There were some empty chairs at our table this Thanksgiving, each one bringing its own reflection and remembrances. The year has wrought extreme sorrow in losing and extreme joy in expecting so missing the ones I love resonated a little deeper.
Mikey and Kaci were absent only because her family had come from such a long way to spend the day with "Memaw." The time together with Kaci's family was precious and will always be remembered. Their chairs don't seem quite so vacant when I know they are making memories they will always hold dear. The blessing of marriage is that each partner is part of TWO families. Missing them isn't so hard because I know their hearts really aren't far from home. If home is where the heart is, it can be in more than one place. Though they couldn't share the day with us, they were making memories where their hearts needed to be... In reflection, their chairs really weren't so empty at all.
Elias' chair has been empty at our table several times in recent years because he's served his country in distant lands... All of my children have left empty chairs through the years in pursuit of their purpose. For my Marine sons, MRE's have been a more likely holiday dinner than festive turkey and pumpkin pies, and knowing what they are missing deepens the longing to have them home. A mama's heartstrings always tug in awareness of these empty chairs because a Marine's coming home is never certain. And the unknowing if he is well and at peace or in the midst of conflict weighs heavy. This year, missing him and knowing that he misses his dad even more makes his empty chair seem lonelier because I just want him to know he isn't alone in his sorrow. We all share it together. But knowing this year that he was on a journey that led him out of danger leaves me hoping. He's coming home. From Afghanistan to Hawaii and in a few days...HOME. If home is where the heart is, his heart will be home this year for Christmas--my empty nest will be full though I look on at my fledglings alone now. Looking forward with expectation seeing him face to face reminds me that "coming home" makes the emptiness of Elias' chair seem less empty. Anticipation of his homecoming offers HOPE in place of despair.
Excitement and expectation of meeting our new little Alice Madeline brightens the shadow of that forever empty chair yet the forsaken chair still remains. There's no possibility that he will eventually "come home" and, though many precious others may come and go, no one can fill the void that death leaves behind. There's no escaping it. All one can do is just believe, as Chad reminded us, that there was a special homecoming celebration in heaven this year. In believing, we must remember with joyful acceptance that a chair in heaven no longer sits waiting for him to come home. He sits at a new table with his dad, Grandma, Frenchy, Aunt Dutch, and all those others who have gone before from this world. He may remember but he isn't missing us because he is forever HOME where his heart belongs. How could we ever wish to take that from him?
Though our hearts grieve, we hold on to hope...We remember with sad fondness but we look forward with joyful anticipation of yet another homecoming--our own--when room for one more is made to share in the heavenly feast. We will finally be HOME--the home where our hearts will always be.