Every day, I go around the classroom and greet every child by name, and I inquire about the empty chairs. If a child is out, I want the other kids to know that child is important to me. Sometimes, I'll send an email, or I might need to ask the front office where they are. But I always notice the student, and I always inquire.
Because how I treat the empty chairs is how the rest of these kids know I feel about them when they're gone, too. They are important, and empty chairs matter.
How do you treat empty chairs?
The same thing happens at family Thanksgiving lunch. There are empty chairs there. Grandmother Martin, Granny Adams, Granddaddy Adams, and Uncle Caroll. They emptied their chair, and Thanksgiving will never be the same again. The empty chairs matter. When we pray, we thank God for those who sat in the empty chairs and send a message to our kids that we do not forget those who mean something to us.
Essentially, how we deal with the empty chairs signals this current generation of how they'll deal with our empty chairs one day. Life matters. And every single person matters.
Additionally, how you treat the empty chair matters when someone leaves your business or office. It shows if you're building a legacy or if everyone is forgettable and unimportant. Do you trash everyone who goes? Or do you work hard to celebrate the wins and wish them well?
How you treat the empty chair matters.
There's a haunting scene in Les Miserables where the young hero, Marius, sings the song Empty Chairs and Empty Tables. He knows his life will never be the same because those chairs are empty where they used to laugh, converse, and talk.
Life can change in an instant.
Tell People You Appreciate Them While Their Ears Can Hear It
So I'm going to ask you something today. Don't be like the kid who suddenly comes out in tears after the person dies and claims they are best friends.
Appreciate the empty chair while the warm body is still sitting in it. While it is not empty.
Tell people you appreciate what they mean to you now. It may be awkward but why not? When tragedy happens or when they leave, you tell them now.
If there's any great tragedy, it is this —that people are dying and don't know what they mean to us.
We will all leave an empty chair one day. What we leave behind are the memories of the mind. One of us might be the last voice singing about empty chairs and empty tables. But even when chairs are empty, we still have hope because we still have life!
Some cultures deal with death better than others. How we mourn empty chairs sets a precedent for how our empty chair will be grieved.
Remember the Empty Chair
When my friends sing no more, I will make new friends. But old friends always have a place in my heart. Their chair will always be empty at the table. I can replace my couch when it gets old, but not these people. Each of them was unique. No one can fill their place.
Family. Friends. Colleagues. Students.
Irreplaceable. We learn to live with a new normal. We have to move on when people are gone, yet we can celebrate and remember.
How will you handle the empty chair?
There would be the biggest tragedy of all. That is, if the person who sat in the chair meant something to you, and for you to ultimately go on as if nothing happened. Don't stuff it in. Mourn and mourn well. How we deal with death or loss is often how we deal with life.
How we respect the empty chair matters.
There are empty chairs and empty tables. What song will you sing in tribute? How will you live life differently?
How do you treat the empty chair?
The answer may say more about how you feel about life and people than anything else you do.
When my Grandmother Martin died, I will not stop living, but I will start living better. For when my day comes to leave my chair and travel from reality to glorious eternity, I hope I leave behind people I touched and encouraged in the short puff-of-smoke life I lived here.
Got an empty chair? Treat it well.
Know someone that when their chair is empty, you'll feel the pain? Tell them now.
Feel time passing? Live your life as a legacy of a life well lived. Write the story only you can write.
Empty chairs matter. So do full ones. Every single human being is a precious gift to be treasured and loved. May we live out that legacy.
Originally published: February 9, 2018. Updated: Thursday, August 31, 7:05 am
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