Filling the Empty Chair

Dear Reader:

Isn’t one of the hardest things in life … returning home after the loss of a family member, parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend… and looking around the table at the empty chair that once held our loved one at the kitchen table for daily meals and gatherings?

Even though today when we hear the word ” empty” at Easter we assume the next word will be tomb. Ironically the ” empty tomb” will become the cornerstone for our belief in ever lasting life… a term reborn by the appearance of Jesus Christ to his disciples.

But like us today… there is no doubt that the disciples’ early gatherings to break bread together after Jesus’s ascension felt strange without the physical visual presence of Christ at the head of the table. It is the time when someone recently departed is missed the most.

Tom Barker certainly understood this as he stared at his three young daughters’ faces soon after his wife was killed in a car accident. It was the girls first day back at school and he had made their favorite breakfast-to no avail… the food was just being shuffled from one side of the plate to another. All they did was stare at their mother’s empty chair.

After dropping the children off at school Tom had an idea… he called and canceled his meetings with the insurance company and lawyer’s office. He went home and stared at his wife’s empty chair… tears poured down his face but then he smiled and gave an upward nod-he knew what he should do,

He bought several different bright happy colors of paint and got to work on the wooden kitchen chair… the rest of the day he wrote down ideas on how to turn the empty sad chair into a gift of joy.

That night as the little girls sat down to eat… one chair was missing… their mother’s! Visibly upset they started crying and wanted to know where it was. Their father calmly got up and returned with the brightly colored chair and set it back in their mother’s place at the table.

The girls’ eyes were as big as saucers and soon they were giggling when he told them their mother wanted them to have her new chair and it was now ” The Happy Chair!” Anyone who had a funny story or a special reward day or just wanted to show mommy a piece of art work could sit in it .

The chair was still there twenty-five years later when their father died from cancer… memories came flooding back how that gift from their dad turned their lives around… they would sit there to talk to their mom about their day at school, on birthdays, graduations, engagement announcements and even the announcement of the first grandchild!

One of the girls and her husband decided they wanted to live there now… so the chair, freshly repainted would be open to new conversations and happy proclamations …shared with their mom AND dad!

So until tomorrow… ” As long as we remember a person …they’re not really gone. Their thoughts, their feelings, their memories… they become a part of us.” Cronin

Today is my favorite day-Winnie the Pooh

The Springbreakers are slowly returning… Walsh, Mollie and family from Florida last evening and the Turners today!

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to Filling the Empty Chair

  1. Bernice Sturkie says:

    What a lovely story about missing dear ones and such a positive answer to address our visual empty part of our hearts. I have a old wooden chair that I am going to paint full o f flowers to share daily joys and remembered memories with my sweet and sassy mom. So thankful for your shared soothing life solutions through your “Chapel of Hope.”
    Peace and love,

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