There were two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving gathering this year. Aunt Peggy and Aunt Carolyn are no longer with us, and this is the first holiday season without them. I think of my cousin Elaine, and my friend Lewiss, who are missing Miss Reba this season. And so many others. My article in last week's Journal spoke of our losses. Here's the article. Hugs to all my friends who also have empty chairs at your tables.
The turkey is gone, and the pumpkin pies are but a sweet memory. Black Friday bargains are waiting to be wrapped, and Christmas trees are going up in homes all over town. The holiday season is officially upon us! Twinkling lights reflect in the eyes of excited children, as the anticipation is almost more than they can bear. A friend on Facebook recently posted a photo of a vintage Sears Christmas catalog. How many of us remember poring over its pages as kids, dreaming of the toys we’d find under the tree? The rush of adrenaline we’d feel at the sight of that jolly old Santa? Even all these years later, those Santa pictures conjure up happy memories of childhood. I vividly remember a “Night Before Christmas” coloring book, and a new box of crayons. Hours were spent coloring at my grandmother’s dining room table, being careful to stay between the lines. Every now and then, one of the adults with sit and color with me for a while. What is it about a new box of crayons and coloring book that brings about such pleasure? The smell of new crayons never fails to take me back to those days, and coloring with my own grandchildren is one of the few activities from my childhood that we can enjoy together.
For most of us, the holidays are synonymous with family. As children, we are focused on the excitement factor- the lights, the hustle and bustle, and, of course, the gifts. At some point, the childhood magic fades, and we begin to understand the deeper meaning, and experience a new kind of magic. The kind of magic that makes us tear up at Publix commercials on TV. The soldier returning home in time for Christmas dinner. The new baby’s first Christmas, all decked out in their precious outfits. The family who realizes that this will be the last holiday spent with a loved one. The long-overdue reconciliation of a strained relationship. For some families, the only time everyone gets together is at the holidays. We look forward all year to the time when we can sit down together and share a meal. While our tables may not be Publix commercial-worthy, I doubt any of us would trade our family gatherings for the picture-perfect scenes that invoke such emotions on TV.
And yet, while we are focusing on all our blessings and loving on our families, we need also to remember those who are hurting. As unfathomable as it seems, there are people who do not share in our bounty of family members, and the warmth of hearth and home. The sound of bells and the sight of red kettles outside stores during the holidays is an ever-present reminder of those in need.
Then there are those who, though they have no lack of necessities, are sad and lonely during the holidays. I can’t imagine spending the holidays alone – yet there are those who endure the loneliness year after year. Day after day the loneliness haunts them – though more acutely so when colorful lights are twinkling, and Christmas music permeates the airwaves.
There were two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving table this year. We lost two beautiful ladies within four months of each other, my Aunt Peggy, and my Aunt Carolyn. Aunt Peggy was my mom’s best friend. The holidays, while wonderful and joyous, also accentuate the absence of those we love. We all know someone who is hurting this year because of the loss of someone they love. I think of a good friend, who lost her battle with cancer, and the devastated husband and best friend she left behind. So many empty chairs. Loss is part of life. Death, divorce, estrangement, deployment. So many reasons for empty chairs.
This year, as we celebrate the Christmas season, may we first remember that Jesus Is The Reason For The Season, and then may we remember to pray for those who will be seated at tables with empty chairs.