Years after my mom died, I still felt such an emptiness. Our house had been sold years before and I yearned to go back inside. I would drive down our sweet little street and slow down in front of our modest house as if trying to capture some glimpse into the past when we lived there and take it with me. I felt utterly and completely empty. Of course, I couldn’t grab a piece of the past and drive away with it neatly tucked into that empty place in my heart, so I’d drive on by, live in the past, and wait for another day.
One day I just couldn’t take it anymore and I decided I was going to have to go inside to get the peace I needed. I was going to have to go in and touch the walls that held so much of my life, had kept it intact, had kept our family of four a family. I needed to stand in that space and take it all in again, one last time, and then I would miraculously be able to take it all with me and be made whole again. I’d never met the family who bought our house, but I’d heard they were such nice people. So maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t mind having a crazy person come to their door with her story and how she so badly needed to come inside.
One morning, I got dressed in something nicer than normal and drove over to their house with so much anticipation in my heart. Finally, if they let me come in, I was going to be healed from this loss. I was nervous and excited with anticipation. Instead of driving by with an aching longing, I stopped and pulled into their driveway. I took a few deep breaths and got our of the car, wondering if this was totally nuts. I went to their door, rang the doorbell and stood there trying to appear as together and confident as I could. Eventually, someone came to the door. It’s funny, I can’t remember what they looked like or even if it was a man or a woman. I was just so focused on getting inside. I remember telling the person that I’d lived there most of my life and my mom had passed away there. I explained that I just wanted to come inside for a moment. Graciously, the person said that would be fine, let me come in, and told me to feel free to go wherever I needed to go and see whatever it was I needed to see.
After I stepped inside my heart sank. It was completely different. It felt sterile. The kelly green countertops in the kitchen had been replaced with something neutral. The green ivy wallpaper had been stripped away and replaced with neutral paint colors. The built in table where we ate in the kitchen almost every single meal was gone. This was the table where my brother and I would sit for hours, whine about cleaning our plates and dramatically gag on things like brussels sprouts and tomato aspic, basically tomato jello, while our parents grit their teeth. We were not there around the table arguing about finishing our dinner. The table was gone and so were we.
Even though the person had told me I could go wherever I needed to, I still asked if I could go back to my parent’s’ bedroom for just a minute. Very, very kindly they again said yes. I tentatively walked down the hall, past my old bedroom where my mom used to tuck me in at night, where Scott Baio and Shaun Cassidy lived on my wall, and the door was shut. I walked past the bathroom my brother and I used to share and fight over daily, especially when I was taking my three hour bubble baths. Then I reached the place I’d come for. My parent’s bedroom and the place my mother had left for the next world. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. Again, everything was different. Their bed wasn’t there and my mom wasn’t in it. I stood there for a few minutes, silently summoning her and waiting patiently to feel her presence, but she wasn’t coming and I felt nothing. What had I expected? Deep down I think I’d expected to come back HOME, to my home, to my childhood, where we were all there having a family dinner or my mom was still there in her bed and I could hug her and say goodbye one more time. It sounds crazy, but I think that’s what my subconscious had been aching for and searching for. I stood in that room for what seemed like an eternity, waiting. Nothing.
Realizing I’d been there too long, I quickly walked back to the front of the house, thanked the person for letting me in, and left. Oddly, I drove away with a sense of peace I hadn’t felt before, even though I didn’t find what I thought I was looking for in that house. Certainly there was a sadness for me, too, but for me it ended up being a way to let go of the past, get closure. It was exactly what I went there not to see and precisely what I needed to see. We weren’t there anymore and neither was she. It was time to really say goodbye. Life had moved forward and it was time for me to as well.