She was an acquaintance of mine. We were once friends, but time and distance separated us from building our close friendship. Even so, knowing she was on this earth, walking around and smiling, gave me great peace.
When she died, the emptiness I felt was curious to me. She was not a part of my everyday life. We barely spoke, except through facebook. But, there I was, crying my eyes out.
It was then I knew I had to make sense of these feelings. I needed a story to tell. I needed a visual to explain it.
If you have endured the loss of someone dear to you or someone you barely knew, I hope this story will aid your ability to cope with death and the sorrow of an empty chair.
THE BANQUET TABLE
Imagine your life as a banquet table. All of the people you know or have ever known have a place setting.
You are the host.
Your banquet hall may look like a royal room with golden chandeliers, exquisite plates and silver. It may look like a long picnic table in the woods. It is your room to create.
At your table, there is a chair for each of those people you have known. Sitting the closest to you are your most valued of loves: your spouse, child, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Those sitting further down the table are acquaintances. The one girl you worked with in your 20’s. The guy you knew from church. The lady who always had the peppermint candy…and shared. There are those whom have hurt you sitting at this table, too. The guy or girl who cheated on you, the person who stole your money, the person who was mean to you…everyone you have ever known sits at this table.
The table is longer than you first thought.
Some of those sitting at the other end cannot even be seen anymore. They are part of your banquet, and, if you pull out your telescope, you can see them there. You may feel the emotions tied to the memory of this person: good or bad. It doesn’t matter. They sit at your table.
Each place setting has a tiny card with the name of the person who is to sit in the chair. It will always be there. Though, they may be moved down the table, their chair, and their setting, follow them.
At my table is a place setting for my Granny and Pawpaw. They no longer sit at my table, but their place setting and name remains. When I gaze upon their empty chair, I remember the joy and the sorrow. These people sat so close to me for so long. I remember their laughter, their shortcomings, their love.
They have moved on to a bigger and better banquet table. But, somehow, they are still with me. Their absence leaves an empty chair in my life, but the fact they once sat at my table brings me great joy.
Their empty chair is not empty. It is full of memories.
No matter how one feels about the afterlife, what we all know for certain is how death affects us in this life. It leaves space…a void.
Death is unavoidable. We will all have empty chairs at our tables, and, at some point, we will be the empty chair at someone else’s table.
The experience of loosing Juneko helped me see. I did not know her well, but I was thankful she sat at my table. I was thankful for her life.
I was also thankful I had a table to share.
Now, when I look at those chairs filled with those I love most, I embrace the moment. I make more memories. I appreciate the gift of being able to share the meal of life with beautiful people.
Until their chair is empty, I will smile and be glad they they accepted the invitation to my life. And, when their chair is empty, I will have memories to fill their seats. The image of their presence will not fade as long as I have a banquet to host.