The Downsizers

A Daughter’s Lessons

10-13-19 5:40 PM

For two years, I had been strongly encouraging my mom to downsize and move closer to family. As the years passed, her home seemed to become too much for her manage. It was filled with a lifetime of memorabilia, furniture and other belongings.

My mom was not ready for this change. She didn’t want to go through the effort of putting her home on the market. She was worried the move would be too much for her. She didn’t want to get rid of any of her things. She was fine right where she was.

Then, one winter day, she fell. And then, over the course of the next month, she fell three more times. Each one could have been more serious than the prior but thankfully, they weren’t. But, they did get her to start thinking differently.

My mom called me one day and said “I think I’m ready to move.” She realized that all of the cleaning, home maintenance, and yard work was all catching up with her. She wanted a place that didn’t require so much upkeep. She wanted convenience. She wanted simplicity. She was excited at the thought of being closer to family.

So, I jumped in. As her only daughter, I was the one who would help her to put her home on the market. I was the one helping her to sort through all of her things. I was the one encouraging her to get rid of things she had treasured for 30, 40 years. I was the one who was packing, moving, and unpacking her.

I came into this life-changing situation like a bull in a china shop. With my Type A personality, I knew exactly how everything was going to go with the mentality of “We’re going to get it done in one week, Mom!” But what I hadn’t taken into account was the time she needed to process everything, the stories she needed to tell in order to let go of something, and most importantly, the fact that she wanted to make her own decisions about her own move.

Between getting her home ready to go on the market and then getting ready for her move once the home had sold, I was with my mom over a 3 week period. There were so many lessons in those 3 weeks.

I learned humility. My mom knew exactly what to do and how she wanted to do it. She just needed some help with some of the more physical tasks. She just wanted me to be there for her.

I learned the value of memories. Some of the things that I thought were easy decisions to “donate or discard” had tremendous value to my mom. One was a tea set that she had shared with her grandmother every day after school. Another was a piece of furniture that she had purchased the first month of her marriage to my dad.

I learned help comes in many forms. I learned the type of help that “I thought would be the best” was actually the most difficult for her to receive. She needed someone who could listen, follow directions, and be there for her, NOT someone who would come in and take over.

I learned that a move is NOT just a move. I went into this move thinking “how quickly can I get this done?” I quickly realized that this move (one where she was leaving her home of 20 years to go to an apartment that she did not own) was one of the most important transitions of her lifetime. It meant she was moving on to the next stage of her life. It meant she was letting go of some of her independence. It meant she was admitting she needed more help. It meant she letting go of years of treasures and collections.

This move changed my mom’s life as she knew it. What I didn’t expect was how this move would change my life as well. I realized how listening and offering compassion through life’s most challenging situations can be the absolute best help one can offer. I realized the importance of serving our seniors and elders. I further appreciate how much we can learn from them – their wisdom and life experiences.

I learned through these experiences that I want to spend my life serving others in this same way.

Elizabeth Hirsh