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To the average person, it was a typical Wisconsin Friday in Octoberwet, dreary, and a bit nippy. To my wife and me, it was a day of both elation and sadness. We put in an offer on a house we both loved. My wife spotted it a few days beforehand; we toured it alongside a couple of other options, and just knew it was the one.

And we did it without our mothers. Her mother died seven and a half years before. At the end of October was the three-year anniversary of my mother’s death.

There’s something to be said for living a life without a mother. Both of us graduated college without our moms. We got married after their deaths. We gained and lost employment since they left us. We fought and cried and loved. So much happened between their deaths and our homebuying experience, we honestly did not expect to feel anything but happiness. Or, at the very least, we didn’t anticipate the pain.

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We had found our home, where we would live, work, and raise a family. There was room to expand and ways to make our house our own. We were living the American Dream! We owned property together in a nice neighborhood with good schools and beautiful parks nearby.

When we got back to our apartment, however, we weren’t filled with happiness like we thought we would be. Aside from the usual trepidation of mentally preparing to write probably the biggest check of our lives, there was a weird mix of emotions.

I picture it vividly: I sat on the couch, my wife on the floor, facing each other. We hemmed and hawed a bit, the usual things married couples talk about. Eventually, we turned back to the house. Then the tears came.

We would not be able to share our house with our mothers, nor so many others who had passed before us. There wouldn’t be any holidays with them in our house, nor a laugh, a shout, a whisper uttered from their lips. We would never hear their voices echoing through the home we built.

Once we realized that, the anxiety of buying the house dissipated, at least for a while. It was then we realized neither of them would see our house. They wouldn’t know it was ours or how we made it our own.

But we thought about something else in those moments after the epiphany: maybe there were signs, and maybe these signs pointed us in the right direction. My mother loved stained glass windows. There was one in the house. My wife’s mother thought the number seven was her good luck charm. We had a seven in our address. We thought about our other deceased loved ones and what they would think of the house: my car-loving uncle would appreciate the long driveway (though I don’t like all the shoveling), her grandmothers would adore the kitchen. So on and so forth we went.

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After our realization that we’d never share some of these moments with them, we happened upon another discovery: they would be there with us, always, as they have from the beginning. Because we loved them and we remembered them. We would not let their presence go unnoticed even if they weren’t there. In our imagining of their responses, we saw them with us, in our home.

I’m not saying I believe in signs from above (I’m very much a skeptic), but I can appreciate that even during one of the most important moments of our livesbuying a housewe were reminded of the most important aspects of our lives in general . . . our relationships with others, especially our mothers. Even if they are gone, take a moment to reflect on them. In that way, they will remain with you, forever.

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