The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair

On the eleventh of November 2013 Horace, Rachel, Leah and I went to IKEA in Belfast to buy some bits and pieces for our new house. Leah wasn’t allowed in public places because of her immunity, but IKEA that Monday morning was almost deserted, so we felt that it was safe for her to come with us. Leah loved shopping.

Ikea trip

It was a challenge to fit both the people and all the purchases into our car afterwards, but my husband is amazing when it comes to packing the car. It comes from years of practice being married to a woman who doesn’t ‘travel light’!

packed car after Ikea

Amongst the items we bought were six folding kitchen chairs. Why did we need six? Because, in 2013, we were a family of six – two parents and four children.

Now, unless we have visitors, one of those kitchen chairs remains folded, unused, in our Utility Room.Folded chair Now that it’s December, we are once again in the season when for many families there is a heightened awareness of the empty chair.

Along with our awareness of an empty chair, we will have Leah’s eighteenth birthday on New Year’s Eve and the second anniversary of her final hospitalisation and her death in December/January.

This morning I read a blog post by John Pavlovitz and he says it better than I could in his recent blog post entitled Holidays and Empty Chairs: 

“The holidays are a time for recognizing our profound fullness, of purposefully dwelling on the abundant overflow we find ourselves in and being grateful.

Our houses and our bellies bulge to capacity and we gleefully overindulge in food and friends and laughter. We fill ourselves to bursting with all the things and the people that make life glorious and make the pain bearable.

This is a season where we inventory our lives and readily acknowledge all that is good and sweet and right.

It is about celebrating presence.

But not for you. Not right now.”

Click HERE to go to his blog and read the rest of this post.




Sunday – it used to be my favourite day of the week. It was a day for the six of us to be together whenever possible. Like this happy Sunday in November 2013 after Leah and I had returned from spending 14 weeks in Bristol.


Now it has become the hardest day in the week for me – the day when the “empty chair” seems most obvious. Yesterday was the first Sunday since Leah died that I baked sponge pudding. It’s easy to make and a family favourite, but in recent years Leah did a lot of the baking in this house.
I asked the kids what flavour they wanted and they replied “chocolate chip”. We still had half a packet left of the Waitrose chocolate chips that Leah brought back from Bristol and had been saving for a special occasion. I had used the other half in our baking for the gifts for some of the staff on our recent return visit to Belfast City Hospital.


I only managed a small piece of dessert but everyone seemed to enjoy it and appreciate it. There was only five of us but we managed a little family togetherness.