The empty chairs at the holiday table

  • December 15, 2009
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Holidays are an odd roll call for families. Yet, ours comes up sadly short. The Holocaust continues to take its toll — through death and dysfunction — seventy years after the event.

In Motherland, I wrote: “At each holiday dinner table, she (my mother) must have looked around for the relatives who should have been there, accounting for the missing. Any occasion was a reminder to her of who was gone.”

We live with a presence of absence.

But we are not alone. Wars, genocides, even natural deaths produce palpable, empty chairs at the holiday table. America’s most popular Civil War composer George Root captured the anguish of loss in the chorus of his song, “The Vacant Chair.”

We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.

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