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Dedicated with utmost respect to Chicago FD, Firefighters Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum, their families and friends.

It’s Christmas Day and there is an empty chair.

It might be a favorite chair in the family room. It might be the chair at one end of the dinner table.

There is an empty chair and sadness fills the room.

It could be the first Christmas or the thirtieth one where an empty chair sat there all alone.

As a father or mother, you can look at that chair and through eyes that are filled with tears-not from sadness, but rather fondness for the gift of a life, though taken all too soon, blessed you with years of sweet memories that are all too
precious.

And you thank God that you can look at that empty chair without a feeling of emptiness.

As a husband or wife, you look at the empty chair and it still reminds you of how your heart aches. It is there all alone; exactly how you feel.

It says that there is Christmas presents that will be left unopened. The joy of the season is not felt by that empty chair. It reminds us that, while others will carry their Christmas gifts from one celebration to another, you will stay at home;
content to carry the sorrow and grief of the loss of your dear loved one and public servant.

As a child, you may look at the empty chair and wonder why this day doesn’t “feel right”. Your parent had duty on this day in the past, but they would be sitting in that chair tomorrow, enjoying your excitement as you unwrap your gifts and you are seeing your parents giving each other that “oh yeah” look while smiling from ear to ear. You knew and understood why you would wait until the whole family was there to open the rest of the presents.

But, it’s not feeling like that. In fact; you may not want to even open your gifts, because that empty chair is confusing you.

You should open your presents. They would want you to. They would want you to enjoy this Christmas like any other Christmas. Christmas is for kids and the ‘kid’ in all of us” is what that chair would say, if that chair could talk. Though you may open your gifts, you wonder if it is okay to show your excitement and happiness for getting the stuff that you wanted for Christmas, because you’re not feeling like a kid today. You almost feel like a “grown up”.

The empty chair has missed your Christmas and it’s funny, but you feel like you missed it, too.

The very young will be insulated from the emotional upheaval of the tragic events; only to have them confronted by it when they are “old enough to understand”. Most likely; it won’t hurt any less and will be compounded by regret from never knowing the parent.

As an aunt or uncle, nephew or niece, cousin or friend; the empty chair reminds you of the time that you both got into trouble for “tee-peeing” the school principal’s house.

“You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll break your parents’ hearts”, the principal would say.

But, the person who once sat in that now-empty chair has been described by many as caring, giving, a real firefighter; a hero and their former school principal is grief-stricken as they describe them as if they were a part of their family.

Those relatives and friends that are gathering on Christmas Day are saddened by that empty chair, but are also proud, honored and humble to have been a part of their loved ones’ life.

The grim looks and the tears will break when a story, then, another story will be told and you can’t help but to smile, because your loved one landed in the most unlikely of places; that special place in our hearts that causes us to hurt so
badly upon hearing the tragic news and then feeling a sense of salvation from knowing that our loved one knew every nuance of their job, including dying in its performance, if need be.

It hurts to look at that empty chair, but sweet melancholy fills our hearts.

And though this is written to honor Chicago FD and Firefighters Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum, I must also relate that there will be many empty chairs this Christmas.

Each will have its story.

Though the chair may be empty, it may be that; as a public servant or the other 24/7/365 employees, you will merely be away on Christmas Day.

Our military will be celebrating this day in their own way, wherever they are stationed. Back home, though the chair is empty, it is also WAITING for them.

And though we have an empty chair, our hearts are full of love and hope.

May God keep everyone safe.

Miss you, Mom and Dad.

Your loving son, Art.

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