Moving On: A Room-by-Room Remembrance Ritual
We moved out of our house today. Tomorrow, my husband, Jonny, our two pets, and I will board a plane for a new life in a new place. We are leaving Washington state behind for good. While I am sad to leave my friends, closing this chapter feels like a relief.
The past four years have been the most transformative of my life. I have experienced great losses and suffering in this place. There have also been beautiful beginnings and growth, but it’s hard for me to reflect on my time here without feeling the weight of grief. More than grief, though, are the memories from my mom’s idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis and lung transplant.
As we cleaned all the surfaces in our empty home, I tried to construct a timeline of our residence there. Recalling memories one last time within the space where they happened felt like a ritual for closure. As I scrubbed out any evidence of ever having lived there, the heaviness of some memories seemed to wash away, too.
We moved into the home in November 2018. The boxes were hardly unpacked when I got a phone call from my mom, Holly, that would change my life. Today, I mopped over the place in the living room where I heard the words “there is a cure.” I remember the feeling of disbelief, with joy fighting through panic. I stood there suddenly understanding the truth of my mom’s diagnosis the moment I learned that a lung transplant was “the cure.”
Then, I worked my way around the spare room that has been my office. I scrubbed the baseboards where my suitcase sat packed for six torturous weeks while I waited for the call that my mom had matched with a donor. The same suitcase is now packed again, sitting by the door for another grand adventure.
I smiled as I scrubbed scuff marks from the wall in that room. The marks remained from resting my feet on the crossbar of my desk. I spent countless hours there writing and building my business. Being my mom’s caregiver through her transplant empowered me to follow my dreams of being a full-time photographer. A friend I made in the transplant community mentored me and helped make my dream a reality.
Scrubbing the tub, I thought of all the great ideas that I turned over in my head under the beat of hot water. Like “Harry Potter’s” Cedric Diggory, I do my best thinking in the bath. Many a column were born by mulling things over in the steam.
In the bedroom, I remembered being woken up by the call. Finally, after three months in the intensive care unit, my mom had matched with a donor. I sat in bed and cried when I hung up. I was so relieved and happy, but also scared. I grieved for the donor who was at that moment passing through life’s final transition. I hurt for their family as I celebrated for my own.
In the dining area, I recalled planning my route from Seattle to San Francisco. I bought my plane ticket and looked at public transportation routes to get me from the Oakland airport to the hospital. I remember jumping up from the table to celebrate with my husband when he got home. We danced happy dances and went over the plans together before he took me to the airport. I would spend the next three months in California.
Cleaning our kitchen, I thought of all the amazing meals that Jonny and I have created together during the pandemic shutdown. Our shared interest in good food, combined with extra free time at home and closed restaurants, drove us to improve our cooking skills. I’m grateful for the hobby that brought us together during this crazy year, and the ridiculously small kitchen that we somehow made work for extravagant dinners.
When all the rooms were scrubbed and shining, I did one last walk-through to give thanks to the space that held me over the past two years. Locking the keys inside the house and driving away for the final time is always a weird feeling. I usually cry. This time I didn’t. The chapter is closed, and I am glad.
I don’t know what memories I will make in our next home. I hope there are more good days than bad. More beginnings than endings. I am grateful to have survived and grown through the trials I faced while living in Washington. I know I have changed a lot because of them, and I am prepared to face more hard things that will inevitably come.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.