The Empty Chair
On November 6th, my whole world changed. I found out that you were gone and nothing has been the same since. I keep expecting you to walk through the door and make everything okay again. I just can’t seem to grasp this new reality without you in it.
The holidays are by far my favorite time of year, but this year feels different. This year I am simply surviving. This year you weren’t at Thanksgiving. Your seat sat empty, haunting me like a bad dream. I put your shirt on it and we all spoke of our favorite memories with you. It’s been weeks since then and I still can’t bring myself to take your shirt off that chair.
I look around the house and see beautiful Christmas decorations that usually bring me joy. I see festive ornaments hung on the tree that holds wonderful memories, but my heart remains broken. I see stockings, presents, blessings and love all around me, but my eyes keep staring back at that empty chair.
Last Christmas I made you hot cocoa as we waited for breakfast to be ready. You played fetch with our dog over and over again. You watched the kids open their presents smiling at their enthusiasm. I can still hear the sound of your laughter as my kids would shout, “I’ve always wanted this!” after almost every single gift.
The holidays, the table and the memories just won’t be the same this year. You won’t be there to make silly jokes or tease us. You won’t be there to tell me you’re proud of me or give me a big bear hug as you head out the door.
Every day I thank God for your life Daddy, but it was too soon. You were so strong and full of life. You took care of everyone. I had so much left to say to you. You could always fix anything, but you can’t fix this and I desperately wish you could.
I don’t understand why you had to die. I trust in God’s plan, but it hurts and I’m tired of pain. Christmas is almost here and the days keep passing like normal, but nothing feels normal. I try to smile for the kids as we decorate our gingerbread house, string up our lights and celebrate our favorite season. I try to remember the happy times and focus on the good, but with grief, I’m learning that there are triggers everywhere.
I already bought your present, but now I can’t give it to you. I see your favorite brand of iced tea or hear a song that reminds me of you and tears well up in my eyes. Your house is still my childhood home and it holds so many cherished memories, but when I walk through the door your absence is heavy and loud. I close my eyes and see you sitting at your desk or walking through the door, but when I open my eyes, your absence remains.
I keep reliving the phone calls, your time at the hospital and the doctors’ words when they told us you wouldn’t wake up. Your face had color, you looked so full of life, it just didn’t make sense. We held your hands and prayed. Mom kissed your forehead and I cried on your shoulder for the last time. Then you were gone, just like that.
I’ve learned that grief is incredibly consuming. Everything around you feels so strange and unnatural. I’ve watched those around me grieve in different ways as they’ve come to terms with the loss of their father, father-in-law, grandfather, husband and friend. I watch mom grieve and miss you so deeply that it pains me in ways I can’t describe. She is strong and her faith is solid, but your love story got cut short.
When someone you love dies, a part of you goes with them. God comforts you as you mourn and the grief you feel changes each day, but the world will always feel different. The holidays seem to magnify that fact. Traditions feel different, songs trigger memories and yet somehow…life goes on.
Those who grieve during the holidays know these overwhelming emotions all too well. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season, I hope you can find joy in the pain. I pray you let go of expectations and remember that it’s okay to not be okay. You are not alone, no matter how lonely you might feel.
Grief is incredibly difficult and depression is common during the holidays. Be kind and patient with yourself. Nothing will ever fill that empty seat your loved one once sat in, but there is comfort to be found in the memories they left behind.
Your seat may remain empty, but thanks to you Dad our hearts are full of the love and memories you left behind. This Christmas will be hard, but I promise to try and smile for you. I promise to tell stories about you and remember your playful, grumpy, silly and loving demeanor. I promise to be grateful for all the past holidays we spent together. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we will also celebrate the life you lived. Your chair may still be empty, but I am confident that you have an even better one in Heaven.