The Empty Chair
Since June 6, when dad left us so suddenly, we have had an empty chair.
The first place I noticed it was walking into his house and seeing the place on the couch where he sat all the time. The blanket I made him last Christmas, draped over the back with no one to warm. It was startling and it took my breath away…and I turned my face so that I wouldn’t have to acknowledge the pain.
A few days later he wasn’t sitting next to my mother-in-law in church. She was there but he wasn’t. I pushed through the emptiness to encourage and lift her up and I turned off the pain so that I could be strong for those around me.
He wasn’t in the driver’s seat of his new car, a car that he never got to drive. I remember him in his old car, teaching my daughter how to drive. I see him in his van hurling down I65 as the rest of us hold our breath in fear. I see him in the ugly brown Pinto he used to drive. But not anymore.
He is not in my kitchen, he isn’t sitting on my couch, I can’t see him on my patio or in my pool or at any birthday celebration we’ve had since June; not at Emily’s or mine or Wesley’s or even his own. He wasn’t there. But I turned away and felt all the business of life and the attended to all the stresses on my plate because that was safer.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m afraid that I can’t turn away anymore.
There is an empty chair and it is his.
My tears fall with no end.
My tears fall for all the little things that won’t. Seeing him carry in a crazy amount of boxes filled with goodies, taking his coat, giving him a long hug, hearing him say “Happy Thanksgiving.” My tears fall because no one will be crowding me at the stove or asking “am I in your way?” or giving my dad that look that says, “I got her!”
Every day since June 6 has been a first. The first June 7 without him, the first June 8, the first June 9…etc… Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving.
Not once through his battle did he ever curse God. He wouldn’t even allow me to complain or express my feelings that God was being unfair without reminding me that God was good.
My reading today was from
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
These words describe dad’s outlook and his countenance. He would always tell me that I shouldn’t be consumed with the current circumstances but to rejoice in God’s faithfulness.
It’s not going to be easy this year.
I can’t turn away from this emptiness any longer. It will be impossible to not see his empty chair. It’s real. We are here, he is not.
Fighting against being consumed sounds almost too hard.
It is ok to let the tears fall, they must, right?
I will walk through tomorrow with my heart aching because I miss dad. I’m praying my eyes will be open though as well. Open to God’s great love and compassion. Open to the people who are still coming and praying they will crowd me in my kitchen, for dad’s sake.
The empty chair is no longer just an analogy, it is very real. It hurts.
Dad would tell me, “Life is hard…but God is good.”
Sometimes, that’s all you have.