Empty Chairs

It has been several months since I sat in these chairs in our backyard on Turkey Creek. These wooden, adirondack chairs have long been our vantage point to the natural world and a reflection place for the soul, comparable to the healing sought on the proverbial therapist’s couch. On the edge of this serene marsh growth and renewal take place. As the tides ebb and flow daily so have emotions, depending on the daily struggle to ponder or the joyful event to celebrate. As a result, many words have flowed from my pen to the pages of my journals through the nearly two decades of life here. I watched our children grow up, prayed for their well being and gave thanks for countless blessings, including welcoming grandchildren into the world. I grieved the deaths of my parents and worked on many issues, seeking solace and shelter from life’s storms. Likewise, laughter from joyful hearts soared with the hawks and eagles above the fray. Thirty years of marriage recently celebrated have also been the focus in these chairs which have served as a crucible for the last eighteen years where loving and suffering stirred in a bittersweet mixture of joy and pain. Thankfully, our love rises to the surface and keeps heart connections growing stronger and deeper, no matter the grief or turmoil that has befallen souls in a sometimes dark world.

The beauty of this place is cherished and respected but it has its problems due to tidal changes and floods. This reality hit home last fall when South Carolina experienced the worst flooding in centuries, donned the 1000 Year Flood. Water filled these empty chairs for five days, as well as the property and street. I was grateful that our home stayed dry even though the studio garage and crawl space under the house did not. Around the state we were at the mercy of mother nature and it brought back memories of surviving Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Flood water was not the issue for us then nor did we have to leave our home permanently. However, the anxiety and fear was high as I was nine months pregnant and we considered my water breaking in the path of a hurricane as a good  reason to evacuate. Living in the aftermath of childbirth or a natural disaster leaves indelible marks in the memory no matter the time that has passed. Great nuisances of daily life in the aftermath of either event are seen through the lens of gratitude for life sustained and protected from utter destruction, teaching lessons in not sweating the small stuff. Nevertheless, in the physical world of our current home, the tides get higher and chronic moisture issues affect the long-term health and safety of living here. The future is yet unknown but the possibility of letting go of the home we love and moving to a new home is a bittersweet change to consider.

Over the last few months the thought of sitting in the once reassuring laps of the chairs increased anxiety not lessened it, making them truly empty. I avoided them because the memories of the flood were too recent and time needed to pass for their healing effects to override the fear. Also, I’ve been very busy otherwise making it easy to do so. Recently, I sat in them for the first time since they were drenched in water and I was “flooded” with good memories from better days, the days when children’s laughter filled the air. In spite of becoming wobbly and more fragile from fluctuating tides and temperatures, the chairs still hold these happy memories. They may be too weak to survive a move, bringing their function and purpose into question. Either they will need to be fixed or new chairs may have to replace them from a different vantage point where concepts like “place,” “home,” and “purpose,” can be contemplated and redefined anew. Given what I have lived through so far, God has always provided and He will now. Change is a fact of life and the more it can be embraced with open arms, the better it will be. God’s grace and mercy will keep us in the shelter of His love.

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