Journey Mercies . . . Leaving Home

Journey Mercies . . . Leaving Home

Journey Mercies . . . Leaving Home

The thought of leaving home wasn’t something I wanted to think about, nor was it something I figured I would ever have to do.  I was 60 years old and had lived in the same house for 28 years.  It was my home and I didn’t want to leave it or my family. What was I doing?  I was on another journey . . . moving closer to work.

Do you remember the first time you left home – really left home?  Were you young, and just moving into your first apartment, excited for your new beginning?  Were you accepted into the college of your dreams and getting to move across the nation?  Did you enlist in the Military, feeling you wanted to be part of the greater good and then scared to death of what you had just committed to?

Now it seems many more people are making big moves.  You can be forced to leave because you’ve lost your job and your home is up-side down. Maybe your adult children are moving back in, or maybe you have made the decision to care for your parents in your home. The “sandwich generation” is more prevalent now than ever before.

Perhaps you now find yourself in a season of life where you are faced with the difficult and most often heartbreaking task of talking to your parents about moving out of their lifelong residence to a place where they will receive better care.

We may move many times in the course of a lifetime, but for our older parents, this can mean not only leaving their physical home, but maybe leaving family and friends.  They may be forced to give up their independence by losing their driving privileges. It may mean they are leaving home for good.  How then, can we help them transition comfortably and more importantly, with their dignity in tact?

In my comings and goings with healthcare and senior care professionals, I have realized that there are many wonderful resources to help us manage and care for ourselves, as well as our parents. This has given me such an appreciation for those who are in the trenches helping our aging parents live better, live longer, and live with dignity.

Here are three well known resources that are excellent beginnings for finding the right care for your parents:

•  The Council on Aging Orange County a non-profit provides Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy (HICAP) Friendly Visitor programs and training; Case Management for disabled adults and the frail elderly, Ombudsman services, professional education for seniors and those who care for them and many other services.

•  The Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County provides a comprehensive suite of programs and services – at no charge – to meet the myriad and evolving needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other related illnesses. They are there for the patient, families, caregivers, and the larger community. It’s a remarkable program.

•  Age Well Senior Services based in Laguna Woods provides critical programs, services and resources to seniors primarily in South Orange County.

Being 60 and making this move was scary but my daughters were there supporting and encouraging me and we even visited the “active seniors” apartment complex together.  It was 620 square feet of what I called “nothing”.  They called it “downsizing”. My transition was heartbreaking. I left three of my four children and 7 of my 9 grandchildren when I packed my things.  Instead of coming home to a house full of life and laughter, I came home to silence.  It was only 40 miles away, but it might as well have been 400.  I remember thinking as I sat in my apartment, “ if I don’t call someone, I won’t have another conversation until I get to work in the morning.”

But I survived that transition. In fact, I’m thriving.

For someone who never thought they would live alone, much less make Orange County their permanent residence, I surprised myself by purchasing a home in the Laguna Woods Village, and I’m thrilled.  It’s more than I could have imagined, and perfect for this next season of my life.

In the beginning, leaving home was not what I wanted, but it turned out to be just what I needed. It gave me the opportunity to live independently and nurture some wonderful friendships. It also gave me the strength and wisdom to decide exactly what I wanted in a home, how safe I wanted to be, and what activities I could enjoy over the next decade or two.   Right now, I’m living my best life!

I’d love to hear your story . . .what season of life are you “moving” into or “leaving”?

• At what stage of your move are you in?

•  What do you suppose your conversation might  be like with your parent(s)?

•  What move brought you or your parent the most joy?

•  What move would be the most difficult?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Jeff Turner says:


    My departure from my childhood home came the summer after my sophomore year of High School. My parents sold the house that summer and bought a 40 foot sailboat. We gave our two family dogs away the day before I left for drum major camp. I left from the only house I had known and returned a week later to the aft cabin of the boat with no permanent slip. Before you feel too bad for me, let me tell you that I was very excited about living on the boat.

