Monday, January 11, 2010

Empty chairs

Today marks the first Anniversary of the Empty Chair. Our beloved Steve Erickson left this world on January 11, 2009.

The Ironside - Erickson family friendship goes back several decades, to the days when Steve and Joan and Allan and Pat were missionaries in India. One of my few clear boarding school memories from my stint in grade three was of Jeanie being in the bed next to mine. When I went on to university I was welcomed by Sharon. Steven became one of my best friends, my trusted confidant, during my time there.

And when I moved back to Three Hills, Mr. Erickson was one of the first people through the doors of Nilgiris.

He brought gifts: a print of the road to Mysore, little booklets and pamphlets, chocolates. He brought business: he got Gary and Carolyn hooked on butter chicken curry, he invited his friends and family to come for a coffee or for a meal. He brought stories: about his brother who played professional baseball, about his times in India, about "Mama", about his grandkids. He brought encouragement: he would always be ready with a word spoken in season, with a listening ear and an open heart.

And he brought roses. How thrilled we were whenever it was the season for roses! His magnificent, award-winning garden blessed the TH each season with blooms that were sturdy and bright and had the delicate perfume roses produce only when they have been nurtured and cared for and tended to. Mr. Erickson knew the value of time and he refused to rush it, whether it was with roses or whether it was with people.

When he left this world for one far better, Steven and Jeanie gave me his old cane swivel chair. Jeanie told me that she could remember sitting in his lap in it when she was quite small. Dad and friends of Mr. Erickson told me that this was the chair they would occupy when they were visiting him at his home.

Children have a special affinity for "Mr. Erickson's chair," as it is known in the TH. It is low enough that their feet can reach the ground, but it's a grown-up chair that makes them feel like a bigger person when they're in it. College students gravitate to it as well. It's near a corner and its high back offers protection from outside intrusion into private soul searching and confidential college-level conversation. And older people see it as a place of rest and comfort from the trials and the vicissitudes of the day.

I myself sit in it every Wednesday night at our Bible study. Mr. Erickson loved people and he loved his chair and he LOVED the Bible. On any given day he could be seen with little typed lists of Bible references in his shirt pocket. He memorized scripture constantly and even into his last year he kept learning. My choosing his chair for Bible study combines all three of those things in my mind and I am comforted and challenged to follow his footsteps.

But yet, no matter who sits in the chair, there is a feeling of something missing, of someone missing. That empty chair is a reminder to me that my days are numbered and that I should fill them with life and beauty and meaning.

He loved the TH, and would always loyally say that everything was "First class plus." He teased "the cook," as he would affectionately call Brenda. His favourite foods were butter chicken curry, hot chocolate and "sticky buns." 

I wonder what Mr. Erickson's new chair looks like? A humble man, he wouldn't ask for or expect much. But as one of the saints who has heard the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" he is probably sitting in splendour with Mama and other members of his family and friends. And he knows that empty chairs on earth mean more full ones up in Heaven.

Maybe that's why he would always leave you with these words: "Keep looking up ..."


  1. I came to know Mr. Erickson later in his life. Six years ago we met in the Drumheller Hospital and it amazed me he would drive an hour so from his home to visit in a different community. He had been visiting there for years. In our conversations we discovered we had a mutual acquaintance we both admired. Discussing history, current events and baseball with Mr. Erickson was a joy. He was kind and cheerful—every visit was a blessing. There weren’t enough them. It seemed that to him roses expressed the glory of God. I never look at a rose without thinking of him. His chair in the TH is also a reminder of his Spirit-filled example. Thank you for remembering Mr. Erickson.

    1. Thank you for remembering My Dad with such kind words and thoughts. I appreciate it so much!! He would be so happy to know that he was able to encourage and help...


  2. Thank you Karyn- I just read this again this morning as I was missing my Dad so much. Thank you for being so kind and caring. The TH was a refuge for him a special place to visit and be welcomed by friends, to enjoy his favorite food, remember India and visit with people. He loved to help and encourage others whenever possible.

    Thanks for your kindness...I wish the tea house was closer.


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