2001-12-01 / Columnists

From the G-Man

A Vacant Seat Near The Fireplace
To Maria and Jeffrey
By Gary G. Toms

A Vacant Seat Near The Fireplace
To Maria and Jeffrey…I’ll love you always

Hey people. I cannot tell you how difficult it has been covering the events of the last three months. It has been twice as hard because I live here, and it impacts me on a deeper level than most of the other journalists, in New York and abroad, who flooded the Belle Harbor area.

I also had the task of typing up the obituaries of the victims of both tragedies as they came into our office. It took everything I had to fight back tears when people came through the door, or called me on the phone, looking for some type of closure, and me helping them write the obituary somehow provided that. Still, it was extremely difficult to remain stoic and in control.

I don’t think it’s any secret to many of you that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve from time to time, and I’m sure it comes across in some of the articles I have written. I thought about the column I wrote last year, around this time, and you may even remember it. It was entitled "The Wilted Mistletoe", and it dealt with a very painful breakup I experienced. Truth be told, I am still dealing with it, and I don’t expect that the pain will subside anytime soon. When I love, I love deeply.

I’m not sure why I started thinking about that column, but if I could venture to guess, it’s probably because I came to the realization that there are so many people who are not going to be with their significant others as Christmas draws closer. While some can rejoice in the fact that their wife or husband will return home after the war in Afghanistan is over, others will not be as fortunate because their spouse or loved one was killed or cannot be located in the wake of the tragedies.

In many homes, from Belle Harbor to the Dominican Republic, there is a wooden chair that sits near a fireplace during Christmas time. It isn’t very far from the Christmas tree, and it is where someone’s wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend used to sit on a frosty Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Some will light a candle near the chair; others will drape it in a warm blanket, sit in it, and shed tears for the one they lost. The crying will be an extension of all the pain and suffering we have experienced since September 11.

It is not my intent to bring anyone down by writing this piece. I simply want to reach out to those who have been greatly affected by the attack on the World Trade Center and the crash of Flight 587. They are hurting beyond belief, especially at this time of year, and writing this is my way of letting them know that The G-man shares their grief and pain.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve will be tremendously difficult for the families and partners who have lost someone, and if I could suggest one thing, it would be this. Every Christmas Eve, I place my brother’s Mass card on the Christmas tree, just before midnight, and light a candle. Then, I sit down and reflect on all the happiness he brought to my life. Sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I cry like a baby because I miss his wisdom and his compassion. If the spirit moves you, I invite all of you who are grieving to place your loved one’s Mass card, or something symbolic of the one you lost, on the Christmas tree just before the stroke of midnight. If you feel like laughing afterwards, then laugh. If you feel like crying, go ahead because you will not be alone.

I would like to say just one more thing. During your time of remembrance, if you should be sitting opposite that special chair as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, and it suddenly starts to rock back and forth, or move in some way, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the one you love, the one you lost, coming home to say I love you and I miss you.

See you next week.


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