I told myself, “It’s just a chair. Get rid of it. It’s only a chair.” Ah, but what a chair. Big, soft, comfy, and a recliner. A real chair. A sit back, put your legs up, pop the top, watch tv, fall asleep in, and drool kind of chair. A big, ugly, sat too close to the wood stove and discolored on the arm and leg extension, thank God they put flame retardant on those things now or we’d all be charred kind of chair. A dig down beneath the cushion and get some change so we can go to the movies chair. A hide the cigarettes and lighter from your mama chair. A let Aunt Bertha who’s a little broad in the beam sit in that chair.
“Just get rid of it. It’s just a chair,” I told myself. But I couldn’t. This was my brother Tim’s chair. After his death TEN YEARS AGO I agreed to be the keeper of the chair. After all, He sat in that chair. His slothful reclining, voracious reading, dozing and television consumption on Sunday afternoons in that chair was Olympian. For God’s sake, he made payments on that chair. Since his death I held onto the chair and all my memories of him in it like a kid at a magic show. Presto! Poof! I turned my deceased brother into a chair.
“It’s just a chair. Get rid of it.”
“I can’t get rid of that chair. That’s like getting rid of Tim. That would be sacrilegious. That would be disloyal. I can’t go on with my life when Tim isn’t here. That’s just wrong,” were my frenzied thoughts.
“I’m a little attached to his chair,” I casually told the grief therapist. (I didn’t want her to think I had a furniture fetish.) “Take your time,” the therapist said. “Everyone grieves in their own time. You will get there. It will happen at the right time when you are ready. You will know when to get rid of the chair and until then, just accept it.”
I sold my house and got rid of most of my things except the chair. I move it into my apartment. It’s too big. It doesn’t really go with anything else I have. It’s heavy and dare I say it… I don’t really like the chair. But still, it’s Tim’s chair and I cannot let go of it.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross pioneered the way for us to hold our grief, she made it safe to talk about it, to admit our mortality and that grief is complicated and unpredictable. She helped us see that rather than endlessly wrestling with the angel of death we can set a place at the table for her. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross told us that grief has stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance but I was now in the stage she didn’t mention. The stage of HOLDING ON WAY TOO LONG. Tim is dead. I am not. That’s how it is. It’s time to get rid of the chair.
My best friend and I load the chair into her van and take it to the Salvation Army. It sits on the loading dock looking like a bloated bluefish. Presto! Poof! “Oh, it’s just a chair,” I think as tears run down my cheeks.
“Someone is going to love that chair,” said the clerk. “Of course they are, it’s an awesome chair!” I said. And so was the man who bought it.