when sadness is a gift


This morning in an office nearby, a pile of legal documents will be signed and ownership of my grandparent’s house will transfer to someone else. Someone I don’t know. Someone that doesn’t know all the stories held within those four faded walls. Someone that sees it as a house, but doesn’t yet know it to be a home. Someone that doesn’t know my grandparents.

The pain of saying goodbye to my grandparent’s home only reflects the depth of the love felt there and the significance of the memories made.

If I could walk the new owners through the house, I would point out every detail. I wouldn’t show them around so they could fix it; I’d tell them the stories of the house.

We’d walk to the front porch first. There is the spot Grandpa always sat and the mailbox where he hung is fly swatter. On the other side of the door was the glider. It got repainted every decade or so because the paint would start fading and rub off on all our clothes. Grandma sat on the glider a lot. I’d tell the new owner that the neighbors are friendly and have grown accustomed to Grandpa on the porch. He handed out tomatoes and gardening advice to any and all. He knew his neighbors by name. They should try to do the same, it’s a good neighborhood with a lot of history.

I’d point out how when you walk in the house Grandpa kept a sprinkler by the door. It is one Grandma wanted for us kids to enjoy. I’d tell them how my sister and I played in the summer under water flying through the sky and how my kids got to do the same. Then, I would point out the step going into the living room. We’ve all tripped over that a dozen times. Be careful.

We’d venture into the living room and I’d direct them to where Grandpa always sat and describe how Grandma kept a terrarium on the table long before terrarium’s were a trend. She kept a doily there too…and a can of nuts. Usually Honey Roasted Peanuts because those are my oldest son’s favorite. Behind the table was the couch. It is where I laid watching Sesame Street when my parent’s went on an anniversary trip to Hawaii and my sister was in Texas with my other grandparents. It is where Grandma first held my three sons. She never had the chance to hold my daughters. Then I’d probably have to pause for a moment because I miss her so much and goodness she would have loved my girls.

I’d gather myself and then walk to the other side of the room, where the slot machine seemed to cause the floor to sink. My babies could put nickels in that machine before they could walk. We’d move into the dining room – the one we gathered in every Thanksgiving. I’d laugh thinking about how Grandpa would ask me to “toss” him a roll, knowing I would always take it as in invitation to throw food. Then I would remember the candy bowl that always graced the middle of the table and how we never left without candy in our pockets. I’d smile thinking how most of the candy was suckers he somehow sweet talked or managed to fill his pockets with each time he visited the bank.

Walking into the kitchen, the new owner would be sure to notice the outline of a picture frame that had been removed from the wall. It was a family photo that hung in that same spot for over thirty years. I wore a blue dress in the photo.

The kitchen was the center of the home. Saturday night dinners for as long as I can remember. Grandma would often let a cuss word slip out when my dad and uncle played pranks on her. As kids, we’d giggle when we heard and then she’d wave her finger at us. Fried ocra. Homemade blackberry cobbler. Cracking pecans. Crossword puzzles. Domino games. Then I would notice the new owners probably weren’t as interested in all those details. I’d linger in that room – it is the room I will miss the most. We’d wind through the other rooms – the bed I slept in when I spent the night. The buffet that had all my teeth in it because Grandma’s tooth fairy paid more than the one at my house and it turned out the tooth fairy saved all my teeth in Grandma’s buffet.

The new owners would probably start wanting to wander and explore on their own. I would go sit on the back porch. I’d remember the massive garden I played in as a child with my sister. Water fights, games of tag and swinging from the clothesline. My kids played the same games in the same yard, with my grandparents watching from the porch. Grandpa asked me to bring my camera over every spring to document his tomatoes. He was so proud of them, and rightly so. Goodness, I will miss that yard.

The new owners will never know the stories those walls could tell. They’ll never understand the depth of the love that home held. They will create their own new memories. Their own new stories. Their own new home.

Yesterday marked one year since we lost my grandpa. Last night we gathered for one final meal together…just like we always did on Saturday nights. This time it was Thursday. This Saturday the keys to the front door will be in someone else’s hands. We may not hold the keys any longer, but we’ll always hold the memories.

10.14house-0110.14house-0310.14house-0510.14house-0610.14house-08As much as it hurts to say goodbye to a home that holds so much of me, I can’t help but think what a gift this pain is. It could be easy to say goodbye. It could be no big deal because the home was just another house. But it wasn’t. The depth of sadness I feel reflects the heights of joy and love I felt, for that I am so grateful.

