The Gathering Home {A Mother’s Day Story…}

If you have been following us for a while, you may remember this post about my Mom and her passing last summer. And if you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen my many InstaStories about our new house. What I haven’t talked about is the connection between the two.

In 2006, my Mom was diagnosed with Carcinoid cancer, but that didn’t slow her down. She kept working. She was a nurse and a Diabetes educator who loved her job and the people she spent her days with. Working gave her purpose and joy. When she had to have a big surgery, she would take some time off and then go right back to it. For 10 years, she lived with cancer as constant cloud over her head, sometimes it was dark and gloomy, but usually it looked like there was a silver lining just waiting to peek through. She was a planner, with a filing cabinet of meticulously organized medical records, notebooks full of notes she made during doctor’s visits and hospital stays and a spreadsheet for everything. I realize now that these records and papers she could hold in her hands, organize and analyze gave her a sense of control over this disease that was driving the course of her life.

The last photo I have of my Mom and I. Mother’s Day 2016

My Mom was the closest family member that our little family had. Her quiet, strong, loving presence is woven intricately into countless memories. Family trips, birthday parties, home projects, holiday traditions, and a slow weekend at home. The hardest thing for me to get used to is not being able to call her on my way to and from my photo sessions and weddings. That was always our time to catch up and connect. I still get that excited feeling you get when you want to share something with someone important when I get in the car, and then I remember that I can’t call her anymore.

The first family photos at our new home.

Although we had been encouraging her to slow down for a couple of years, she didn’t retire until December of 2015, a mere 6 months before she was gone. If only we had known…She had been planning to live and travel and enjoy time with me, my brother, Michael, and our families for many years. Cancer had another plan.

Because of these years of planning, she left my brother and I with her retirement and her home. Within the first few weeks of her death, I knew that I wanted to do something special with what she left me, something big and tangible. Such a huge part of our family was gone, but I wanted the way she brought us together and loved us to live on.

Pretty quickly, I decided that I wanted to buy a home with the money she left me. A place we could fill with love and memories, a physical place to extend her legacy. Where our family would begin to deepen our connection to our friends and family, creating family from friends and friends from family. A place that would forever remind me to live with purpose, to slow down and enjoy, while at the same time stop waiting and live every moment. A home with space to entertain and share our lives with others.

Since the beginning of our marriage, Chris and I would spend weekends driving through historic neighborhoods and dream of  an older home with history and character. If I’m being honest, we maaaaay have started the house search a bit soon after my Mom’s passing. I was still overwhelmed with grief, but the house search gave me a welcomed distraction and something to look forward to.

Last winter, we found a home built in 1924, on an acre of land, but still in the city. It needed some work, but we were up for it. We closed on the house in December and after a few renovation projects that took 3 times the estimated time, we moved in about 6 weeks ago. It was our first move as a family. For our entire marriage, we’ve lived in the home Chris purchased before we even met. We loved our first, little house. It was the place that Chris and I met, shared our first kiss, first “I love you”. The place that we became a family.

These last 6 weeks in our new home have been a kaleidoscope of emotions, joy and sadness, confidence and fear, excitement and grief. A perfect blend of bitter and sweet. I often walk through the house and think of her, of how much she would love it, of all the projects she would have helped us with. I also imagine our future here, filled with the laughter of friends and our growing family. Our hope is that this new home will become a part of the cloth of our family, continuing the thread of love that my Mom had been weaving in us. We are looking forward while holding memories close to our hearts.

Our new front porch

As I just celebrated my first Mother’s Day without my Mom, I have come to realize that I am forever changed. I have replayed many memories in my mind over and over, wanting to have one more conversation with her, needing my Mom’s help to teach me how to live without her. But there is one thing I know for certain, her greatest desire was for me and my brother to be happy and fulfilled. I love her too much to do anything other than live big and bold, to create new memories, to pour the love that was given to me into the lives of those I am blessed to have around me.
-Jenn

My tiny dog, Romeo on our new front porch.

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