generations.

The dash is the canvas of our lives.  It represents the opportunities, the trials, the joy, the longings and fulfillment, the destiny laid out before us to fulfill.  The dash is full of potential, and that is what struck me most as I slowed down that week.  There are many things within the dash that we can’t control, but also so many things that we have the power to choose.

How will you choose to live your dash?  What do you want said about you on the wall, when your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren read and remember you?  What will they say about you?

While you ponder these questions, jot down what comes to mind or journal out your answer.

Since that marked moment, I’ve spent time writing and re-writing my “dash” frequently.  Most importantly, I’ve focused on truly living my dash.  The type of reflection this causes is quite sobering, but it will continually bring us back to the true nature of our Cause and Purpose.

What do you want the weight of your dash to be to the world?

Here is what my dad had next to my picture.  Christopher Comeaux. Occupation: President and CEO, Teleios Collaborative Network December 23, 1970 - ?

There is so much more to my story I am writing…


Chris Comeaux, President / CEO of Teleios Collaborative Network





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