Monday, November 14, 2011


Every life has a beginning date and an ending date. These dates are almost always listed on a grave stone in the form:
· August 14th, 1908 - January 22nd, 1986
Looking at a grave stone doesn't tell you much about a person. Everything accomplished by a person can be found in that little "dash" nestled between the dates.
· When your end date arrives, what will your dash mean?
· How did you live your life?
· What will someone say in an obituary or eulogy?
I always thought this was such an amazing way to look at your life. But it never really hit home until the past couple weeks. As most of you know, my cousin, Professor James Miller, of Goshen, Indiana was brutally murdered for a reason we do not know. In listening to friends, colleagues, students and family talk and reminisce about Jim, I am left wondering…wondering if I am making the most of my dash.
Jim certainly touched many lives and in many different ways. As a cousin, I knew Jim as a really smart, geeky, quirky but wonderful guy! I didn’t remember a lot of him from growing up, due to our age differences and the fact that his level of schooling and mine took us in different directions. I got to know him as the “connection” to our family in Goshen. He was the one who we could count on to return an e-mail, to make a phone call, and to just stay in touch. It’s not that the others don’t care; it’s just what Jim did! I knew him as the girl’s basketball nut that would sit thru HOURS of driving only to turn around and sit thru HOURS of basketball, even when he was in lots of pain from back troubles. He would call and ask, “How are the girls doing” and I could never answer him as completely as he would have liked. He LOVED the t-shirts that Hiland seems to spit out like candy, and always wanted to know what they looked like, and could I please send him one, he’s sure he can sneak another one past his wife! He would show up in mid-January just like the groundhog in February! Always dressed like he was entering the frozen tundra!!! I’m always cold, but Jim took cold to a new level!
He was the one who always had that quirky joke no matter what the situation….some sure were good for a laugh and others for a groan. I never had a clue that he used those in his college classes! And it never failed, he was usually one of the last to finish his family calendar page for us, no matter how many times we told him when the deadline was! Wonder if his students had that ability to push the deadline back just a bit?
And when Jim stopped in for basketball, he always made time for church. And boy could he sing!!! I loved to share a songbook with him and listen to his voice. That’s just one more thing Jim did and did well. He left that with his family, a strong faith that will not be shaken, even as the days without him grow long. Their faith is strong and God will protect them.
As I sat at his calling hours and then the funeral and as I have read the many pages of print, I have learned soooooo much more about this man I called my cousin. His students loved his corny jokes and his passion for science! He was gentle, I can’t count the number of times I heard that word used to describe Jim. His students often called him D.J. Mills! Jim…. D.J. Mills…..never would have believed that one! He was always willing to go the extra mile for his students as well as his family! And if you had a question about anything, he would always look for the answer.
Jim left behind a wonderful wife and 3 children, and we can’t forget his 1 and only grandson! He was soooo excited when he was about to become a grandson. “Can’t you just wait and do the calendar after he’s born?” (He was due at the end of December!!!) But he laughed and said he understood that we had a deadline to meet. His family can smile and know that Jim’s DASH was filled from end to end. He never worried about himself; it was always about someone else.
I’m sure when I hear a corny joke, no matter who tells it; I will always think I should make a note to tell that one to Jim, as he would love it. They even told one of his jokes at the funeral! I could go on and on and on, but we all have memories we’d rather not share, that we want to treasure in our hearts. But it sure made me think, what am I doing for my DASH??? And what are you doing for yours?

Here are a couple of Jim’s jokes…enjoy!

Why can’t a bicycle go as fast as a car? It’s 2-tired!

What did the number zero say to the number eight? Nice belt!

What goes underground at 80 miles per hour? A mole on a motorcycle!

And sometimes he just would say a phrase that made you stop and think:

There are 3 kinds of people in the world…those who understand numbers, and those who don’t!

My church accepts all denominations, but prefers twenties!

42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot!

Bloopers were also a favorite of his. His son Robert told me that his college computer is full of these jokes, phrases and all kinds of things to make you laugh!

So now that you’ve heard a tiny bit of Jim’s dash, what are you doing about yours? It doesn’t have to be huge; it’s often the little things that people will remember the most. So don’t wait until it’s too late, start adding to your dash today, and let God lead the way.

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