An Empty Seat at the Table

This year, our family Thanksgiving will be different. This year, we’ll have an empty chair at our table. This year, a beloved family member, my aunt Marilyn, our “Chinkie,” who graduated to heaven in July, will be absent from our Thanksgiving table.

All my life, she was present at every Thanksgiving. During my childhood, and beyond, we celebrated Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house, and later, at our home. Our dining room table is the same table that hosted countless Thanksgiving meals, and now, this year, we will feel Chinkie’s absence.

Whether this is your first year with an empty chair at your Thanksgiving table or the twentieth, holidays are hard after loss.

Following are thoughts on holidays and absent loved ones:


I’ve spent the last several months sorting and cleaning out my grandparents’ home, where my aunts “Chinkie” and Marge also lived. I’ve found treasures, shed tears, remembered, made discoveries, and been so overwhelmed with emotion at times that I had to leave.

If you grew up in a loving family, remembering is a blessing, but remembering is not without its share of heart-wrenching emotions. After a six-hour session in the basement storage room, I came home and could barely function, having found pictures of my mother, and other family members, I had never seen before. I missed them all so much that the next day I was useless, transported to a time before my birth to witness the close family connection evident in these photos.

This Thanksgiving, as you remember the ones absent from your table, give thanks for the relationships, the memories, the humor, the love, and even the difficult times.


An empty seat at the table reminds us to cherish those we have with us still and make every effort to stay in touch and gather often. Life passes quickly, so make the most of each day. Express thanks to each other, and to God for those he has given us. Love each other well, not letting petty disagreements or perceived slights distance you from each other.

One of Chinkie’s favorite comments to family members was “I’m so thankful God put us in the same family.” She understood the blessing of family.


Some people believe this life is all there is with nothing beyond. I am sad for them, because they don’t have the assurance of eternity in heaven with those who have gone before us.

I’m thankful I know I’ll be reunited with “Chinkie,” and other family members and friends. Though absent from us now, and not occupying a seat at our table, we will see them again.

Are you grieving the loss your empty chair at the table represents? Remember, give thanks, and maintain forward motion, knowing you are moving toward reunion and eternity together. And in the meantime, live life fully, joyfully, and thankfully.

“When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close and revives him in his pain” (Psalm 34:18 VOICE).


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including:,,,,, Focus on the Family,,, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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