December 22, 2016 marks the 26th year of my father’s sudden passing, and each year I post my personal essay, “The Empty Chair.” This holiday season instead of reminding every one of their empty chair because everyone has one, perhaps we should consider what I call the ’Larry Effect.’ Whether the chair is empty for the first time or just another year in a string of many, I would like you to think not of the emptiness of that chair but who God may have placed there in their absence.
This past summer I lost a very dear teacher, mentor, and friend. His sudden passing threw me into a depression I had not expected. As I thought about the loss of him, not only to me but to his family and others whose lives he touched, I began to reflect on the loss of my father in a different way.
The Larry Effect
Some people may not bear looking at their empty chair while others may touch it fondly with a memory or two. I didn’t have many fond memories. When I have looked at my empty chair in the past, I asked many questions. Questions that were all why, should have, or could have been questions. Coming out of that depression, I began to reflect on all the people God placed in my life either long before or after the chair became empty. People who assumed roles (some unwittingly) of those either missing in my life or roles of people who were just absent either by their decision or perhaps mine.
I am calling it the Larry Effect.
I began listing these special chair occupiers by name…. J. Larry Roberts, Anita Pepper, Rev. T. Richard Marcis Sr, Mary Bierlein, Margot Matula, Michael Rehling, Mike Pendy, Dave McNally to name just a few. While some of these treasured people have passed away, God always placed one or more people to occupy that empty space in my heart. It is never the same, mind you. No. No one can be replaced. But there are others God has gifted me wonderful relationships that fill the emptiness.
The Larry Effect taught me not to focus on the whys, should haves, and could have beens, and most of all, not on an empty chair. But the seat that was taken by people and memories of advice, mentoring, laughs, poetry, and love.
Thank you to all my treasured readers, friends and family. May you all have a Merry Christmas and know God’s Peace in the New Year!