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Empty chair

Chairs are more than just furniture. They have personalities, through design, the wear and tear of service, and the familiarity we bestow upon them. They grow to be identified with the people whose favorite perches they become over time, especially in a family home. A chair evokes the memory of how it is animated, suffused with life when filled by the one who claims it. When that person departs, his aura persists.

Yesterday morning, I was stunned by the news that longtime friends of mine had lost their son just four days before to the ravages of depression and the terrible storms of mood disorder. It hit very close to home. This heartbreaking excerpt from his obituary, written by his mother:

"Mental illness is an obscure and solitary disease, society’s dark secret. It is a reality for one in five of us. Joshua battled his affliction every day and night of his life. Please help end the stigma. Support the struggle by kindly sending a contribution to the Mental Health Association of Orange County or to the National Alliance of Mental Illness."

The morning sunlight filtering into my quiet house. This empty chair, softly highlighted, floating in shadows. I imagine my friends sitting with their grief, wanting to comfort them, knowing I can't. They cherished their son, encouraged and stood by him in every way they could, but his illness eventually consumed him.

Theo and Joe, you honor Josh by sharing this. I'm moved by your courage. I know that his chair will never be empty.


8-1/4" x 11", 2B graphite pencil

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