The Empty Chair

empty chair with man's old shoes in a stone room.Two chairs once side by side, both having worn away markings in the carpet suggesting years of permanence.

Perfectly sited for viewing pictures that hang neatly on the walls revealing two lives shared together. These chairs have stories, and if they could speak they would tell you 43 years worth of late night conversations, midnight snacks, newspapers, coffee, and hand holding. Yes, lots of hand holding. At one time, these chairs were solace for the two people.

Now, they are painful reminders of what was.

Using her cane to point, she states, “I would like them back together.” You see these chairs have been separated for some time pulled apart and placed in different rooms. In their place a brown metal hospital bed has now worn its markings into the carpet. Today, the bed was disassembled and carried away as it is no longer needed. Now there is nothing but an empty space. “Do you think you could help me,” she asks. “Sure, just tell me where you want them.” As I begin pushing and pulling them one at a time I am instantly aware of their smell and texture and it’s in this moment I realize what is happening in this sacred space. Like a shattered glass can no longer hold its contents neither will these chairs absorb any more stories…some things really can’t be fixed.

Having found their original markings using the carpet to navigate my way she sits down heavy, as if all the weight in the world now rests on her lap. Labored breathing with dramatic pause she asks…

“Chaplain, tell me how do I live the rest of my life with an empty chair?”

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