Our Hyphen

Among all the punctuation marks, the hyphen is what I leave for last in my English classes.

It is the hardest to understand because it is often confused with a dash, and therefore needs more teaching time. And especially because, in modern times, the hyphen is now being left to oblivion. To name a few, inter-action, hyper-ventilate, and de-emphasize have each lost their hyphen and have become one word. 

It is also because on our computer keyboard, we use the same key or symbol for both.

But there is one use for the hyphen (okay, dash) that will never change: its role in obituaries or in biographies of the dead. 

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997 

Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945

Ferdinand Marcos, 1917-1989

That hyphen defined the way they lived their lives: between the time they were born and the time they left this earth. That same minuscule line, when the Lord calls me home, will define the way I shall have lived mine.

“. . . you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 (NKJV)

Our life is but a hyphen (or dash, or that tiny horizontal line on our keyboard).  Small and short. I pray we spend it walking on the path that leads to the narrow gate, open to us by God’s merciful grace.  

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