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The empty place

View from Hickory Heights

Many of you will have an empty place at your table this year. What does that mean? It most likely means that someone is missing. There are many reasons that a person may be missing. Not all people get multiple days off. Sometimes it is impossible to get home for the Thanksgiving feast.

For the past three years we have been missing people. Carly is off to college in Texas and does not make it home. Preston is off working and does not get time off. He works in retail and the store he works at is busy at this time of the year. Usually, we at least talk to Carly via — I think it is Facetime. It is nice to be able to see her as we visit. Jared is going to college closer to home so he is around.

Then there are those who have passed on. I remember that first year when I had to do the holidays alone after Dick passed. All of the firsts were hard. He died before he even hit retirement age. We had a new grandson that year. I missed grandpa when I had to welcome that little boy alone.

This year there is another empty chair at my table. Don was with us last Thanksgiving. I recall that he ate pretty good but he just could not get warm. After he ate, he left the table to cuddle up with his heated blanket — a gift from me the Christmas before. He was always cold and when I saw the blanket, I knew it was the perfect gift.

People have said I did not mention anything about him being sick in my Christmas cards. That was intentional. I was enjoying every minute that we were together and hated the thought that he was not going to make it. When someone dies there is a huge hole to fill.

Certainly, I am not the only one who is missing someone. There will be many empty places. Some lost a loved one because of COVID. Others had other health issues. Most people that I encounter feel the same as I do. They would not wish their loved one back to suffer, but still, it is hard.

In 2020, the pandemic hit. Everyone was alone that year or almost everyone. I wrote in my diary that Don and I had a turkey dinner, but we ate it alone. I was so happy to have him or otherwise I would have been alone. I spent seventeen years traveling with the children to their in-laws and I hated it. I always felt like the proverbial third wheel.

This year I am traveling again – going to my daughter-in-law’s father’s house. Once again, I have the same role. He personally called to invite me, but still, I am not with my whole family. Holidays are hard for many people. There are many that are alone. I read somewhere that we should not think of what we lost, but what we enjoyed when the person was around. I will gather my memories. Eat dinner out of town, and enjoy the people around me.

I have much to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head. I have plenty of food to eat. I am healthy. The cancer that plagued me ten years ago is gone. I have many people comment on my columns. They always tell me they relate.

My family is around most of the time. We get together quite often. When I listen to the children talk, I often wonder, “Where was I when that was going on?”

A couple weeks ago I was invited to attend something called Koinonia. I did not have much information, but when I was asked if I could attend, I jumped at the chance. It was something to look forward to.

It is not really secretive, but there are many surprises in store if you attend.

That is why people do not tell you much about it. If you are ever asked to go say, “Yes.” It offers a weekend with a bunch of Christian women.

As I sit here writing some of the songs we learned are still running through my head. I just cannot get rid of them. It was a wonderful experience, but do not plan on a relaxing weekend. You will be busy. A big thank you to my sponsor for a very enjoyable experience.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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