The Empty Chair

In Memory of Diana Ray Boyce
08/08/49 - 07/30/02
By Terri Ray, sister-in-law, Charlotte, NC

Every year, Poppy spends two weeks at the house on Kiawah Island. Each of his six adult children knows they have an open invitation to go along when they can. Diana, the oldest of the six, always made it, until last spring. Her body was too frail and weak from the chemotherapy, and a trip that far away from home was just not possible. The regulars went anyway, hopeful that come fall, Diana could return to Kiawah with them, stronger, healthier, maybe even healed. That was not to be. Diana died on July 30, one week and two days shy of her 53rd birthday.

In early November, the family gathered at Kiawah again. Those who could not go for the entire week made sure we were there for the weekend. On Saturday, Poppy planned an informal time of remembrance on the beach at sunset.

The sun slipped from a cloudless sky into a green shimmering sea. A faint land breeze blew. A couple of fishing boats, a handful of seagulls and an occasional beachcomber completed the setting that seemed made-to-order.

Poppy and Diana's brothers and sisters, each in turn, lifted handfuls of ashes from the urn. With tearful eyes and quivering chins, they talked to Diana. They recalled special times. They said prayers. They asked questions that could not be answered, and they sent heart-wrenching "God-speed" wishes to her. As daylight dimmed, Diana's remains were released to join the sea and sand.

Spent from the emotion, we turned and headed back to the house. "Look. Look at the chair!" One of the group pointed. The trail of sisters, brothers, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and of course, Poppy, turned and looked. Tucked into the edge of a low sand dune, just above the high-tide mark, a beach chair sat facing the horizon.

"Diana was watching us the whole time," said one. "She made it back to Kiawah," said another. One by one, we expressed amazement as the chair's symbolic meaning slowly dawned on us. It was the final comment that stopped us in our tracks. "That chair showed up last Sunday after we got here. But, we never saw a soul, just the empty chair."