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  • Southern Gal - Ashley, this is such a beautiful post. If walls could talk…but they just did through this post and your photographs. You took me back to my childhood and to the homes of grandparents that have long been sold and are no longer “home” to me. How I wish I had taken the time to snap a couple of photographs of those special places before they were sold. Thank you for sharing this.

  • shan - Wow. Bringing back a flood of emotions. I’ve had to say goodbye to two of my parents homes. One was my childhood home and the other was their second home. The first one was rough because we were the only ones to have ever lived there and the second was was rough because it was basically the only home my daughters knew them to live in. Plus, saying good by to the home was like saying goodbye to my Dad all over again. It is a gift to have the pain. Though I have never been one to easily let go :)And as I always try to tell myself and my girls…the memories are in our hearts not in the things. God Bless.

  • Christina - POWERFUL words!!

  • Karen Choat - If I were the new homeowners I would treasure the stories you have shared. Beautiful post as usual.

  • Crystal Prychidko - Thank you so much for sharing!!! If I was the new owners I’d want to hear the stories!! But, I thank you for sharing because I love how the sadness is a gift!!! I’ve thought of it that way before but somehow the sadness just remains sadness and never moves from there. I am moving and although it’s a different sadness it’s still sadness. You see this is has been my home for 13 years, where we brought our son “home”, where my adulthood truly became adulthood if that makes sense! LOL Packing everything up is so hard. Hard to say goodbye, hard to let someone else take the reins or keys. As the memories flood back it’s hard to think of never returning to this place. But, I love thinking of this home as a gift!! So thank you very much for sharing about your grandparents home!! I still drive by my grandparents house and stop in the middle of the street just to look at it and let the memories take me away to the happiness of childhood!!! God Bless you and your family!!!

  • Corey Moortgat - This is so relevant for me- we actually went through the same thing last year- it was so odd to think of someone else living my grandparents’ house, where we had so, so many memories! As a sort of tribute, I made a painting of the house, and made copies for everyone in my family for Christmas last year. I just thought I’d share that because you’re so crafty- even if you can’t do a painting, perhaps you could do some sort of photography project or something!

  • Amy @thelittlefarmdiary - And that is the kind of home I’m intent upon creating each and every day! That is my vision for our future- our home will be THAT home……

  • Helen - Beautiful, absolutely beautiful post. I lived a similar experience recently and, as you say, my sadness was lifted somewhat with the realisation that it was beautiful to have lived the stories and to have been so enriched by my grandparents and their love.

  • Carrie Olsen - Thanks for sharing. What a beautifully thoughtful post. It made me cry, as it brought back memories of the day I drove away for the final time from the house I grew up in – 36 years of sweet memories. I couldn’t even drive. I had to pull over due to the sobbing. It was strange the grief I felt. I still miss going there for Thanksgiving and those days when I just need a quiet rest. It was so serene. I am sure glad memories don’t stay with a place, but travel with us in our hearts wherever we go. And I am glad we have a God who comforts us in every area of need. Nothing is too silly or to small for His tender arms – He is in the details of it all. Thanks again for sharing. Now you have some of the the memories in writing. And like previously said, if I were the new owners, I would love to hear the stories if I were buying the home. Praying peace as you sign off on this chapter and start a new one. God is good!
    All the best, Carrie

  • Sarah Stäbler - Lovely post. It brought tears to my eyes, as well as made me remember little details of my own grandma’s house.

    I bet your kids will also love reading these words when they’re older. <3

  • Kimberly - Ashley, beautiful post. Your words resonated with me. We recently lost my grandpa. It has been a profound loss for our family. My grandparent’s home was my second home growing up and held many wonderful memories. Similarly, the saddness we felt when the house was sold ran deep. Thank you for the reminder that ‘the depth of sadness reflects the heights of joy and love felt.’

  • Paige - So so sad. Such wonderful memories, but so tough to let go of that place. I’m so sorry. We’ve had to do that with 3 homes so far, both my grandparents and then my parents as they purchased their dream home and let go of the home we grew up in. Hang in there, Ashley.

