I remember the first day of school for all my children. Since preschool I’ve taken that first day photo like many other parents. Now, over the years I’ve watched parents get elaborate thanks to fantastic websites like Pinterest. Eliyah passed on a Saturday morning just shortly after returning to school from a 3 week holiday for Christmas break. I know the first Monday after his passing, was extremely hard for his friends, peers, and teachers. The school did a very special memorial over the PA system. He was the anchor and the face in the morning for GVTV. They too did a special announcement for their fallen friend. That was the first day of his empty chair. Each class he was in had an empty chair and a very real realization that he was gone….. An empty chair in Band, English, Math, History, Lunch, etc.
I also had empty chairs. I remember looking back in my driver’s seat in my van and seeing where he sat most of the time. I had to walk by my dining room every day and see the dining room chair that he would no longer sit in. The couch, his bedroom on his bed, my room, everywhere that I ever saw him sit would now be empty……It took a while to not see his face looking back at me while I stood in the kitchen and watched him eat. I remember funny times where he would eat the biggest bowl of cereal and I’d ask did he save some for the rest of us and we’d just laugh!!!
Eliyah was a Junior in High School. The first day of what would have been his Senior year, I was a wreck. My daughter was going to be a Junior now and my other daughter Second Grade. Once again faced with the agony of sadness for one and joy for the 2 others. It’s the craziest feeling. Smiling while crying. That year was the hardest for me. The place where he would’ve taken his back to school photo was empty…. All of his friends/peers were participating in Senior activities. Homecoming, Prom, and all else that comes along with it. I dropped off my oldest daughter at school one day and saw the seniors in cap and gowns outside prepping to take their senior photo… I lost it. I don’t even know how I drove home. My heart felt that missing piece!!!! I did not attend what would’ve been his high school graduation but many told me they honored him and gave a moment of silence. It was so difficult and sometimes heart wrenching to see birthday announcements, and graduation announcements from others. I know they didn’t send to be vindictive towards me but dang, didn’t they know how much I was hurting? The truth is no. They were doing what most do, go on with their lives. I told people that he had already experienced the greatest graduation that one day all of us living for Christ will. He is in Heaven and nothing would ever top that. That’s what my Spirit celebrated. That’s what my faith shouted to me. But my human, motherly side said this sucks…..
Many parents that are grieving are seeing the empty chair for the very first time.. This is the time of the year which we call back to school and many kids didn’t make it over the summer to enter this school year. If you know someone who has or is experiencing the empty chair give grace. A listening ear is encouraged. No one is looking for you to be the hero, just be present. It’s a challenge to see other kids grow, change, have new experiences, develop, while you will forever miss those milestones. Be gentle, and show kindness. To my fellow members of the club no one wants to be in, continue to celebrate the memories. Honor your child the best way you can. Acknowledge all of the beautiful moments you shared. Healing is taking place. Be kind to yourself. There is no timeline, no manual. Say your child’s name and express the love within!!!!! Amen!!!!!!