Empty Chairs at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2013
Thanksgiving 2013. In the center of the picture is Grandma Lorraine. Her chair is now empty and she is missed.

My recollections of sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving are filled with potent memories, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins galore. Eventually, the table configuration added my own family; a wife and children. As the passage of time added people to the table, it also took some away. In my mind’s eye, there are empty chairs at the dinner table, precious places where family members once sat. Their chairs never leave nor are they filled again. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, several cousins, my mom, and my wife have all passed away since my first Thanksgiving. Each are remembered and missed deeply. At the same time, chairs have been added around the table for children and grandchildren. My remarriage added even more chairs for a new wife, step-children, and new in-laws. Sometimes we have visitors to the table and some of these visitors become adopted, given a permanent chair. My table is really, really big. Thanksgiving meals and other family traditions seem to exemplify life. When we gather we remember those who are no longer with us while, at the same time, we are initiating new members into the family. The family gathering at Thanksgiving is a picture of the chain of life— forever stretching from the past to the future. In a few hours, we’ll gather at the table for a feast but it’s really about the relationships. It’s a time of thankfulness for God’s blessings, thankfulness for lives shared. It will be a time of laughter and telling stories. It will be a time to remember those who once filled the empty chairs. It will be a time to welcome a new suitor to the table; time will tell if his seat becomes permanent. Our dinner will be a moment in time, a snapshot of our link in the chain of life. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll enjoy a slice of pie…with whip cream. Happy Thanksgiving!

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