The following is an excerpt from “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart”, to be published this spring on Amazon.com. “Memories” is a memoir of the last years of my mother’s life, and discusses dealing with dementia, as well as overcoming the grief that follows the death of a mother.
“…I have heard the Lord Almighty say, ‘All these big fine houses will be empty ruins.’” (Isaiah 5:9) Granted, all of our earthly homes will one day be gone, and replaced with beautiful heavenly mansions, but at the time I didn’t think of it that way. I didn’t want to lose the last of my physical reminders of my mom, but I had no choice but to sell her home.
It took me several months before I could bring myself to do it. Fortunately the house was paid for, I didn’t have to rush into making decisions. As much as I wanted to be able to keep it, and possibly use it as a second home, I knew it just wasn’t practical. Taking care of one home is difficult enough some days, let alone two.
I’d thought about it long and hard before I made my decision. There were so many wonderful memories there, it broke my heart to sell, but the house needed a family to live there full time. A family that would make new memories of their own life in that house. And the house needed a family that would live there all the time, and enjoy it like it should be enjoyed.
Our daughter Ashley was heartbroken over the decision. Like me, she didn’t want to give up the last part of her grandmother that she still had. But in the end, she realized like I had, that it was inevitable. So almost a year after we lost my mom, we ventured back to the Eastern Shore of Maryland from Virginia Beach, and began that very difficult task.
Right before we began packing, I walked through the house again. It was lonesome and empty. Vacant. A house with just pieces of furniture and no life. I went from bedroom to bedroom, and when I got to my mom’s room I sat on the bed and looked at her vanity. Most of her things were still on it, her shoes were still under the vanity seat. Daddy’s picture was still on the table by her mirror where she could tell him good morning and good night. And all of a sudden the tears came again, with a vengeance! It hurt so much.
There is such finality when we pack away and dispose of the tangible physical reminders of our loved ones. Although we’ve known for months there is no turning back, there’s just something about the physical act of disposing of their possessions. If you haven’t gone through it, you can’t understand it.
There are moments, though, during the process, when you laugh. Moments in which you make new memories. Like finding my mom’s wedding dress and her satin robe she wore on her honeymoon, and finding my aunt’s prom gown as well as her wedding dress. Of course Ashley and I tried them on, and we took photos for our own book of memories, playing “dress up” like two little kids would have done.
Without my faith, and without my certain knowledge that my mom was now living eternally in heaven, I do not know how I would have been able to do this. Although we aren’t supposed to put our hearts in these worldly possessions, we’re human, and at these times, it’s the only tangible remembrances we have left. Yes, our eternal treasures are in heaven, but because we are still here on earth, we still treasure these earthly possessions our loved ones leave behind.
When we go back to the area to visit friends or just take a break, I ride by the house and wonder what it looks like inside now. But even though the new owners said we were welcome to come by any time, I would never do that. I want to remember it as it was. The memories have to be enough. The past has to stay in the past.
A friend of mine wrote about riding past her family home recently. “Family homes can become homes for new families to live in…things can be forever changed. But I can stand still in your front yard, close my eyes and feel it all. I can see the family holidays, the kids’ table, croquet, the crickets, lightning bugs, smiling faces. I can smell bacon frying, freshly mowed grass and cow manure. I can close my eyes and swear I’m only 13 and I’m here for my summer visits. But I’m not…I’m all grown, with kids and even grandkids of my own now. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone and change can be so bittersweet, it’s painful. But no matter what changes, my memories will not. I will keep them in my heart forever.”