For me, this empty chair was my way of making sure that no matter how crowded or busy schedules became in our lives, the people who are no longer here like my mother-in-law, my own mother and father, and more recently my grandmother and grandfather, would always have a seat in our home, hearts and gatherings. There would always be this green chair, unoccupied, waiting for them. This painting became a ready reminder of each of them; somehow serene and welcoming in the memories of us sitting together in other times, laughing, living, loving.
As Thanksgiving approaches and I am the one to plan the meal, cook the turkey and coordinate the family guests, I especially miss these women of our family who came before me. In years gone by, at our simple farm house, it would be my grandmother and mother who led the way in preparing the family meal. Tables would fill the heated front porch and kitchen, awaiting the collection of related and un-related family and friends that made our home their holiday destination.
For several years now, I have found myself in the position of being the elder woman and matriarch in our family. The smiles, laughter and sheer competence in the kitchen of the women who came before me and left too soon are deeply missed. Their wisdom for handling everything from the art of cooking egg noddles, to solving life’s ever-present challenges or simply lending a sympathetic ear is no longer close at hand. I miss them and the light they shone on this family so very, very much.
This week, as the home fills with younger generations of family for another Thanksgiving and I gaze uncertainly still at the old recipes cooking slowly in the oven, I know I will look at this chair on the wall across a crowded room and remember again how blessed and thankful I am to have had these beautiful, caring and wise family members in my life. While they are gone now, at this home and hearth, there will always be an empty seat reserved and a place for memories of how much they added to this blessed family.