  • Sherry - What a wondramous post and such beautiful words. The new owners may not know the stories, but I encourage you to share them with them. In 2002, my husband and I purchased an old home built in 1908. I have enjoyed hearing stories of the house and wish they couple we purchased the home from were still alive to hear more. I treasure the memories shared by our neighbors. Thank you, too, for the reminder to write down more stories of our time in our old country home so that our children will have them to treasure in years to come.

  • Terri Jones - What a beautiful tribute to your Grandparents & your family! You have a beautiful way of looking at life, & lifting up your sadness in the product of love. Very inspirational. Thank you for sharing your gifts Ashley.

  • Michelle Hill - I don’t have memories of family traditions as in depth as yours. most of my parent’s families were in another country.
    I cannot imagine what it is like to give away a piece of your life with so much meaning and memories.
    My heart aches for you as well, but I am happy that you were able to experience decades of joy with your family in that house.
    I don’t have memories like that, but now I am keen to start sme of my own for my future family.

  • Haley - What a sweet tribute! My grandparents sold their house almost 10 years ago and I still occasionally drive by just to look at it and remember all of the time we spent there.

  • Jen - What a beautiful tribute to your grandparents and the feeling of love and family they cultivated in their home. I’m happy you (and your kids) have so many memories to hold on to.

  • Emily - We’re going to start looking to buy our first house next year, and what I keep saying I want is a “really ugly house with great bones.” And of course, the part you can’t put on the listing is that I want it to be a house that was as loved as this one is. I want the owners to tell me these stories so that when we go through to make the home our own, we can do it with respect to the quirks and personality the house already has.

    I vote for you to print this post (and the photos) and put it in an envelope and deliver it to the new owners. You never know – it might inspire them to put their own glider on the front porch and their own tomatoes in the back yard.

    Much love to you, and thank you (once again) for sharing your stories with us.

  • Mel - Such lovely insights into your childhood and your family. Thank you for sharing your memories.

  • Molly - oh honey. i totally get this. this is so tough. holding on and letting go. we are going through this too. my husband and i have both lost grandparents and their homes have changed possession. for us both houses have stayed in the family….which is harder and easier all at the same time. my grandma passed 25 years after my grandpa (way longer than any of us thought she would last) so for years we have known what would happen with the house. my husbands grandparents passed more suddenly and with in 10 months of each other. that change has been much harder. you are right, no matter what the memories are ours and nothing can change that.

  • Samae - This is such a bittersweet post. How could the new owner NOT want to hear these stories of the sweet home they have. They would be lucky to have half as many sweet memories in their new home.

  • Janine - So beautiful. It’s been 17 years but if I close my eyes I can picture my grandmother’s house in detail. And I don’t have pictures to help. Beautiful memories remain and will always remain. Even if the new owners don’t know the stories they will feel the love there. I think some of it gets left behind. It soaks into the walls and floors and never leaves.

  • Jenny - Again, another great post. I lost both of my grandparents the beginning of the year. They passed within days of each other. Their house sits up on the hill empty. I don’t have the heart to go back. For I don’t want to see it that way. I want to remember it the way it always was, and will always be in my mind. What a great perspective, to remember that it hurts so much because I was so blessed.

  • Laura In Sacto - Wonderful memories you will always have. I love your photos.

  • Tiffany - Beautiful post! I’ve been on both ends of this situation. We sold my grandma’s house a few years ago; she was ready to leave the farm after my grandpa passed away. It was better for her to be closer to family, but it was hard “abandoning” the farm that my grandpa built. The family who moved in was SO GRACIOUS! They let us visit a few years later. I couldn’t believe how much the farm had changed… for the better. The hollyhocks by the barn that my dad mowed over every year because they were a pain to mow around were finally tall and in full bloom. I hadn’t even known there were flowers! The new family was also loving the heck out of the house. No one person knows the full story of that house, but it has been well-loved by both families who have lived there. I also remember a day as a young kid when a strange car pulled into our driveway. The driver said she had grown up in the house and asked if she could look around. It was a shock to me to think about another family breathing life into that home. Old people, maybe, but not a whole family! It was in disrepair when we moved in, so the woman cried and thanked us for all we did to make it beautiful again. It was incredible to realize we loved the same place and had it in common, even though we didn’t know each other before that day. Wishing you peace on this difficult day. I’m sure your grandparents would be delighted to know how much you loved their home.

  • Alice H - this makes my heart hurt. and happy at the same time. Thank God for memories. Thank God for the best grandparents ever. Your grandparents remind me of my own. And this makes me want to go take pictures of all the things I might someday forget about them and their home. Praying for you and your family!

