Rabbitt Burns died at the hands of a friend, in January 2010, in Orange City, Florida. Everyone agreed that Rabbitt was a kind woman that everyone liked. When she failed to show up for her library job one morning, coworkers said she was too dependable to skip work without calling in. A colleague went to her home and found her on the floor, shot. Police observed that breakfast for two was on the table and Rabbitt’s laptop was missing. Tracing the laptop, they found Rabbitt’s ex-boyfriend with it.
Rabbitt’s death hits me in different ways each time I think of her. More memories of different wonderful experiences with her keep bubbling up. I keep thinking of a profound little poem, “The Dash”, by Linda Ellis. The poem takes a look at the way our years are marked on a gravestone. Most often, the years of birth and death, with a dash between them, are right under the name of the deceased. Ellis say basically that it is neither the birth year nor the year of death that is most important. Rather, it’s the dash between. It’s the way you lived your life. Abraham Lincoln expressed something similar, when he said, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Now you may think I am going to wax eloquent about one’s accomplishments in life, the degrees, the honors, the acts, the things one did. I am not. I want to tell you why so many people miss Rabbitt Burns, and why we will remember her with great love and joy for many years: Rabbitt honored everyone. It wasn’t what Rabbitt did that made her extraordinary. It was who she was and how she related to everyone. Rabbitt was kind and attentive. She spoke to each person with a loving regard, often asking thoughtful questions. She intelligently treated each person as though s/he were precious and she was fortunate to be spending time with them. She seemed limitlessly supportive to friends in unhappy times. I have heard her talking to strangers on a CB radio, kindly asking them how their day was going and if they had a long drive ahead. I will long remember her light, sweet tone in signing off, almost singing, “It was sure nice talkin’ to y’all.” Their 18-wheeler pulled up beside our little car briefly, and the two men in the cab waved warmly before going on their way. Rabbitt had transformed their trip with her extraordinary gentle warmth. Will people remember you that way?
What will people say about each of us when we have just died? Perhaps it depends on the qualities we choose to embrace and live out as we fill out that dash between birth certificate and death certificate. Rabbitt Burns, it was sure nice talkin’ to y’all!
● Kebba Buckley Button is a corporate stress management trainer and the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, and the 2012 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core.
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