The Empty chair

When death comes, it is hard to know when and where the grieving process will begin or end. For some it can start before death happens, for others it comes in waves. Grief is healthy and a necessary thing, but often hard to sit with at times.

My nephew Shane died June 1st. I shed no tears when I got the news from my sister. I knew he had been in pain, and was no longer suffering. Cancer may have taken its toll on his physical body, but he stepped into eternity with Jesus. I have peace in my soul because of that knowledge.

When I talked to my kids, who are all around his same age, I shed a few tears. My momma heart knew they were hurting and there was nothing I could do to ease the pain of losing someone they were close to growing up. I know how hard it is to lose someone close in age. We were separated in distance and phones just don’t provide the physical comfort.

Over the day leading up to the visitation, I shed more tears, but never that soul cleansing kind. The deep cry that can reassure me, I am not just avoiding. I am good at avoiding painful emotions. The tears I shed were few and more for the pain I knew others were experiencing.

Sometimes when that happens, I give myself an out, especially when I have God’s peace. I had told my friend, it is not about me. I won’t let it be. I won’t make it.

I also knew with Shane I couldn’t setttle for avoiding. Growing up, he and his older brother were always at my house. Not that they didn’t have parents actively involved in their lives and extended family, but they were with us most weekends. My kids were close with their cousins, just as I had been with mine. They had the advantage of being close in age.

In addition to my love for him, he was only 26. He hadn’t got to live life. I was also holding out for God to show up in a powerful healing of Shane’s body. I wanted God to show up and show off, because Shane was an amazing person, full of God’s spiritual fruit. He was a light, even when he wasn’t trying to be. I knew I had some feelings I needed to give back to God that only He could handle. But they were not coming.

When I turned into the cemetery for his funeral, seeing the hearse and the graveside setup choked me up. I did not expect to have a meltdown before the service began. The funeral director asked for the family to sit in the chairs. They were trying to get me to sit there and I let them know it was for his parents and siblings. I set out to get them in the chairs.

After his parents and siblings sat there were 3 empty seats. I stood there looking at the seats trying to figure out who needed to sit in them. When I do family counts for things I start with the oldest (or youngest) and make my way through the family. I make sure to include spouses and children, and so it is kind of a systematic habit. I started with the baby because he was sitting next to my sister. I went to look for Shane to get him in the chair next to his brother and I lost it. I had to cover my face and walk away.

I took the tissue from my sister-in-law. I took the hug from my niece and nephew. I held tightly to my granddaughter and let the sobs come. I let the memories flood and count the blessing of having so many with him.

There will always be an empty chair. One for him, one for my parents. I had to place each of them there in my mind so I could be in the moment with my sorrow. So I could be in the moment of his service. So I could hear the beautiful words that my sister had written and pay tribute to his life.

I let God have the anger I have at cancer and that despite all the money that goes to it there is still no cure. I let go of the disappointment that Shane didn’t get a healing miracle this side of Heaven. I let go of all the should’ve and could’ve that like to run through my mind. Shane is with the Lord. He is with his grandparents who he loved dearly. He is completely healed. He is pain free. Despite the empty chair, I will spend eternity with him one day. I know God’s ways are higher than mine, and I know my nephew can see the empty chair where he is waiting for me.

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