She would have cursed out each and every single one of us gathered in that loft for daring to have any sort of event in honor/memory/celebration of her life. But it became fairly obvious that all of us were some flavor or another of rule breaker. The party was hot, crowded, and upbeat. We all approached each other tentatively, asking how we knew her, what were our parts in her life, and used that as a jumping off point to launch into stories, memories, observations, confidences. Both friends and relatives were very interested in our role during her last days. We had a front row seat for something they could only sit and ponder from a distance. The stories started coming out of us, whispered and reverent at first, not wanting to show disrespect, not wanting to give the impression of being too familiar. Our relationship with her was professional, and we didn’t want to appear as if we compromised our professionalism, previously, with her, or standing with her friends then. As the party wound on, and wine was had, our mouths relaxed. Our stories got more intimate, profanity slipped in. Listeners would wince in shock, then laugh, nervously at first, as we recalled that yes, girlfriend had a mouth on her and knew how to use it.
She told her friends, who in turn told us, that she considered us the greatest gift she could have given herself. They told us after we visited the first time, she wondered why she hadn’t done it sooner. After we were brought in to manage her place after her diagnosis, she called friends and said our work was important. Friend after friend came to us at various points, alone and together, to thank us for our role, our sensitivity, and our understanding. Songs were sung, cake was devoured, numbers and hugs were exchanged.
Working with someone’s possessions, you get an up close and personal view of them, their desires, their aesthetic, their dreams. Being present for their death lets you see an astonishing amount of unvarnished personality; the fears, regrets, and triumphs all come tumbling out. Working in a situation that mixes the two, possessions and death, and ties them so closely, sets the stage for some very fast and intense bonds, both on our crew, and with the client. Although we knew her the shortest amount of time of all the people gathered in the room, we had phenomenal insight into her, both as a person, and her state of mind as she faced the end. We feared we would be seen as interlopers at the gathering, but it turns out our presence was welcomed. We provided reassurance that yes, she was a fireball until the end, yes, everything happened exactly the way she wanted, no, it wasn’t depressing, but full of dirty jokes, wild stories, sincere advice, and love. And that was of more comfort to her than any of her possessions