Monday, July 11, 2016

The Empty Chairs

My Dear Kaden Layne,

Mommy stood beside the other girls smiling as the picture was taken.  Each of us held up a small charm that we had pulled from the bridal shower cake.  With the ribbon tucked between our fingers, we each held up a different one.  The charm, a gift from the bride.

Mommy's was a tiny silver rocking chair.  The thought of a rocking chair reminded me of grandmas taking it easy on the covered porches of little old towns.  Secretly Mommy wished she had picked a different ribbon to pull.  What would I do with a rocking chair?  How did this little charm say anything about my life at the time?  After all, Mommy had just married Daddy a few years before and we were far from that phase of life.  The dainty charm was tucked safely in the back of my jewelry box.

Ashley & Mike's Wedding ~ June 2008
A few months later it was the big day for this special friend.  For Daddy and Mommy, this would become a pretty special time in our lives as well.  The morning after the bride and groom said their I Do's, Mommy found herself holding a test that said YES!

It had been months of wishing, hoping, dreaming.  Months of disappointment, worry, and even a little grief.  But that three letter word changed it all for Mommy and Daddy.  That was the day Mommy and Daddy will never forget.  That was the day we first learned we would have you!

Over the next few months Mommy and Daddy did the traditional things new expecting parents do. We read.  We planned.  We gloated. We worried. We dreamed of what our little family would be like. When you were born, Mommy and Daddy's hearts felt full.

You at 3 months sitting all by yourself
in Mommy's rocking chair.
That year Mommy got a rocking chair for my birthday and Mother's Day gift from your Donna Ma and Norm Pa. For your first Christmas, your Great Grandma Judy got you a rocking chair of your own.  Your name was embossed on its wood - a tradition started by your great grandma for each new grandbaby.

Your first Christmas at Great Grandma Judy's
with your new rocking chair. 
When you passed away about six months later it was so incredibly hard to see your empty little chair.  It was hard to see everything of yours really. There were so many empty chairs all around us - your high chair, your carseat, even the space in Mommy's grocery cart. Today, there are others -the empty chair at our small kitchen table at breakfast, the empty seat next to your little sister on the roller coaster ride at the kiddie fair, the chair in what might have been your second grade class at Mommy's school. There are empty chairs all around.

Mommy thinks back to all the pictures I have of you in your rocking chair and me in mine.  Those pictures and the tender memories they share are precious to me.  Mommy thinks back to the bittersweet feelings that came when your baby sister began to enjoy the things that were once yours, including those chairs.  I can think of a handful of pictures of her sitting by your window with a smile so big and I can still remember thinking of you.  And now, I can't help but laugh thinking about your adventurous eighteen month old little brother Jack climbing up, cautiously maneuvering to stand big and tall, raising his hands overhead, and squealing with delight! I'm so glad we have those little chairs. Yours still sits by your window in your room.

Your rocking chair still sits by your window in your bedroom.
Such sweet memories of you.
Mommy once heard a sermon from a well-known minister in Louisville.  If Mommy recalls correctly, the sermon was about who you would pick to have dinner with when you got to heaven.  To help illustrate the message the church had a dining room table set up on the stage with different chairs placed around.  One of them was a high chair.  Of course I thought of you. During the message there were references to the people in our families we may have lost over the years.  The overall message focused on the belief that as Christ followers we will see these loved ones again in heaven one day.

When Mommy thinks of that little silver charm I think of your rocking chair and of all the people in my life who have empty chairs too.  That little charm is also a reminder that there will be a day, probably a long time from now when Mommy is old and gray like those little old women on the covered porches.  And one day, there will once again be a rocking chair for you and me to share.

Until then my dear Kaden Layne, I carry you with me...