A point of View by Paul V. Montesino

A point of View © 1996
The empty seat at the table.
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA ICCP.

She was only seven and a happy child when suddenly bad luck struck: her father had died suddenly on a trip out of town to replenish his business inventory. Four years later, working to help support her family of seven, her mother dropped dead at the desk where she worked. From that point on there would be two empty seats at the table whenever the family got together. I forgot to say, the child I am talking about was my mother. She would live fifty-three years until she too left an empty seat at our family table.

The other girl was only a three-day old baby when her mother succumbed to a typhoid epidemic of the times, something akin to COVID-19. It would take several years before she and her older sisters would see the empty seat left by that mother filled by another woman who married their father. I forgot to say, this baby I am talking about is now my wife.

I am sure this story is not unique. This coming Christmas day, the Hanukkah festival of lights or the Muslim Ed Al-Fitr dinner, or even a pagan reunion, the celebrants may do it on a table with one or several empty seats. It could be a father, a mother, a sibling, a child that left us before their time to grow. It could be a real chair left empty on purpose or it could be an imaginary empty seat in our minds, but to our hearts that empty seat is full of real memories or what “could had beens” but weren’t.

This year, an enemy we can’t see but can hurt us, has decimated many families and created empty painful seats that we feel difficult to fill. But we must remember that such pain is the price we pay for our humanity. We wouldn’t want it any other way. Those holes are wet with tears but also noisy with laughter. And remember that our own seats can be empty someday.

So, wherever you are celebrating this season get closer with your hearts if not with your bodies, raise a real or an imaginary glass and toast the person or persons who should be occupying those empty seats. They deserve it. And you do as well. Happy holidays to all.

And that is my point of view today.

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