The Chairs


The wooden chairs have finally come home.  Well, to my home anyway.  These particular chairs have been a part of my mom’s family for as long as I can remember.  My earliest memories of the chairs include me sitting next to my “Gram” on a Sunday morning eating St Nick’s (Dutch) cookies and drinking her version of a latte.  Basically, lukewarm coffee with more milk than coffee.  These are no ordinary chairs. On the surface they appear to be just very old empty chairs.  But they are so much more. They are a legacy.  As I look at them for the first time in my home, I could be sad, overcome with grief, or longing for a past that is no more.  But I find myself finding joy in the moments now gone, the memories that they invoke, and the love that envelopes them.  I could be weighed down by grief that comes with loss but I am choosing to rejoice.  Many, many people that I have loved and lost have had the honor of filling these empty chairs. I see the chairs. I remember with great fondness the first time my husband ( safely ‘home’  going on 7 years now) decided to sit next to the women on the Sunday I introduced him to my very large extended family.  The chairs remind me of my mom (safely ‘home’ 4 years) when the grands would begin to rough house near the chairs and she would yell, OH, THE CHAIRS, BE CAREFUL!  Then she would remind them that they had to be careful since someday the chairs would come to my house.  So here they sit in my dining room. I am reminded of the passage in Ecclesiastes 3: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:.  A time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.  I have wept and I have laughed. I have mourned and I have danced.  Some seasons are hard, others are made for rejoicing.  God has made everything beautiful in its time. Once again, I find myself in the midst of a hard season.  My 91 year old father is in his last season of life, his house is being sold, his worldly possessions meted out to family, others, etc. Hence, the chairs now belong to me.  The grief of this season is real, it is emotional, and it is at times intense.  But I have been here before and no doubt I will be here again in the future.  The risk of love means the risk of pain. Becoming a widow at 57 brought a great deal of anguish to my heart.  There were many moments I believed that I would not survive it.  But that is the beauty of love. It helps us find a way through the wretched mess of grief. Grief never ends but somewhere on the path we find ourselves no longer lingering and longing for what has passed but looking forward with anticipation to what is yet to come. So, for the moment, the chairs sit empty but when I glance at them I see the future filled with my daughter, my grandkids, and all my generations yet to come.  All the events that will become part of their memories will be passed on to those who will inherit these beautiful wooden chairs after my time has come and gone.  Grief is part of life.  It can make us bitter or it can make us better.  The choice is up to us.  Will it be painful, will it seem like it is never ending, will it feel like there is no way to survive it? Absolutely, I remember being bitter, angry, and lost.  But the faith legacy instilled in me helped me move forward.  I still leak memories out of my eyes, quite often, I must admit, yet I have found a peaceful coexistence between grief and joy. Yes, it is possible to have both.  It is about doing the hard work of recognizing that you are hurting and that you need others to help you out of the pit you are wallowing in.  It is about allowing yourself to be pulled up out of the darkness by the love and compassion of others. Grief is as individual as the person experiencing it, however, it is impossible to find peace with loss on our own.  We need faith, we need family, and we need dear friends. As the seasons come and go on earth, so do the seasons of our life.  Everyone will have their time to mourn and their time to dance.  Seasons change and so do we. My beautiful chairs serve as a reminder that life goes on.  My gram, my mom, my husband, and my dad no longer sit in the chairs but their legacy is alive as I sit in them.  The chairs my lost loved ones now enjoy are made of pure gold, their legacy of faith is the greatest gift ever given. I have the hope that I too will one day sit in a chair of gold. But for now,  I would wish for everyone to have chairs like mine to remind them that life is good and meant to be lived; not looking backward with longing but being present in the moment and looking with great anticipation to the future.  Today, I sat in my chairs, drank lukewarm coffee with way too much milk, and smiled.


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About the Author

I live in Gowrie, Iowa. We moved from NW Iowa (Hull) 9 years ago. My husband and I were born and raised in that little Dutch community tucked just 45 minutes from 3 state borders. We lived all our married life (33 plus) on 4.4 acres just 3 miles from our families. Moving was difficult but my husband insisted on being closer to our daughter and her family! A teaching job took her from NW Iowa to Central Iowa. We were barely settled — 3 years into the move when he died. Gowrie is a small town located about 1 1/2 hours north of Des Moines. I teach K12 Talented and Gifted Students in the local school district and coach some girls basketball on the side! I serve as a chaplain for my church and before my husband passed away we frequently did marriage mentoring mission work in other countries with a group called International Messengers.  His sudden passing from a massive heart attack at 59, rocked my world! I was not supposed to be a widow at 57!  But here I am almost 6 years later walking the grief journey and learning how to move forward!