The Empty Chair

There daddy sits, all day long just looking out the window at whatever there is to see. He has a good view from the window. It is very entertaining to watch all that is happening at his son’s place and their grandchildren riding the four-wheeler, mowing the lawn, working in the garden, and all the comings and goings. He can see the Massanutten Mountain Range in the distance and the rolling farmland in between. He watches the deer grazing on the far hillside. But Daddy has dementia and it is hard for him to process all that is happening. The chair of his beloved wife of 70 years is empty. Never again will mother sit in that chair; her days on earth are drawing to a close.

There are a lot of things happening in the house but daddy mostly tunes it out, choosing instead to sit in the dark and stare out the window. Is it emotionally safer for him?

He recalls the stories of the past, repeating them over and over. There was the time he was put in “jail” by his brother and sister. He was locked in the corn crib and forgotten. Lunch time came and when he didn’t show to eat, the offending siblings suddenly remembered when father asked where was Dwight. He laughs with glee when he recalls the dare between his brother Dewitt, and himself. Daddy went first, sticking his rear out from behind the shed. Dewitt aimed his BB gun and missed but when it was daddy’s turn to shoot he did not miss! There was a Sunday morning when numerous of the children were in the car waiting for their parents to go to church. The house sat on a hill and the driveway was fairly steep. Suddenly one of the children (he can never remember which one) put the car in neutral and the car started rolling down the hill. In a split second, all the children in the front seat magically were in the backseat. He has church stories, bull stories, farm stories, childhood stories and vividly remembers walking the two miles to downtown Bridgewater to school and back even when the weather conditions were harsh.

Daddy sees the empty chair and feels lost, lonely and sad. He wants mother to come to the table to eat and often sets a place for her. He wants her to drive him to church. Mother can no longer do those things. He misses her presence, companionship, cooking and care.

An empty chair is a sad reminder of a more pleasant time; a time when life was normal, happy, busy and satisfying. A time when they did everything together as a couple; worked, traveled, entertained guests, gardened, went to church, and prayed. It is a reminder of when he was in control of his house affairs and together they were a team. All of that has changed and he no longer knows how to connect the dots. Instead of being the provider for his wife he watches others be her caregiver. Instead of being able to make the decisions about what is happening, he helplessly watches “his role” managed by others. He lives in the day, but it alludes and befuddles his reasoning.

There are now a lot of empty chairs in the house; the stool at the sewing machine, mother’s chair at the kitchen table, the lazy boy by the lamp, her seat in the car, the front porch chair where together they enjoyed the day and watched the sun set in the evenings, her spot on the bench at church, and the lawn chair on the back porch where they shelled beans. These were mother’s special places.

Special empty chairs leave big gaping holes in the heart. In daddy’s words, “I am crying inside”. We pray for patience, compassion, sensitivity and wisdom. If you think of our family, please lift us and daddy to our Heavenly Father.


  1. Joyce Said:

    You have such a way with words even as you process and walk through these final days with your mother’s presence here on earth. Praying for you all that the Lord will supply every emotional and physical need.

  2. I have been praying for your family every day. May God continue to give your family – and your daddy – grace for this journey.

  3. Dwight and Linda Said:

    Pat, we think of and pray for you and your family. We had friends over this evening and just saw your blog. Dwight and I prayed for you and your family and especially for your Daddy. We pray for His strength and peace to sustain y’all during this difficult time in your lives. Our love and hugs to each of you. If there’s anything we can do to be of help, please don’t hesitate to let us know, 24/7.

  4. Martha Picone Said:

    Pat, how well you described the situation, captoring emotions as well. It malesme think so much about my parents

  5. Emily Wenger Vandevander Said:

    Thanks Pat, for sharing so deeply what is happening for all of you. You and your family will remain in my prayers. I also for wisdom, strength and compassion be for you all.

  6. Julia Perry Said:

    This brought tears to my eyes. Im so sorry for all your folks are going through. It will be us one day.

  7. Barbara Gilbert Said:

    This is the most heart breaking post you have shared with us. For my parents it was the opposite. My precious Daddy passed away and then my Mother lived about 8 sad and lonely years without him. Stangely, it is my Daddy that I miss the most. I have tears for my memories and for you precious parents. May God grant you peace and comfort.

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