Empty Chairs and Empty Tables

13 Feb 2003

by Renee Driver

When I hear the song, “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” from Les Miserables, I need to have a box of Kleenex handy—especially lately. Many homeschooling families I know, including my own, have empty chairs at the table. Some, including ours, have more empty than full chairs, now that our older children are in college. These young people are far enough away that those chairs are only occupied during Christmas holidays and the summer months.

These empty chairs take on special significance because some of our favorite times as a family are spent around the table. This past summer everyone was home, and we had extra summer guests—visiting family members and others. It seemed as if we were often pulling up an extra chair or setting an extra place around the table. Like many homeschooling families even a simple meal at our house can serve as a focal point of the day, lasting at least an hour as we share the latest news, laugh, discuss world events, the latest CD and so forth. At these times, conversation never seems to be at a loss and when the table is full you might even have to raise your hand to be the next one to speak his mind. These are special times.

As we watch our children take wings and leave empty chairs, there are a variety of responses that we can have as parents. Our reactions may vary from sorrow and self-absorption to a quiet thankfulness. Perhaps the Jewish custom practiced during Passover of placing an empty chair at the table—the Elijah chair—could suggest to us a balanced perspective as we enter this new phase in our family’s life. You see, Elijah’s chair is a symbol of hope, anticipation and remembrance. Keeping this picture in mind, we can use the presence of our sons’ or daughters’ empty chairs and empty rooms as a daily visual reminder to pray for them as they move out into the adult world, preparing for and doing the work that God has called them to do. We can have a continuing part in God’s plan for them as we pray in hope and anticipation of what He will do through them. We must not forget to pray for them even in the most common events in their lives, events that we may be tempted to take for granted. The chairs may be empty, but as we look at them, our hearts can be full and overflowing with wonderful memories of the years that we had the privilege of having our children here at home. Pass the Kleenex, would you please?

Renee Driver and her husband, Tim, have four children and have always homeschooled. Renee is the director of the WWHEAT support group in Union Co. Her older two daughters have graduated from homeschool and are now attending colleges in Chicago and San Francisco.

GREENHOUSE is NCHE's flagship publication. 

GREENHOUSE magazine is published fall and spring plus an annual graduate issue in May. GREENHOUSE is mailed to NCHE members.