My two brothers and I met this month at my dad's home in South Carolina for a task many of us will one day face: to go through family photos, jewelry, holiday decorations and other personal belongings.

My dad is selling his house.

He recently moved to Columbus after 13 years of living in the South. He and Mom retired to Aiken from Pittsburgh.

Mom passed away seven years ago, and the trip undoubtedly marked the last time that my brothers and I would visit the house together.

It was Mom’s favorite place — her respite and sanctuary, a warm-weather haven where she could spoil her grandchildren and gaze out at the pine forest beyond the backyard.

So the thought of going back worried me a little. I wondered what unexpected memories might surface and whether leaving would be difficult, especially because some things — furniture and some books, knickknacks and wall hangings — would be left behind to be sold.

Upon arriving, I opened a kitchen drawer to look for a phone directory that Dad had asked about. Instead, I first found a photograph of Mom, with a beaming smile, peering around a corner from the stoop of the house.

She was there.

I set the photo upright on the counter, where it stayed for the duration of our visit.

While going through closets and boxes, my brothers and I came across Mom’s nursing degree as well as her high-school yearbooks from Cleveland. We also found a box of her treasured dolls.

Because we don't often get together — Kevin lives in Pittsburgh and Tim near Atlanta — the time we spent together in Aiken was special.

My brothers left South Carolina the day before I did. I wanted some alone time for soaking everything in: the smell of the pine, the azaleas.

I snapped a photo of the silver maple that I think Mom planted in the front yard — a reminder of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Before heading back to Columbus, I took Mom’s photo from the kitchen counter and placed it in my satchel.

She is here.

Random Thoughts is an occasional forum in which Dispatch staff members ponder whatever strikes them at a given moment.

Mark Ferenchik is a Dispatch reporter.

mferenchik@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik