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An Empty Chair at the Table

Bonnie Moss

December 9,2011 (c)

Many of us are aware of the proverbial empty chair at the table. Many holidays come and go long after a loved one departs from this life. But of all the holidays, Christmas without a loved one comes with a deep sadness.

Death robs us of our loved ones. No one can escape the Grim Reaper. Sorrow envelops us when someone we love dies. We grieve, we experience deep emotional upheaval. Some find it difficult to let go and move on. Some pay homage by leaving a chair empty. It is not just around the dining room table that family is aware of the obvious absence. It can also be felt in the living room where the celebration continues. The empty chair can momentarily drown the festive mood of the moment. There is nothing wrong with this. Many of us remember our loved ones most especially during family gatherings or other celebrations.

It is not surprising that a flood of memories come rushing at the dinner table. Letting go is easier said than done. We treasure precious moments around the table when our loved ones sat down with us. A celebration should serve as a means to remember with love and perhaps a smile especially at the dinner table. The meal and all the trimmings could evoke fond memories in keeping with the joyous occasion. Simple things around the table can trigger wonderful moments shared with the loved one. I remember a dear brother-in-law who put a lottery ticket under the placemat. He would graciously ask everyone at the end of the meal to scratch the tickets. Win or lose, it was fun.

We express our grief, our pain and our sorrow in different ways. Our loved ones left us memories. Somehow, death obscures the sad times and the bad times. This is a blessing. We get a chance to focus on the good times, the good memories, the laughter shared. Realistically, there is no point in hanging on to unpleasant memories. No one that has ever walked on this Earth can claim perfection. Life is a cycle of ups and downs. There is happiness. There is also sadness. Hand in hand with success can be failure. Death can bring harmony to a family, if we let it. It can banish the discord, the estrangement, the dismay or dis-illusion. Death can soften a hardened heart.

Holidays bring out sadness and loneliness many years later. Some are affected more intensely than others. The death of a young child is tragic, so is the death of a young mother, elders or spouse. The memory never fades. Every birthday, every family celebration is a grim reminder of the lost promise of youth, shared hopes and dreams, nevermore to feel their touch or warm embrace.

We need to remember our loved ones with respect. Honor the memories they left behind. Cherish the blessing of the love and a life they shared with us. Treasure the symbolic empty chair.

... .to my family and friends- may the tears of sadness turn to pearls of joy knowing that our loved ones are peacefully and lovingly looking down at us always.

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