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.

 

Wisdom Beyond Her Years

Wisdom Beyond Her Years

I’ve never enjoyed clothes shopping.

When my Mum was alive, she used to come with me when I had to buy clothes and we used to have fun shopping together.

In 2008 Mum died and that year I was traveling to London with my work to meet Prince Charles. This necessitated buying a new outfit. I went over town to go shopping, but ended up in floods of tears and came home empty handed.

Leah was ten years old at the time. She made me this lovely card when she heard what had happened – I found it tonight while looking for something else. My Mum was known as Kal.

This card left me in tears when Leah gave it to me in 2008, but that is NOTHING compared to the effect it’s had on me tonight since I found it again.

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Leah then offered to come shopping with me to help me pick an outfit. That following Saturday we went to Coleraine and got the complete outfit that I needed. From then on, Leah became my “personal shopper”.

In 2013, Leah and I ended up being in Bristol way longer than I had packed for, so I had to buy some new tops while I was over there. I used my phone to photograph the clothes in the shops, then I showed Leah the pictures and she advised me what to buy.

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The last item of clothing that Leah ever picked for me is so precious. It was from M&S in Bristol.

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Since Leah died, I struggle more with shopping than with anything else. Even today I sat in Tesco’s car park for 20 minutes before I could face into the store. I shop only out of necessity.

Facing people isn’t the issue – I enjoy meeting people.

It’s facing the shelves that’s the issue.

It’s never knowing when a strategically placed product will trigger a memory of a shopping trip with/for Leah and leave me completely undone.

When Leah had the haemorrhagic cystitis in Bristol, she had to have a high fluid intake of non fizzy drinks, so I scoured the shops for different drinks that she would like. I was so pleased with the variety that I had managed to buy for her on one particular trip, that when I got back to her hospital room, I lined them all up and took a photograph!

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I know that I could avoid the shops completely now by shopping online, but then I don’t like running away from difficult situations either. It’s no way to live.

Leah’s words to me in this card just blow me away………..they are the words of a little girl who had surrendered her life to Jesus, who read her Bible every day and who prayed and sought to love God with her whole heart.

She had wisdom beyond her years at times.

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