    The difficulty of the loss of family pets, toys, house, familiar routines were felt but were quickly replaced with the new adventures of living 15 days at a time in one location and then moving. Then there were the adventures of dinghy rides at 6:00 AM into shore with school clothes and toiletries in the rain. I recall one night after a late field show rehearsal at school driving “home” to Long Beach only to find my “house” was not there. No cell phones back then either. So, I guess I’ll start in Newport and hope they are in one of the four possible places we may have moved to. If they aren’t there, its on to Dana Point. Oh yeah.

    I guess the point is, as difficult as it is to leave the familiar, the new adventure is at hand. Like so much of life, it’s how you choose to look at it and it is almost always a mixed bag you have to draw from.

    Carpe diem Pat,


  2. Patricia Kolstad says:


    Although I didn’t know you “way back then”, I certainly remember your stories of life on the Thesis, and wondered how on earth you managed. I would have been so freaked out! The great thing about your stories, is that it gave me a whole new perspective on living life as an adventure and doing things so much different that I would have ever imagined.

    You are such an inspiration to me on how to move through this life of ours with the expectation of “what’s next?”. It’s taken me the last 20 years to believe that I could do things I would have never thought or realized were possible. But now, I feel that I am living my best life. I’m still looking for the next great thing – the next installment of the book. Of turning the page and starting the next chapter.

    Thank you . . my friend. We are “seizing the day!”.


  3. Hi Pat –

    I was blessed to be kicked out of my parent house when I was 18. Well that is not completely true, the gave me a choice to pay rent for $500 and live under their rules, or I could find an apartment for $750 and start living my own life. Well for $250 dollars more that was the best deal I could think of, I never looked back. I love being independent and learning about life on my own. My parents must have been thrilled when I left, being the youngest of seven children, they are probably still celebrating their freedom from us.

    The biggest move I really have was when I joined the US Navy, every time I got a new duty station I had a new adventure to look forward to. I guess as much as I love change I like things to stay the same after all these years.

    It has been great to see you embrace all your changes and challenges over these years.

    Cheers to you my friend!!!


    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      I’m sure that leaving home for the first time was an amazing decision for you. I remember moving out when I was 18, right after high school. Got my first teller job and moved in with 2 of my girlfriends from school. We rented a brand new 2 bedroom furnished apartment. Wow . . . free at last. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that moving out was more than moving clothes and staying out all night. There was rent, food, utilities, car payments, gas and making sure you made it to work on time after staying up til midnight. After 9 months, one moved out and the other decided she couldn’t afford it. I went back home and started over. Luckily, I still had a room. As I look back now, I sense that our lives are filled with “leaving home’s”. Whether that home is a place to lay your head, a job that you love and have to leave, a marriage that didn’t work, or a time when someone else has to make a decision that you can no longer handle. We need to be cognizant of how “leaving home’ affects the lives of those who are in the center of it. It can be a world of fun and adventure, or it can be a heartbreaking. I know some of these changed my life in wonderful ways, but going through it was tough. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ll look forward to hearing from you in another 10 years!

  4. Tom says:

    Thank you for sharing . . .

  5. Amy says:

    What an inspiration you are to other woman who have had to face difficult situations. You did it and look how wonderful and blessed it turned out. No matter how far you are from your family you are still a family. What you have given them, how you have raised them and the example you are for them are things that you should be so proud of. Thanks for sharing your story and being an inspiration to us all.

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Amy . . thank you so much for your thoughts. We all have the opportunity to share our life experiences, and in doing so, I think we can offer some insight to other women who may be going through the same situation. I have been helped so much by my daughters. And my son, well, you know the story . . . Mom! Stop crying! I hate it when you cry! He’s been supportive in his own special way. Some of my strength has come from watching my daughters traverse through life. Each has grown through adversity. In fact, we use to say “We are strong, like bull!” And it’s really been true. You are what you think!

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