  • Jess Z. - What a great tribute…I think I’ll do the same for my grandma’s house. We sold it a few years ago, but I still remember the details and the smell and her kitchen. Her gathering place.

  • Jill - This is one of the most beautifully written posts I have ever read. You should write all of this out for the new owners and stick it in their mailbox. What a wonderful gift it would be for them to know how special their new home is.

  • Angela - I’m crying now and it’s not even my grandparents. Family is such a precious thing.

  • Diana - My cousin just pinned something that said “how lucky am I to have something so special that it hurts to say goodbye” or something like that. It really is. It hurt so much when my Grandma died a year ago but that just shows how special she was. You’ll always have the memories and those are certainly priceless.

  • Jennifer - What a powerful and moving story. You really do have the gift of writing. This makes me remember my grandparents home as well. But your words, your photography…goodness. I agree with Jill who commented earlier. Do print this and stick it in their mailbox! If I were the new owner, I would cherish it always. That would be the best house warming gift ever. Hugs to you during this emotional time.

  • Erica - Wow, this was really beautiful. Love and sorrow often go together in some fashion and there is a season for each. Glad you have loved so much and received so much love and am sorry for the sorrow. May you continue to find comfort in God and in your family.

  • Lisa Miner - So insanely well written. I feel like I was there. “It could be easy to say goodbye…”

  • Kim B. - Such a beautiful beautiful post. I could say a bunch more but don’t really know how to. Just – thank you for sharing, there’s a place like that for me too.

    (and my grandparents had the EXACT same t-bar clothesline skirting the garden, that we had our swings on. I may have to steal your photo because heavens I never thought to take one for myself and it’s such a thing of rustic beauty, simply because it’s permeated with all those memories. I’m from a small town NW of Tulsa, so this really IS all the same for me.)

    bless you and your family as you go through this transition. love that you memorialized it and took a huge family photo in front of the home.

  • Kim B. - Just thinking about this further — this is evidence of the power of blogging — or of writing in general. I’m laying here on my couch in Paris at 7 in the morning, tears in my eyes, because I am transported to a little corner of NE Oklahoma, and a time, and with people, all of which resonates with me so much because you took the time to write and photograph.

    That’s really an amazing gift!!!

    Thank you.

  • Tracey - Ashley-
    Thank you for sharing. The connection between the generations of our familiesis so important in teaching, love, history, and values. This post touches on all of these for me and highlights my own place in connecting the generations for my parents and children. It has been too many years since I laughed with my own grandparents and spent time creating memories with each of them. Now it is my turn to foster these moments for my parents and children. Our grandparents teach us about our place both in the here in now and in terms of history and the eternal links between generations of our families. My heart is so full of emotions… as we approach the busy holiday seasons I appreciate your words so much and I will commit to supporting those everyday moment between grandparents and grandchildren, cousins and aunts & uncles!! I wish for you continued love between the generations of your family! May your grandparents’ memory be for a blessing, may you always find strength in the lessons they taught you and may you continue to bring light and love to your family, friends and readers. We love you and appreciate you. XOXO, Tracey

  • Jessica - I read this yesterday and was thinking about it all day. Thank you for your beautiful words. My husband and I have recently decided to move back close to home to be near family. I’ve had mixed feelings about everything this will entail for our family, but after reading your post, I felt such hope for our future. This is the life and memories I want for my two young sons, and I know that the blessings of living by family far will far outweigh the reservationists that I have. Thank you for helping me to see the beauty and gifts in this choice that we are making,

  • Trish - This post makes me want to listen to “The House That Built Me” on repeat. How blessed we are who have such special memories of wonderful and loving grandparents.

  • Kristin - What a beautiful post. You always seem to know just how to make me cry. Thank you for sharing. It brought back the flood of emotions I had as we emptied my grandparents home.

    You should definitely consider sharing these memories & maybe copies of old photos with the new owners. Stories such as these help connect people to a home & let them know the house has always known love within it’s walls. When I bought my first home I was instantly at home b/c I knew the previous owners had built it to love & raised a beautiful family there & cared for it as a member of the family. It made me respect the home even more & leave some of the older, less trendy items b/c I knew that was how Mr & Mrs Moss had wanted them.

