Voices of Experience: The Empty Chair

Grief always demands expression, and the wounds of loss heal more quickly and effectively when that expression finds a meaningful path. ~ Laurel Lagoni

Mary Friedel-Hunt lost her husband to Alzheimer's disease in 2010.  As his primary caregiver, she was able to keep her husband at home for more than four years, except for a long hospital stay shortly before he died. They were married almost 24 years. He died at home in her arms on March 27, 2010.  

Mary writes, "I miss him every day...we were best friends, co-workers . . . After helping hundreds of people [as a clinical social worker] for 40 years, I find this the most devastating loss I have ever experienced. I am changed forever by it. A part of me is gone forever. I am choosing to walk through the grieving...not around it."

Her beautiful poem is reprinted here with her permission:

The Empty Chair

It's a 24 year habit.
So every morning when I awaken,
I look across the bed
To see if you are there.
And if you aren't,
I look out at your chair
knowing you
will be there,
that you had gotten up before me
and are quietly sitting in your chair
meditating, being still, reading your Bible ...
waiting for me to awaken.

Oh, you would have made the coffee ~
Silently ~ so as not to disturb my sleep.
(I never knew how you did that so quietly)
But you wanted hot coffee ready
when I woke up.
That brought you joy.
Loving me brought you such joy.

But that chair is empty now.
Every morning when I awaken
It is always empty.
And every morning when I awaken
I am shocked...and tears fall
as another day stands in front of me
like a Mt. Everest I must climb
alone.

How do I believe my own eyes?
Of course, I can,
and so I say to myself that
it must be Sunday and you have driven
to the gas station
to get my Sunday paper.
You knew I loved my Sunday paper
and having it on my chair
when I awoke
made
you smile...and me laugh.

And then, wide awake,
the dread hits...
just the way it did the day after you died.
It hits hard and deep, again and again.
 

You will never sit in that chair again.
Never silently make coffee for us.
Never sneak out to get me a Sunday paper.
This can't be true, my love.
You just can't be gone.
(But that chair
is empty)
It has been empty for almost ten months now.
And I, too, am empty.

A huge hole exists inside of me, a canyon.
No one can see it but it is always there.
No matter where I am,
no matter what I am doing,
no matter who I am with.
Oh,
they think it is mostly gone now.
Little do they know
(unless they are one of us).
But I know
and you know
it will never go away.

Tomorrow I will awaken
and once again
habit, hope ~
Will drive me to look at that chair.
And though I know tonight
That it will once again be empty,
I will see you there
smiling at me,
blue eyes twinkling with joy
because I am awake
and we can have
a simple cup of coffee together,
plan our day,
talk about our dreams,
hug each other tightly,
and know that we will somehow always
be together...
even though that chair
…your chair,
is empty.

And each morning
I will feel tears on my cheeks,
feel that awful dread,
that tells me again and again
that you are gone.

And those tears will flow
(I know they will)
until my chair, too,
is empty.

© 2011 by Mary Friedel-Hunt
Personal Growth and Grief Support Center


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1 comment:

  1. I am deeply moved by your image of the empty chair mixed with the fullness of the gifts of love you and your husband shared. Thank you for helping me feel my grief as I learned a little about yours.

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