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April 16, 2006

The Vacant Chair.

The Vacant Chair

Here at the Castle we get emails like this one I'm about to share, now and again. Today is Easter for the Christian world, so this seems appropriate. I am a man with faith, though I do not seek a relationship through the offices of any particular organized community of faith. Yesterday, Blue Star Chronicles left a trackback on the H&I which I thought needed to be moved up into the post itself.

Titled, "Final Salute" it is more about her concerns for her son's impending deployment to the Big Sandbox, and the pain she's seen already, and she wonders how we all cope.

That motivated frequent commenter Gwedd, a retired Navy aircrewman, to send along this (edited just a touch for privacy).

John,

I was reading the post linked to today over to Blue Star Chronicles about how Beth there is worried about her son deploying soon. The "600 pound elephant in the room", and also her links to the story about a Marine casualty returning home. I had the honor to perform this duty back in 1978, and it's something I will never forget. Not only because of the whole experience, but because I knew the sailor who I escorted home. He was a friend, and that made it both easier and harder.

Anyway, I thought also about how others deal with this, and one commenter on her blog remarked about an empty chair at the table. This immediately reminded me of an old civil war song entitled "The Vacant Chair", by George F. Root. It's maudlin and poignant and yet still rings through 145 years to today. I've included the lyrics for your perusal.

Thanks for the great weblog you fellers run. It's always a good read for this old airdale.

Respects,

Gwedd


THE VACANT CHAIR:

We will meet but we will miss him,
There will be his vacant chair;
We will linger to caress him
While we breathe our evening prayer;
When a year ago we gathered,
Joy was in his mild blue eye,
But a golden chord is severed,
And our hopes in ruin lie.

CHORUS:
We will meet, but we will miss him,
There will be his vacant chair,
We will linger to caress him
While we breathe our evening prayer.

At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story,
How our noble father fell;
How he strove to bear our banner
Through the thickest of the fight;
And uphold our country's honor,
In the strength of manhood's fight.

True, they tell us wreaths of glory
Ever more will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, Oh early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.

'Tis more than just a song.

I know I'm mangling theology here (for which I will be punished by my more ecclesiastically-learned colleagues on Monday) but I see an easy Easter tie-in.

What is a Church, but a Vacant Chair? A place to focus the thoughts on sacrifice and promise of redemption, and a better future? And what is Easter but the single most intense moment of that Promise? And the hope for an eventual reunion?

Happy Easter. Go hang with your family and friends. In Church, if you want.

Salisbury Cathedral