The Empty Chair
It would soon be fifty-nine years. June 18th to be exact. So much had changed in these last few months. For Bill and Lulu, life would never be the same.
Fifty-nine blissful years and in the blink of an eye, everything had changed so suddenly, without warning, as so often happens in life. One moment everything was fine and the next, well—life was like that.
“Lulu, honey, see the birds,” he says as he points to the sky and glances upward through the old oak trees.
She squints at him, then toward the sun, her blinking eyes completely void of recognition. For Lulu, the last fifty-nine years are gone, lost to the thief that steals so silently into the night, whisking away time, memories and love.
For Bill, their life together is a ritual of love now, perhaps the only gift he will ever give to his Lulu.
He strides slowly, pushing the wheelchair with difficulty under the trees, remembering the memories he shares alone now, the touch of love that was so special between them, the years of building a business, raising children and living through The Great Depression.
But there were other things, other memories, holding hands at sunset as they took long walks together and the rose garden she tended with care. Bill missed his Lulu’s warm embrace and her soft laughter, the sound of warm, tinkling glass. He would give anything to hear her laugh again. There were many times when he had prayed to God that Lulu would remember him and their life together.
He tried to think good thoughts but somehow a tear found its place on his cheek. Oh, how he missed his Lulu!
All that remained were his daily visits to the nursing home. He was faithful to arrive every day just after supper. Their children’s visits were sporadic, but he had found a wonderful caregiver, Pauline, who would come and wheel Lulu through the grounds for an evening out. Bill found himself grateful for small things. As he thought about it, his gratitude encompassed all the years they had been given, much more he knew, than some people were allowed. Yes, there were blessings. He simply must remember to look for them.
He found joy in the tiniest gifts. They were all he had left and his for safekeeping in his heart, to treasure always.
“Are you warm enough, Lulu?” Even on summer days, she sometimes got a chill. He pulled the shawl over her shoulders. There was, as always, no response. This was the way it was these days. His heart felt heavy with the enormous burden of it all.
Bill pulled a brightly colored bow from his pocket. Lulu loved bows! He placed the pink bow gingerly in her silver-white hair. He planted a butterfly kiss on her forehead and whispered in her ear, “See, Lulu, another pretty bow. Do you like it, honey?”
He knew, just like all the other times, the response would be the same. His hand tenderly caressed her shoulder. He must be strong for both of them ow.
When he arrived home later that night, Bill stared at the empty chair by the fireplace and placed the call that he always did before bedtime.
Pauling placed the receiver to Lulu’s ear.
“Good night, Lulu. I love you, honey.”
A tear cascaded down Lulu’s cheek as she heard the sound of her husband’s voice.
As Bill placed the receiver in its cradle once more, he stared again at the empty chair.
He missed his Lulu and loved her more than his own life. And as he always did, he placed his head in his hands and wept silent tears just like he did on all the other nights. He was ever grateful for butterfly kisses, brightly colored bows and one more day to say, “I love you.”
Thank God for tiny blessings.