Leftovers remind us of the feast. As we dip into a plastic tub of cold mashed potatoes and pile turkey for a sandwich, the thought of the people we initially shared the meal with comes to mind. Yes, the past often revisits us in leftovers.

Several years ago, I was a presenter at the Tree of Angels, an evening put on by the police department which honors the memory of victims of violent crime and victims’ families by making it possible for loved ones to bring an ornament to put on a Christmas tree. The evening is special. Very special. The holiday season can be tough for many, and this is just one way we remember that community includes all of us… even those who are no longer with us.

We still do life with the ones we miss, just different now. In our thoughts and our hearts, the past revisits us in leftovers as proof that we were given and acted upon the privilege of loving… and we still love.

This is missing.

“I hugged my daughter the morning she was killed,” a man in a brown suit holding a cup of hot apple cider told me as he shared with me what happened to his only child. We were standing in a crowded lobby after the Tree of Angels ceremony. I picked up on several stories around me and many familiar sounds: blowing noses in tissues, laughter, pats on the back and silence.

His glance lowered into the cider as he continued. “She left me with the cat,” he nodded to himself. He looked up at me and chuckled as a tear fell down his cheek. “I don’t even like cats. She knows that.”

As we hugged, he whispered in my ear, “I keep that cat because it is the only living thing left that was hers. She had the rest of her life taken from her. All I could take was her cat.”

I have thought about the father and the cat many times since that evening. The cat is a leftover of a life cut short — a bridge from hugging his daughter to holding her in remembrances.

A year or so later I attended a funeral of another life that ended much too soon. As the weeks followed, I checked up on the remaining spouse. He told me, “When the house is empty… that is the hardest time. After all the visitors are gone, and all the food they brought has been eaten, the reality of my life kicks in.”

Yes, after the last casserole dish has been washed and returned, we are left to continue; adapting without forgetting. As we forge ahead, memories accompany us into the creating of new memories. We still connect through songs, trinkets, nature, fragrances, etc.

This is missing. This is loving.

Oh, the joy of having loved and being loved! The feast is indeed a gift from God. And you what? So are the leftovers. And so are the days when even the leftovers expire or change. We are thankful for it all because without the feast we would never have the honor of recognizing the blessing of those who enter our lives.

We live in a potluck world, and everyone brings something unique to the fellowship feast of life. We have the opportunity to learn from others and be better people because of those who have shared life with us. The alternative would mean a life without loving… without missing; we would miss God’s gifts in the feast and in the leftovers. Yes, God’s blessings and faithfulness to us never cease. Never.

“‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Indeed, the Lord does go before us. He has already seen the whole of our lives; and yet, He takes the time to be with us in all our moments. He knows the tears shed and the smiles yet to be created. He knows every hello and each goodbye.

Every beginning ends with God. We will join God and His family…our family…soon. In this regard, the feast continues today as we trust in the promise of eternity.

This is missing. This is loving. This is certain hope.

The eternal feast of fellowship is still to come. “Nothing impure will ever enter it…” (Revelation 21:17). There will be no regrets, waste, disease, or sin. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. “‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:4).

In living with an eternal focus, each hello and goodbye are really “I’ll see you soon.”

This is missing. This is loving. This is certain hope. This is life… life eternal.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. You can find her newly released books, “H.E.R.O. Faith” and “Bad Disciples” on Amazon. To submit feedback on SGLY, please contact news@amtrib. com.