For any bereaved parent who has left the home they grieved in.
I stand alone in the kitchen. The house is now empty. It’s currently early evening and it is still filled with light. It has always been so bright and cheery in here. The scene takes me back in memory seven years to the time we moved in. I remember standing in the kitchen with my grandmother on one of our first few days here. After touring our new place she looked over at me and said, “You’re going to be happy here.” I remember nodding in agreement because my gut was telling me the same. And for the most part, we were both right.
I take the time to walk slowly through each room. The sound of each step I take ricochets off of the bare walls. I stop, stand still, and glance around. I breathe in the scent, wanting to burn the aroma of our life here into my memory forever. I’m ready to leave, to start our new chapter, but there is a part of me that will be left in this home once I exit for the final time. I need a few more minutes here. I want to stay with her, the part of me that will be left behind, just a little while longer.
During this last walk-through I am lost in memories.
I’m completely overcome with a wave of nostalgia. Each room in this home holds countless stories. I wish I could burn each one into memory, never allowing them to fade. I fear I’ve let too many of them slip away already. I don’t want to forget. As I stroll through, I see the ghosts-past of holidays, family meals, and the mundane moments. I remember the love and laughter. All of the joy and excitement. Our hopes and dreams. We shared some pretty magical times here. They are some of the years that I already know will be some of my life’s favorites. But these walls, they were also witness to heartbreak, shattered dreams, sleepless nights, deep grief, and seemingly endless tears.
If these walls could speak, they would tell you a beautiful love story about a small family of three transforming into a family of five. They would tell you of the young love between a woman and a man that morphed and matured over the years spent here. They entered this home young and naive and are leaving aged and wise, well beyond their years. If these walls could speak they would tell you of the memories and traditions created within them, and of all the shared joy and absorbed echoes of laughter that radiated between them. They would tell you about a little boy who grew from a preschooler into a preteen in the warm, safe, and comforting space the walls provided.
They may also tell you how that little boy seemed to bounce off of them from time to time and all about the adventure and fun he experienced here.
If these walls could speak, they would tell you of the many marks each of them hold from seven years worth of play and mischief. They would point out the small scrapes and dents, and paint and crayon marks, that each hold a story. I’m sure if I searched hard enough I could find tiny hand prints leftover from years past.
If these walls could speak, they would tell you about a second little boy who has filled this home with light, laughter, and joy for almost four years. They would tell you all about his contagious giggles and his endless pitter-patter of footsteps. They would tell you about the sweet love between brothers and the beautiful bond they share.
As I enter the final room on my walk-through, the one I purposely saved for last, I wonder how I’ll ever leave this one for a final time.
If these walls could speak they would tell you that sometimes when I enter, the pain is still written all over my face, my eyes still filled with sadness. I stand in the middle of the room so I can take in the entire sight one last time. But for a moment I close my eyes and remember the room in its previous state. And if I try hard enough, I can still smell her freshly washed clothing. They sat in bins in this room, her room, for a year and a half after her passing. I no longer use that laundry soap. That scent belongs to her.
If these walls could speak, they would tell you that there is a shade of pink underneath their tan color, a beautiful shade of maroon where there is now blue, and that there were butterflies under what is now a white border. They would tell you that a very excited father had painted these walls in anticipation of his first daughter, and a very eager big brother had helped him. They would tell you of a heavily pregnant mother who had every wall and space measured for a floor plan, and every detail chosen for the decor.
If these walls could speak, they would tell you that one warm spring day in the month of May, the door to this room closed and stayed that way for months and months.
Standing in this room for my final time, I find myself revisiting that other life that I so often visit. I’m now lost in daydreams of her. Of our should’ve been life. The one that was ours, hers, and then gone. Finally, after five years, I can often smile when I think of her, when I envision her now, and when I feel the warmth of the love I have for her rise up in my chest. I love that the thought of her makes me smile now. It doesn’t surprise me that my love for her continues to grow, even in her absence. A mother’s love can transcend time and space.
I walk over to the only window in the room and glance out one last time. If these walls could speak, they would tell you that I spent countless hours staring out of it in my deep grief. I came to know our neighbor’s schedules by heart.
I often wondered how lives continued on, how the world just kept on going, when ours had ended.
These walls would tell you that I often came in here in the middle of the night when the rest of the house was asleep, shut the door, curled up on the floor on one of her soft fluffy decor rugs, clutched her dress, and sobbed until exhaustion, hoping not to wake anyone. Hoping to catch any bit of sleep to escape the pain.
If these walls could speak they would tell you of the day we entered this room holding the blue and tan paint that it now adorns. They would tell you that a little boy was then due to join our family in a month’s time and it only seemed right, then, to start preparing. They would tell you that they witnessed an incredibly bittersweet moment. They were an attester to a leap of faith and a daring to hope again after devastation. They observed our struggle over feeling as though a part of her was being erased and knowing that this little boy deserved to be celebrated.
If these walls could speak, they would tell you that underneath the windowsill there is a small area where the maroon color still shows.
A small reminder that she existed.
That she was real. I never had it touched up upon its discovery. Sometimes, when she felt so far away, almost as if she was only a dream, I would lay on the floor beneath it and stare up at it. In these last few moments, I find myself in that same position now. I take a final look up at that spot and I slowly and gently run my fingers across it, and I silently hope that it is missed again if ever repainted, leaving a small mark of her life, here in this room.
I know it’s time to leave. I’m no longer afraid of the future.
I know brighter days lay ahead. I’m excited for what’s in store for us as a family. But years ago, I never thought I could leave this home. It held too many sentimental emotions and memories. And in this moment, the weight of that is still so very heavy. I pause to build up the courage to stand-up and take the first steps out of the door, leaving this room for a final time. Walking out does not come easy, and I force myself to take the first step. As I exit, I feel as though I am losing another piece of her. But now I know better. I’ve had to physically leave her more than once, and I’ve had to pack up her items on multiple occasions. But I never tucked her memory away. She has stayed with me, inside my heart, my soul. We are one. Just as we once were. I’m taking her with me. I’ve learned that I will always carry her, but that knowledge doesn’t fully negate this painful goodbye to this sacred space.
I know, somehow, in some sort of imprint in time, our family story will forever be entwined with the history of this house. And if these walls could speak, they would tell you about the life-story of a little girl and the family that loved her so much.
Guest post by Malory Jimenez