Cherishing the chair

In 1987 Mr. Lynch was my future wife’s high school chemistry teacher. He once said to me “Someday, she is going to make somebody a good wife.” Mr. Lynch was right but I would add after 28 years of marriage that she has been much more than a good wife. She is an excellent wife, mother, friend and so much more to me and many other people.

All that Stacey ever wanted in life was to be married and have a family. This was truly her main desire and ambition as a 19-year-old woman. On September 17th, 1988 that journey began for us. The next October our daughter Jordan arrived, in 1992 our beloved son Jacob was born and then came our Jared in 1994.

Those years were filled with difficulty but also filled with family blessings. Stacey’s parents lived close by in the country home she was raised in. Our family was growing with nieces and nephews and the hub for all the hubbub was the home of g-pa and g-ma. We built a house near them on family property and soon after so did Stacey’s sister Lorri.

It was spring of 2013 that Stacey and I were preparing ourselves for the empty nest. Jared would soon leave for college in the fall. Little did we know how the family nest would actually empty beginning that terrible May evening. Lorri’s only son Justin overdosed less than a mile away from our homes. Granny fell at the nursing home that December, breaking her hip and passed only days afterward. I received a frantic call from Stacey on March 26th, 2014 that Jacob our son died in the basement of our home. He overdosed on prescription meds. Six weeks later Stacey’s mother slipped and fell from their truck hitting her head, and she too quickly passed from this life.

In twelve terrible months everything in our family households were turned upside down. The hub of the family wheel was broken and the connecting spokes felt the fallout. The family grew closer but we were severely fractured and nothing has ever, or will ever, be the same again.

Once again the holiday season is here. November reminds me of family gatherings, food, football, hunting and card games. There was laughter and sometimes the card flew across the table because grandma beat grandpa in a game of Shanghai. I remember the circle that we gathered in every Christmas for the reading of the birth of Christ and to give thanks to him for the year of blessings.

Today I recalled our last 3 Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Year one was so numbing, astonishing and unbelievable. Year two was so raw and painful that going to work on Thanksgiving day was a better choice than celebrating anything. Year three is upon us. We are no longer numb nor are we are in deep grief- we are simply sad. The world around us carries on with normal family life as we adjust to life without loved ones.

The chairs are empty now, the smell of fresh-baked pies is not there. It is silent. Grandma and grandpa’s dormant and vacant home is a silent reminder of what family used to be for us. Death has killed family traditions and we have given life to new ones. In the warmth of these times is the chilling reminder of what it used to be and the things that can never be again.

The ghost of holiday past haunts our household. What I want most to give my wife this Christmas is not available on Amazon. All she wanted in life was family, to be a wife and a mom with a house full of love. 3 years have passed and there are four empty family chairs that remind us of the empty spaces in our hearts. Only heaven can fill an empty heart, it is there that the chairs are occupied and will never to be emptied again. We long for the day to join them in a place where every tear is wiped away. Someday all that Stacey ever wanted in this life will be permanantly provided her in glory. Until then we heal. Until then we happily endure the holidays as best we can. Until then the empty chair brings us sadness. Until then we cherish the chairs that are filled.

Until then Jake….save a chair beside you for your mom and I.

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