The Empty Chair

Just came back, and I mean just came back from a Bat Mitzvah. This being my second, I knew somewhat what to expect. It’s a beautiful ceremony full of music, theater, and God. At least the divine.

It makes you kind of embarrassed to be Catholic. If we prepped for First Communion or Confirmation, I don’t remember it. Today I witnessed a thirteen year old girl stand alone, before a hundred or more, and read aloud and even sing aloud for us all. In Hebrew. To get any thirteen year old to look you in the eye under the best of circumstances is near impossible. This girl stood tall and did it all for over an hour. It’s hard to see any other explanation than the Divine.

From there, we went to the party. Never have so many Irish attended a Jewish ceremony. There was a DJ who marched the fifty or so seventh grade girls around in myriad games and dances. They whooped and howled with delight. There were absolutely no signs of the social strata delineation I’ve heard so much about from my own seventh grader and others. They were one sweaty, joyous unit.

There was an open bar. This they stole from the Catholics. I found myself at it with some regularity, not hiding, but reveling in the celebration. Celebration for the honored. Celebration for the honoring.

Toward the end, the famous “Chair Dance” was called for. A man I did not know gestured toward me. “You,” he said simply. I walked over. The guest of honor was seated in the chair, lifted up by four middle-aged men. The crowd cheered and howled for more. She was returned to earth.

A fitting end to a beautiful ceremony, right?


Let’s hoist Mom up in the air. That’d be fun, right?

So Mom was commandeered and sat down in the chair.

“Get more men” she demurred.








Up she went. A bit unstable for sure. There are no directions or charted course–certainly not for a Catholic anyway. So we began moving in the customary circle to the crowd’s applause.

I put the chair on my shoulder for maximum stability. We were four men of different sizes, different faiths, and different levels of sobriety. It seemed the prudent thing to do.

The chair secure, I looked out on the seventh grade girls and their parents ringing us. It’s said that God is present in the smallest of things as well as the more grand. This was either somewhere in between if not both.

I thought maybe I was filled with that spirit so the weight of the world was literally lifted from my shoulders.

The chair was empty. Light as a feather.

I mean really. Light as a feather. Just a chair, in fact.

I looked up just in time to see Mom flying through the air. Slow-mo.

She hit the ground after very nearly sticking the landing were it not for stiletto heels. Nothing broken. Just a few bruises. To egos.

Here’s the takeaway: the best religious ceremonies, regardless of faith, remind us of the presence of the Holy. They also remind us we’re destined to live long lives full of heaven and hell. After the fall.

2 Comments on “The Empty Chair”

  1. Stephen says:

    I have this image in my minds eye of the “fall” ….. Lol

    Good story, good tellim


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