We gathered in the living room, this first Sunday of Advent, our just-delivered, two-days-fresh-from-Oregon fir tree filling the house with its sweet-spicy scent that says “Christmastime” like no other. Bright flames danced in the fireplace, and our mom danced a little too as she strung the lights about the tree to a Christmas concert of Peter, Paul, and Mary, taped off the radio long ago and listened to every year.
|Gomie with granddaughter and great-granddaughter a few Christmases ago|
The room began to fill with bits of red and green, decorations long-beloved and brought out Christmas after Christmas, with memories and stories to tell like old-time friends.
And as we sat and rolled candy to share with loved ones, my sister started to cry.
She was missing Gomie.
Two Christmases ago, she and I still had three of our grandparents. This year, we only have one. And while we know Gramps and Gomie will have a wonderful celebration with the angels and the One whose birth we’re celebrating Himself, we miss them.
It was so easy, last night, to picture Gomie sitting there in her rocking white easy chair, bundled in her pink robe, fingering ornaments, paging through Christmas picture books—she became more and more childlike as her dementia grew—asking the same questions over and over again, requesting another of the “roly-poly” candies, as she called them—we had to start hiding them lest she make herself sick.
And this year, she just isn’t here.
|Gramps and my sister picking blackberries|
I know it will still be a lovely Christmas, with the four of us, our other family members, and those friends-like-family the Lord has given us. And above all, Immanuel Himself. He is with us—and He is with our loved ones in heaven too, Gomie, and Gramps, and Poppa who went much longer ago, and our little siblings who went to Jesus’s arms so tiny. How lovely, how awesome, that His presence is one thing we all still share.
I think of something a friend wrote once, that reminded me that while the empty chairs here on earth can so ache our hearts at holiday tables, there are also empty seats in heaven beside our loved ones, waiting for us.
Death and parting are not for forever, when we know Jesus. Someday we will all be together again, and truly home, with no more empty chairs.