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Empty Chairs

2009-12-20 14.12.02

This past weekend, hubby and I celebrated our 55th anniversary with a short trip to Oklahoma City. One of the places we visited was the Oklahoma State Memorial–site of the Murrah building bombing in April of 1995.

Perhaps the most heart wrenching scene for me was the row upon row of empty chairs..memorials to those who died that day. We saw people standing, weeping, taking pictures, holding hands. And it was so very, very quiet, even with the crowd milling around.

This upcoming holiday time is a difficult time for so many. Even though they may be in a crowd with others, their tables laden with food, the empty chair that symbolizes a loved one tugs so deep on the memories and the hearts–and there is no time limit.

The chairs on the lawn of that memorial represented tiny ones who never had the chance to grow–and now, 18 years later, serve as a reminder to the parents and extended family how much they missed. To some it was a husband, father, brother, significant other–or wife, mother, sister and that someone very special.

The empty chairs on the lawn represented lives who were taken senselessly, tragically, hatefully. But there are many, many many empty chairs across the world representing loved ones who died protecting our freedoms, protecting our homes or the lives others. For some it was the result of a disease they have yet to find a cure for, or an anomaly that made their lives so fragile from birth. Some lived long full lives, some died in the womb.  Men and women, boys and girls, whose families still mourn whether it be a decade, a day or an hour since their passing.

We are celebrating Thanksgiving on this coming Sunday. With two firefighters, on different shifts, it was the only time we could all be together. Our oldest son and his wife host our Thanksgiving celebration–and this year we start out with a breakfast. Son #1 says “it will be a day to be remembered.” And so it will be. We will laugh and eat and hug and dread the time of parting, and yes–we will indeed remember and perhaps even smile, or cry, over some of those precious memories.

I am the last one of my immediate family. I was with both my parents and my brother when they died. I was with our oldest daughter when she went to Glory, and I was home alone when I took the phone call that our youngest daughter was with Jesus.

Empty chairs. Empty hearts–yet so full because of God’s never failing goodness.

My biggest question…what kind of empty chair will I leave behind? Oh, I pray it will be full of fun memories, silly stories. I would hope they would remember that even if I scolded, I also wept and prayed and loved them all unconditionally.

And no doubt the grands will be relieved to know I can’t creep on their face book accounts from heaven!!

road 2 we like!

Five things not to say to someone who is grieving.

1. Call me if you need anything.

And I am thinking    “I have no idea what I need”

Or    “ I need so many things I know you wouldn’t ever be able to do them all”

Or    “I need my husband back, can you give me that?”

The reality is there are a lot of things, but rarely will I ask.  Right now, I’d just love it if you would take charge and say “I’ll be over tomorrow evening and we’ll tackle that thank you list together, ok?

2. Give it time, it will get better.

And I am thinking:  “How can you know that, you’ve never lost a husband.”

Or     “But it’s NOW and I am hurting. I don’t care about later.”

The reality is it probably will get easier in time.  The loss becomes less acute.  Time fills the space with other things, but the hole in your heart doesn’t go away. Better to say.  “This is hard. And I can’t know because I haven’t been through this yet, but I care about you and its ok with me if you cry.”

3.   God always takes home the ones he loves the most

And I’m thinking:  “Really! and where does it say THAT in the Bible”

Better to say: “I am glad to know that your husband was saved and that the Bible tells us he is in heaven with God right now. I know that doesn’t make you miss him less, though, and it’s ok if you are kind of mad at God right now for taking him. I think I would be too.

4. . I’m praying for you

Although this isn’t a bad thing to say, it may be much more comforting if you can focus on a specific thing that you will pray about and express that.  An example would be:  When I go to bed tonight I am going to pray and ask God to give you the ability to relax and sleep also.  In fact, I’ll just do that every night for a while.

5. Nothing

Most people say nothing because they either don’t know what to say or they are afraid that they will upset the person.  (They seem to be doing ok so let’s not upset them by mentioning it)

The reality is:        I never forget.  It hurts when I think you have.

Even if I cry, you will help me to heal if you acknowledge my loss.

Later, it will make me feel great when you remember my loved one and say so.

And the best thing to say that I have ever heard:  “I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what you need to hear.  But I am here.”

Has someone said something to you when you were hurting that really helped?  What was it? Will you share?