Our Empty Chairs

This Christmas we are enjoying having Maggy’s parents with us. They are aging rapidly (aren’t we all?) and we are enjoying the privilege of caring for them for a few weeks. We are also enjoying having my mom here in Monroe with us. She moved here a few weeks ago and is still settling in at her new home. While many families have their children coming in for visits, ours are unable. So we will just have our parents over.

I know that my mother can’t help but think of her husband, who has been gone for two years now. We think of Harold too, but also our son John Robert. It’s been two and a half years since we lost him.

Christmas is a time of reflection, joy, and tears. We have many choices about how to do this. We could remain maudlin and weep through the days. For many still fresh in grief, that is exactly what they will do. If that is what you need to do, then do not feel you should put on an act for your friends. They will understand.

We’ll gather for family meals together, and there will be empty chairs at the table. In those chairs used to be people that we loved. We laughed with them and lived with them. Now they are gone.

I’m not sure the chairs are really empty, though. There, in the place of our loved ones, are thousands of memories stored away in our minds. Those memories are unlocked at surprising times and we recall things that we’d forgotten. Just strands of thoughts about some happening, something someone said, or some smell…some song. Memories are beautiful gifts that we find along our way.

As a Christian I do not believe those chairs are empty at all. My Abba has promised that He will walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death. Sometimes I get to thinking that this life is all there is. My sorrows paint the canvas of my life with blue tones and dark images. Good thing I’m not the Artist of my soul. He is making something beautiful and one day I will see it in completion. Until then, I cannot count the tears that have run across my cheeks – but He can. So I trust Him with my hurt and I also accept from Him gifts of joy and peace and contentment.

I am not pretending that this solves the big questions of life and heart. I am not sure I need to solve those mysteries. I really just have today. I’ll spend it loving the people surrounding me. One day my chair will be empty too. But not really. In my place will be memories that I’ll make today with people that are here …that I love. The sorrow that lies just under the surface cannot keep me from having a Merry Christmas.

Because the chairs are not really empty.

~John

(Here are some encouragements about making it through the holidays when your heart is hurting.)

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