  • Rhonda - I love your writing. You truly have a god given gift and I love that you use it ad share it with all of us. Reading this made me think of when my grandparents place was sold and how I should have written about it!!! Love it!!

  • Kimberly Dial - Oh goodness Ashley, that was a real tear jerker girl! Reminds me of memories I have of my grandparents house … “The Farm” … a home, a garden and a yard my 53 year old heart loves so very, very much. You’re right, it’s a blessing to have it hurt. You were blessed. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Amanda - my favorite post of yours ever! loved the way that you captured the little things in your pictures (like always). makes me wish that i was old enough to handle a camera when my grandmother moved out of their home. and the fly swatter photo is awesome 🙂

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh Ashley, I’m so sorry. It’s so true. I remember when I came up for Snap Shops, I drove around that evening and took pictures of Brian’s grandma’s house, the butterflies that she decorated the side of the house with, the ceramic bunnies that she hid in the garden, Jim’s Never on Sundays, and the Holy Family cathedral. I wanted to surprise he and his sisters with pictures of Tulsa that Christmas. It was good.

    How strange is it that pain and blessing hold hands so very often…

  • Family, grandparents and grandchildren | Gippsland Granny - […] of the blogs I follow is called Under the Sycamore.  Recently Ashley wrote a post about her grandparents and her grandparents’ house which is well worth reading.  It got me thinking about my grandparents.  I never knew grandparents […]

  • Sunday Ponderings No. 9 | I Will Bloom - […] When sadness is a gift from Ashley Ann Photography. It was an especially important reminder, for me, that we have to give […]

  • MaryAnn Thomas - This is one of the most moving reflections I have ever read! I’m crying and it isn’t even my grandparents home. Thank you for sharing your pain and joy at this bittersweet time. Your reflections and perspective were a gift for me to read. xo

  • Kel - What a beautiful posting! May God preserve all your wonderful memories to pass down through your family. It is hard to be grateful in all things (Phil 4) -but you are doing just that. I am so sorry it is painful. Blessings to you and your family. I really hope the new owners will enjoy hearing your stories!

  • Kristin S - I really, really hope somehow that the new owners get to read this.

    I remember when my grandparents’ home sold. That was in the mid-80’s. I can STILL smell it. My grandfather built every corner of that house and the garden went on forever. They composted – before composting was trendy.

    I was allowed to go back in a few years later. The new owners had totally updated it and made a lot of changes. That’s their prerogative. BUT the bones were still the same and the memories were there.

    I’m so glad you all gathered there. THAT’S a great memory.

  • christina larsen - I just now read this post. Walking through the house with you brings back such a flood of precious memories of my grandparents house. Candy jars, doilies, scrabble games at the table in the kitchen, big family meals. Running around their immense yard and farm. Thank you for sharing. I know saying goodbye is so hard. But you sharing has allowed me and probably others to remember precious memories of their own. Memories are something that no one can ever take away from you…they reside in your heart. Again, thanks for sharing.

  • Missy - This was a beautiful post my dear. You brought tears to my eyes. I have so many memories just like those. You’ve inspired me to document them so I will have them forever. Sending you love and wishing the new owners so many wonderful moments in your grandparents’ beloved home.

  • Karen - What a beautiful post. I’ve known a few houses like this, myself.

  • Amber - You know Ashley, you could always write a letter to the new owners saying exactly what you just wrote in your post. I am sure the new owners would love to know the history of this home that is now theirs. Bless them with some of the history as it has blessed you! : ) Hugs to you and your precious family!

  • Ashleigh Blatt - Heart. In. Throat.
    I went through my father’s things just 3 days ago. On the wall in this silver frame was an old french franc. It hung on the wall, crooked, for as long as I can remember and even in his room, his new room after he left the house that he and mom lived in. I took it with me as I left. My aunt asked me why and if it didn’t have any meaning then I didn’t need to take it. I don’t know its specific significance to my dad but to me, it was just always there. It’s a comfort and I took it with me. Sometimes “stuff” really is just more than stuff. There’s a comfort to it. A comfort that the fly swatter was always hanging there.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope you don’t mind mine.

  • Gazco Studio 2 - Thank you for sharing……

  • Carrie Campbell - My dad passed away 8 and 1/2 years ago, and due to many emotional, legal, relational complications it wasn’t until today that we closed on selling his house. I remembered this post and relate to it so much right now. Here’s hope that the new owners make many happy memories there. Thank you for sharing your story.