Leaving the nest

The Daily Inkling prompt about the hardest nest-leaving prompted me to write about the last time I ever set foot in my parent’s home. I’ve never written about it before. It must be time.


There was a stillness about the house as if she had just gone upstairs, or out to buy the bread, an expectancy, a trail of her perfume in the air. I could almost hear her departing steps, the click of the door. My eyes went to the chair by the window that my dad hadn’t sat in for ten years. Exactly ten years. The symmetry was unbearable, as hard as the tidiness.

She had known before anyone even knew she was sick, terminally sick, that it was over, life, living, walking the hills with her friends, nattering with us all on the phone, always a visit planned. She had spent those last weeks folding the linen away neatly, cleaning out the fridge, throwing away everything that was worn or torn or would be of no use to anyone else. Afterwards.

She permeated the air particles with that faint scent of a perfume that nobody else wore. Nothing was out of place. Everything was clean, shelves dusted, the rental paid on the TV up to the end of the month. She had even renewed the subscription at the DVD place, up to the end of the month. By then, the funeral would be over and we would have all gone home.

I wept over every still, faintly perfumed corner of that house where I had never lived. It had been my parents’ house, where they lived. Their nest. But I realised then, in that moment of sitting in a front room that had never been mine, with siblings around me, together as we had so rarely been in that house, that the house didn’t matter. It could have been a pile of dust on the dark side of the moon, but that tidiness, that delicate thoughtfulness, the faint perfume that permeated it, made it home.

After the funeral, the house died too, and we put it to rest. We emptied it of the carefully folded linen, the mementos, photos, her paintings, the furniture, all that she had thought would be useful or would please us to have, and we laid the stones to rest. My parents’ nest was empty. We have it all now, the twigs and pebbles lovingly gathered, in our hearts.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

40 thoughts on “Leaving the nest”

      1. I can only imagine how that feels. It took me several years to be able to write about the passing of my grandparents, with whom I was quite close. I found writing about my thoughts and feelings, whatever came out, was intense and therapeutic. I hope you continue to find an outlet in your writing.

      1. Your writing has a real cathartic power to it. You’ve inspired me to write to the prompt too. Now I’m dithering as to whether or not to hit publish. Some stories are so hard to tell aren’t they. Yet writing is a great healer. Time to hit that publish button I guess.

      2. I’d never thought of writing those thoughts down before. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was just time. If you’ve written it, it must be time for you too.

      3. Yes, I had a similar experience. The writing just flowed. It was a very cathartic prompt. I’ll be interested to see what today’s one is.

      4. I’ll take a look and see what’s on offer over the weekend. Thanks for leading me to the site. 🙂

      5. I looked at today’s prompt. I like the way you handled it but am not sure I can write to it. It will play on my mind though I’m sure. Maybe something will come from it.

      6. I was going to write about my great-grandma who lived longer than any other family member I’ve heard of then it occurred to me, none of them has a headstone, so…

    1. I does me too, Jade. I remember the precise moment I realised what she had done. My youngest sister and I were taking out the kitchen linen from a cupboard, and we looked at one another. Every single tea towel, hand towel, table cloth was in perfect condition, ironed and pristine. The piles were small. Every one that was faded or frayed or worn had been thrown away.

  1. Jane , this is so touching. Your description is so vivid that I can smell the perfume and see the neatly folded linen.
    The pain of not meeting our loved ones one last time leaves a hole so deep in our hearts that it never heals. Time just makes the pain more bearable.

    1. As soon as she was rushed to hospital I set off, got there two days later. Everything had given up, the only organ still working was her heart. When I arrived, she let go.

      1. You are lucky. I did not see my mother when she passed away after being sick for three days(she had other ailments but had infection not detected in time). I was in USA and that was before cell phone or internet days.

      2. You couldn’t have been there even if there had been internet. When someone is in a hospital bed dying, the internet is no substitute for a presence. She would have known that you couldn’t be there, or perhaps she didn’t know that it would be only three days and she died full of hope. It’s always hard, however it happens.

      3. I meant about video chat by whatsapp or FaceTime.
        Physically no way I could have been there.
        Whether it was a coincidence or providence I am not sure, but my elder brother who had gone to a hill station with his family had to come back home as the road was blocked due to landslide. He arrived home few hours before my mother passed away. That must have been a blessings for both of them as my mother lived with my brother.

      4. It was a happy coincidence. How one feels on the point of death is something no one has ever been able to describe, for obvious reasons. We have to hope that it’s forgiving and peaceful.

  2. I loved this. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings so intimately. There are lessons in this short but heartfelt piece for all of us.

    1. Thanks Sue. My mother’s mother did more or less the same thing, although she was old and frail and decided she’d had enough so she just got her affairs in order, wrote each of us a farewell letter, went to bed and didn’t get up again. She didn’t take anything, she just decided to die.
      My dad had keeled over and died within minutes of a massive heart attack ten years before. That was a terrible shock. My mother was young and active and I haven’t really got over her death that also came out of the blue.

  3. Jane this is beautiful. I was going to talk of my memories of this moment in life. But that is wrong this your moment and it is so raw and real and so beautifully told. I was there watching you.
    The preparation, the tidiness, the scent, the pain. Bravo Jane so well told. 💜💜

    1. You should have let your own memories come out, really. It’s been so long now, I’m as over it as I’m going to get. I still get choked up thinking about my parents and it isn’t ever going to go away.

  4. Just as your mother knew it was time, you must have known it was time to write about it. That she was so thoughtful in taking care of the towels, the rent, etc, moved me so much, and I could feel both your love for your parents and your pain come through this. This is really beautiful writing, Jane.
    “My parents’ nest was empty. We have it all now, the twigs and pebbles lovingly gathered, in our hearts.”

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