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The Purpose of Pain


The Purpose of Pain

Victor Jones shares his point of view on grief, paying respect, and the purpose of pain.

A line of black suits and dresses walked quietly into the red brick ranch-style house in the New Orleans suburbs. The sun had the sky all to itself on a cloudless December morning and reflected off the hoods of two gleaming white limousines parked in front. Several other cars lined the curb behind them in preparation for our departure to the church. My family had traveled from near and far to pay our final respects to my Uncle Leroy.

We entered the kitchen through a side door in the garage and walked through to the living room on the right. A few of my relatives had already arrived and were scattered about, standing or sitting on sofas. I scanned the room looking for a seat and spotted a tall floor lamp illuminating a green leather recliner against the wall like a spotlight on center stage. I turned toward the chair but froze before I’d even take a step. It was no conscious thought that stopped me, but something instinctual.

In a fraction of a second, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle spun and turned in my mind before snapping into place – The position of the chair. Its masculine scale and materials. The fact that my aunt and uncle had been empty nesters for decades. This was Uncle Leroy’s chair. The chair where just days before he’d probably watched the Saints game on television and taken one of his last evening meals. It was too soon to sit there.  Other family members must have made the same calculation because no one went near it.

I stayed on my feet and walked around the house examining the hangings on the wood paneled walls. There were commendations from Uncle Leroy’s job for exemplary service. Several other plaques attested to his contributions to civic organizations and his church. All in all, it was the tableau of a man driven by a conviction to leave his community in better shape than he found it. But it was the pictures that interested me most.


Read the full article, Seats that can’t be filled, on Substack.