James Taylor and Carole King won the top spot of my most-played music last week. Their playlists repeated so many times that I felt an urge to resurrect my old Earth shoes and bellbottom jeans. I even titled a new iTunes playlist “Happy Past”. It made me feel like a Queen and a Foreigner searching for some kind of Revival of the Credence Clearwater kind. As I made my Journey through old songs, I imagined throwing a few Styx at a man named Santana and then feasting with Rod and Elton on Bread and some sweet American Pie in the Three Dog Night.
Getting lost in the music taught me something important. I have lots of memories that make me smile. Indeed, I’ve had more to smile about than many. I let a few bad memories crowd out all the good ones. But, I’m learning to change my tune!
This Thanksgiving we will have an empty chair at our table. My mother’s chair will never be filled again with her physical presence, but her spirit lives in each of us – whether we like it or not! (If you knew my mom, you know she’d laugh at that comment.)
If you’ve had an empty chair at your family’s gatherings you understand grief. It’s a sneaky little feeling, isn’t it? Just when you think you’ve made it through, you encounter a song, an old familiar smell, a laugh, maybe even a particular smile, wink, hug, or touch on the arm, and for a split second you’re transported through time to a moment before …
Each of us deals with grief in our own way and on our own timetable. The pain associated with it is manifested in a variety of ways, and grief is not selective. We will all eventually experience it at some point. So today, I’m choosing to be pro-active about our empty chair. Rather than mourning our loss and giving depression another foothold, I’ve decided to go ahead and get a head start on my word for 2019. (Lord knows my 2018 word authentic came equipped with a sledgehammer and a crowbar. Though it’s all turned out for the best, I’ve learned more than I ever cared to know about myself; at least for one year.)
So, what’s my new word?
Grief has encouraged me to be intentional about creating a legacy of love that will someday be worth celebrating. I’m no longer interested in making a name for myself, having more stuff, or being better than the next person. I never want to take my husband, kids, grandkids, or friends for granted. Each one is a gift sent straight from God – gifts that I hold dear.
So perhaps this Thanksgiving, as we gather around our tables, we might remember to:
- be more intentional with the short time we have together,
- be tender with our affection,
- say sweet things that will cause listeners to smile later on,
- share our smiles as we serve the people we love, and
- give thanks to God for giving us people to love and who love us.
Why don’t you join me in taking Sweet Baby James’ advice:
“Oh, father and mother, sister and brother. If it feels nice, don’t think twice. Just shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine if you only will shower the people you love with love. Show them the way you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will.”
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” (1 John 4:7-12, The Message)