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HOME

AN EMPTY SEAT AT THE TABLE

Jennifer Mejia

kenzi bw look down.jpg

This little guy is our younger son. He turned four this past Saturday. He was born at 34 weeks, deliberately, in an attempt to save his life. He is a miracle. That’s the only way I can describe his recovery. But every year around his birthday, in addition to be overjoyed and celebrating his life, I also, unfortunately, remember almost losing him. And it causes me to pause and ponder things that I try to avoid thinking about on a regular basis. 

I’m a believer in the old adage that everything happens for a reason, with one modification--that most things happen for a reason. There are some things so horrible in life that I will never be able to rationalize why they happen.

Recently I’ve been thinking about one of the main reasons I decided to begin blogging. Perhaps it has something to do with my son turning 4. As I mentioned, his birthday always makes me think. I became disappointed that this site hasn’t featured as much love as I originally envisioned.  After all, it is the word in the center of the name. When I decided on that title, I wasn’t referring to love for interior design, art, food, or fashion. I was thinking of true matters of the heart. The things that really move us and the things that really count. Part of the reason I haven’t written as much about “love” is out of sheer exhaustion. The posts about fashion, food, and interior design come easily to me. Yes, they take time, but they don’t force me to reach deep into my soul and find the perfect words to write what’s often impossible to express and only the heart can feel. The other reason is that I can see what my audience likes and what prompts them to click through to my website. Fashion posts get the highest amount of traffic. That may be for a number of reasons. It’s quick and easy--you see something you like, you click through, you click on the link, and you purchase. Not a lot of time, thought, or energy is wasted. But for my own soul, and hopefully for yours, I’m going to try to talk more about the things that really move us, in addition to the things we can see.

Last week, a friend of mine who lost one of her sons when he was three, shared a post to Facebook. I read every word of it, and it touched my soul. Actually, it ripped it to shreds. The title of the post was, “Grateful and Grieving.” It was written by Angela Miller, a writer, speaker and advocate for people who are grieving the loss of a child. The essence of the blog post was that parents who have lost a child can be full of grief and gratitude simultaneously. All people, even those who have lost a child, can still feel gratitude. But no amount of gratitude or positivity can fix the fact that their child is dead. This horrific realization is especially poignant around Thanksgiving, a time when we are supposed to express our gratitude for all that is good and right in our lives. And although the grieving parent might seem ungrateful, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, they are more grateful than most for what they have because they know all too well how quickly the most important parts of their lives can be taken away. 

I can’t imagine what a grieving parent feels. I can’t. But one thing I’ve learned after reading a few articles and posts on the topic is this: Asking about the child they lost isn’t going to upset them or make them think of that child if they weren’t already thinking about him/her and were “doing ok before you asked.” The truth is that there isn’t a minute that passes that a grieving parent doesn’t feel the pain and loss from the child who is gone. So instead of tip-toeing around the subject of their child or trying to make small talk when you see sadness or a distant gaze on their face, ask them how they’re really doing. Ask them about the child they are missing. Say their name. Ask them to share stories of the countless times he/she brought them happiness. Recall and share your favorite memories of their child. Help them fill the empty seat next to them at the table. 

When I read the part of Angela Miller’s post that said, “Ask me about the empty chair beside me,” any composure I had left the room. I sat alone on my sofa, reading this post, sobbing. I commented on the post and asked my friend to forgive me if I didn’t ask about her son. It wasn’t because I didn’t care. It wasn’t because I wasn’t thinking of him. In fact, it saddens me beyond measure that every time I see her or her husband or hear their names, I think about their loss. And I’m often affected to the point of breaking down. 

I’ve thought about that post a lot since I read it last Friday evening. And I’ve also thought about my regret that there hasn’t been enough love in Beauty, Love & Grub. So as we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to ask those who are grieving to tell me about the person who should be sitting at the empty seat at your table. The chair that should be filled with your child. Or perhaps you’re missing a parent, a spouse, or a best friend. If you are someone who is grieving, I’d love for you to write their name for me. Tell me what you miss about them and what parts of them made the world a happier place. I know it’s impossible to share everything. And if you’re comfortable sharing the joy of their existence with the world, ask me to share it with my readers. You can send me a photo if you’d like. And during the week of Thanksgiving, I’ll share what I’ve received (only those who ask me to share). You can either share a story here by commenting, or you can message me through my CONTACT page. And whether or not you choose to share a story with me, I hope that after reading this post, you will share a story about the loved one you are missing with someone you know.