The holidays can be a tough time for people who have suffered the loss of a loved one, no matter how much time has gone by. Sitting down at Christmas dinner, I always think of the empty chairs that should be filled by my stepson, my brother, my grandparents; three of whom we lost in one year, all within three months to the day of each other.
Enough time goes by, eventually, to remember Christmases past that were filled with happy, silly, and fun-filled times. Enough pain subsides, eventually, to be able to think about the memories with bittersweet fondness and a little laughter.
But the chairs…they are always there; sometimes as a stark reminder of a loved one’s absence, and sometimes as a gentle nudge telling us they are still sitting there.
Brody’s chair was a Winnie the Pooh chair, that has long since been donated to another deserving little fella. He didn’t make it to the age in which a teenager claims a chair for himself, but there always seems to be a place that is his no matter where we are.
I rocked my infant daughter in the chair that my Papa used to occupy day in and day out, watching his beloved baseball games, and keeping one eye trained on Nana playing solitaire in HER chair in the kitchen.
I’m not sure if my brother ever had a specific chair; his nomadic and addicted life ended tragically at the age of 32. His chair, in my mind, will always be to the left of my father – that’s where he sat at the dinner table when we were growing up. I imagine sometimes I see him there, laughing, like the time we laughed about my dad’s new glasses.
My partner’s grandparents passed away too, Violet in 2008 and Frank in 2011; his first great-granddaughter would be born two years later, to the day. They lived in cottage country, and Granddad gave us the swing in their yard, when Grandma’s passing forced him to give up his country lifestyle. We don’t have the swing anymore, but someone sent me this picture:
it’s not of their swing, but it never fails to make me smile thinking of them swinging after dinner, Grandma feeding her myriad of little creatures that flocked to her.
The holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and angel dates are all times that make the emptiness rear its ugly head. My daughter has given me the gift of life, though, so the emptiness of the chairs isn’t quite as hard to bring out into the light anymore. It will never, ever be easy, but new life brings the ability to heal with it, and the scars will someday become covered in thin, protective layers.
We all have empty chairs, and at any given time of the day, month, or year, those empty chairs come to mind and for a few brief moments they are occupied with happy memories of the people who used to sit in them.
For me, the desire to finally talk about my empty chairs is a step in the right direction.
For all of you, I hope your empty chairs are filled with happy memories this Christmas.