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 all of 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 always know, 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 chair?
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 people 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, the way we deal with the empty chairs is a signal to this current generation of how they'll deal with our empty chair one day. Life matters. And every single person matters.
Additionally, when someone leaves your business or office, how you treat the empty chair matters. It shows if you're building a legacy or if every single person is forgettable and unimportant. Do you trash everyone who leaves? 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 and 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 after the person dies who suddenly comes out in tears and claims they are best friends.
Appreciate the empty chair while the warm body is still sitting in it. 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 told them now.
If there's any great tragedy is this —that people are dying and they 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 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 the 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 just learn to live with a new normal. When people are gone, we have to move on, 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 completely go on as if nothing happened. Don't stuff it in. Mourn and mourn well. For 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.
As 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.
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What a wonderful post! I truly enjoyed your reference to Les Mis. that was one of the many incredibly heart wrenching scenes. You referenced early in your post about how you respond to the empty chair is how students feel you respond when they are gone as well. Even if the student is not there to hear what is being said, the other students are. It is so important to model respect and that every person matters. Excellent, I cannot wait to read more of what you have to write about.
Thanks. And yes, that is true. How we respond to the empty chair matters!