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When I first visited their home, they were both there.

I could tell she was self-conscious and a tad overwhelmed by all the stuff they’d accumulated over 25 years. She kept blushing and nodding to me as we walked from room to room. Here were the books he’d brought home when he retired from teaching. Here were the masks, drums and textiles from their African travels. Here were the baskets of yarn, the half-finished scarves, the knitting needles sprouting like spring onions.

He proudly pointed out the mantelpiece he’d installed himself, the stained-glass windows he’d built, the now-tall tree they’d planted 25 years ago.

“There used to be a wall there.”

“We added that skylight.”

“When Jamie was little he lived in this closet for years. Here’s a little patch of orange paint left! He still loves orange. And black. Giants colors.”

He wasn’t ready to sell and she assented. I, naturally, supported their decision: When the time is right it’s right; not sooner.

Three years later I returned, but he wasn’t there. It had been sudden – a blessing and a shock. For years she’d yearned to sell the house but now it was painful to let go. Everything evoked a memory. Shoes, tools, garden gloves. Skis, bicycle, golf clubs.

Together, she and I made a plan. We hired a stager, a painter. Inspections were done. Repairs were made. Storage was arranged. Yard sales were held. Movers were called.

I steadied and encouraged her as she sorted through the treasures and detritus of a lifetime. I witnessed her grief. I offered compassion and gentle yet professional advice.

In the end, the house no longer felt like home to her. Yet it felt good, she said: Renewed, inviting, shining, beautiful. The effort of preparing for sale had made the sadness easier. And the result was gratifying. She had created a new version of her home – one a new family could inhabit.

Memories were embedded in the foundation, the floors and the walls. But she could let go now. She could use the money to travel back to Africa, to spend time with her grandchildren. She was free to find new places to live and love.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com.

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