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
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. GREG FORSTER says:


    Your thoughts on this subject are important and necessary.

    In my family’s case, my parents, for various reasons, did not move. They stayed in the house my father built in 1955 in Encino, Calif. and that I and my brother spent most of our growing up years in. This was not good for them. It was not a “neighborly” street and they had no friends there. They were content with their situation, though, and would not move. However, the lack of outside stimulus created over time a “co-dependency” situation that was unhealthful and lasted until their passing.

    What I took away from this is that socialization and life long learning are not goals to be worked towards, they are absolute necessities that must, fully, be part of one’s life as long as one lives…period.

    You are a person who knows this lesson.

    I am glad for you that your move was not only successful, but that you are open to new growth and to new adventures. I see you as a ringleader promoting new activities and new ideas with new people in Laguna Woods. I wouldn’t be surprised if you started a new club or group there for something that hasn’t been thought of before…and I wish you every bit of luck in this. But then again, I don’t think you need luck, you already have tons of “life momentum” on your side.

    Have a good life in Laguna Woods!


    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hi Greg:
      Thank you so much for your wisdom and sharing your observations regarding your parents. I know the polarization that living alone can cause elderly adults. My mother rarely stepped out of her home after her husband died, and 2 years later she was gone. She didn’t have friends and would not move from her home to be closer to family. I have been blessed by children who support me and a circle of friends that I have to call on and be around when I’m having those “not so good” days. I never in my life thought I would be so independent. I always thought that I would be one half of a whole. To my surprise, I am the whole . . . and I’m better for it. I don’t know about being a new “ringleader”, but I do know that if the opportunity came, I would really ponder the possibilities and not run from the opportunities. It’s living your best life. We all have that choice. I believe I’m living mine!

      • Karilyn Leslie says:

        I think Greg’s right!! What an exciting possibility, to build something that never existed before, kinda like what you’ve done here at O’Connor’s!! Go for it Mom!!

        Your cheering section,
        Kari, Kori, Kristen, Bruce
        and all our Kids!!

        • Patricia Kolstad says:

          You are amazingly supportive, and wouldn’t that be a kick? You just never know what may lie around the next corner or the next sunrise, for that matter. I’m learning that life is what you make it, that joy is not something you work for, and that love begets love. Thank you for being the strong woman you are . . . and hey, why not share your story of leaving your first “home” to your beautiful new home. There’s a story to be told, my sweet daughter!


  2. Marilyn Sechler says:

    Wow Pat!

    Good for you to make that move! It’s perfect for you in so many ways. Laguna Woods is a fantastic place to reside. You can be as busy or as sedentary as you like. Knowing you, everyone will know who you are and fall in love with you in no time at all! You can become the Mayor!

    Moving ‘out’ and away from my family was a HUGE decision and it has probably saved my life. Never in my wildest dreams did I picture myself living out on my own or in a place that wasn’t extremely comfortable, large, modern and upscale.

    Life happens. Sometimes all the best laid plans in the world get lost in the shuffle and you end up heading in a different direction. The way you choose to look at it and react to those changes make all the difference in your happiness. Re-evaluating the keys to happiness at any age in our lives gives us the opportunity to change our course.

    I’ve had the 6,000 sq. ft. home with an indoor pool in the Country Club that was paid for. I now live in a rented 10′ X 10′ bedroom with my own bathroom and walk-in closet. There have been many different living arrangements in between. I can’t remember ever being happier than I am right now, other than when I was working for O’Connor (truly).

    My new lifestyle is giving me the freedom to focus on ME first! I have never had that opportunity before now.

    Great blog issue! I miss your wonderful smile and all the fun we had working together and enjoying the occasional martini. I still can’t make a martini without thinking of you and remembering the look on your face as you took your first sip with the salt around the rim of your glass. AAaaarrrrughhh!

    Hugs to you and the rest of the team,

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hello dear friend!
      Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt story! You have amazed me as I have read of YOUR JOURNEY, and the newfound strength, wisdom, and peace that it has brought you. I do believe that we, as women, are truly Steel Magnolia’s. Sensitive and caring when the time demands, and yet strong and determined, willing to persevere through our darkest days when we feel we cannot. It is women like you who are willing to take the risk, the challenge, the “leap of faith” so to speak, and become all that we never knew we could be. I do hope you will continue to share your thoughts and revelations. I sense that this is as cathartic for you as it has been for me. Love and miss you, take care and I look forward to hearing from you again!

  3. Karilyn Leslie says:

    Hey Mom,
    I’m so proud of you!! You’ve come a long way baby, and the future is BRIGHT!! I remember how much you struggled with making your transition out of our family home and down to Ladera. It feels like so long ago, and it was only a blink of the eye. Did you ever imagine you’d own two homes? WOW!!

    I love you Momma!!


    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Dear Daughter
      It has gone by in a blink, hasn’t it? We move through this life sometimes never knowing what our next adventure will be. Then you are challenged to make a decision based on some really great advice, and you become overwhelmed. I remember exactly how I felt. I didn’t want to do it at all, but got caught up in you and your 2 sister’s excitement for me. You helped me to see the many benefits it would give me. And it did! So I thank you for your support in that decision. I know it led me to where I am now . . independent, secure, and exactly where I need to be at this time in my life! Thank You!
      I love you!

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