Empty Chairs

There’s a song toward the end of the musical, Les Miserables, called Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.  It is a lament sung by the survivor of the uprising as he sits in the cafe where he and his friends once dreamed of a new future.  “Empty chairs” has often been used to refer to what people who lose loved once face as they go back to their homes after the person died or when they come to the first big family gathering.  A place at the table is empty where someone once sat.  

This morning, I was participating with our congregation in passing out water to participants and spectators at Ft Thomas’ 4th of July parade and I looked back at where some of our folks were sitting and there were two empty chairs just sitting there.  I remembered how there were two people who had been a part of this event every year but who had died in the last year or so.  Ken was actually the grand marshall of the parade last year but this year, his chair was empty.  I remember having a conversation with Bruce last year about his Philmont belt buckle because my youngest was heading to Philmont a few weeks later on a Scout trip (Bruce’s wife actually gave my youngest the belt buckle after Bruce passed away).  And this year, an empty chair.  

I’m going into a week where I am going to be leading a funeral for another man from our congregation.  Marvin was an amazing man and his presence will be dearly missed by his family and by our congregation.  Another empty chair.  

And within that is part of the struggle of the Christian faith.  We grieve these empty chairs but also trust in the promise of what is beyond this life.  It is the already but not yet that allows us to cry and grieve but also hope and trust.  

In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, John O’Donohue has a beautiful blessing called On the Death of the Beloved where he shares the following passages.  

Though we need to weep your loss, 
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you….

We look toward each other no longer 
From the old distance of our names; 
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves…

May you continue to inspire us: 
To enter each day with a generous heart. 
To serve the call of courage and love 
Until we see your beautiful face again 
In that land where there is no more separation, 
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind, 
And where we will never lose you again.

O’Donohue, John. To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (pp. 170-171). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.
Categories: DeathTags: , , , , , , , ,

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