We found ourselves with an empty chair in our home almost fourteen years ago. Dinner time became such a severe reminder of our grief. We always set four plates at each meal. We each had our place at the table. Then, in a matter of 30 short hours, our family was forever changed by Scott's accident.
There were times early on that I instinctively included Scott in the count as we set the table for special occasions ~ oblivious of my mistake until someone graciously made me aware of it. It was just normal to count Scott among the guests, especially at holidays and birthday celebrations. But the normal we had always known was never to be again.
As Christmas draws near, I am aware that many homes have an empty chair as families prepare to celebrate the season. Many may be feeling this void for the first time; some have faced it for years. Setting the Christmas table can be as much a holiday tradition as trimming the tree ~ deciding who sits next to whom, and making the table a place that invites everyone to nourish their bodies and their souls as they participate in the family traditions.
My heart is heavy for those of you who have empty chairs this Christmas. Some of you, like me, have an empty chair because you have placed someone precious in the arms of God. Some are praying even now for their runaway to come home and take their place at the table. Some have a loved one serving in the military in far off places. And yes, there are some families who harbor unresolved conflicts and those empty chairs serve as a reminder of broken relationships which need to be mended.
My cousin has not lost a child to death but he has three empty chairs this Christmas, and he is definitely feeling the void. He shared a wonderful idea with me this morning. His son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter are missionaries serving in Europe and they will not be home for the holidays. So my cousin purchased large picture frames to hold recent photographs of his son’s family. This year, my cousin is placing the frames around the home to include in spirit those who cannot come home in person.
Well, I am considering including Scott once again in the count this year. I am thinking about setting a place at his empty chair. I really think I want to make our memories of Scott a part of the celebration. In reality, no one who gathers around our table is unaware of the void created by Scott's death. So why not create a new normal? Why not set a place for him? Why not?
Yes, this Christmas there will be an empty chair and a place setting with a photograph of Scott as part of our table setting. We will remember and laugh at Christmases past, like the year he coined the term glassables for those ornaments that could break. We may shed some tears at what might have been as we long to experience a reunion with him once again. But I am convinced, when the meal is finished and we push our chairs away from the table, we will have smiles on our faces because Scott’s chair was pulled up to the table one.more.time, and we treasured what he brought to our lives.
Do you have an empty chair at your table?
Why not set a place for someone, add a photograph, and speak the name?
Why not nourish your soul this Christmas with some precious memory work?