“Her name was Sooz”. “She died from brain cancer”. “She loved her husband, her dogs, beads, rubber stamps, paper arts, glitter, costume jewelry, knick-knacks, repurposing old unwanted treasures, and she had great taste in clothes”. “I am most certain she would be very pleased to know how happy you are to now be the proud owner of this”. “No, her husband will be moving soon”. “Yes, the artwork is very eclectic”. “She most certainly had a blast creating in that room”.
These and many similar sentences are ones that I repeated 100 times over yesterday. At first, almost painfully, then as the day moved on, they became almost liberating for me, like a growth of spirit and mind.
But in the back of my mind my brain was processing my emotions about it all. What will happen to my stuff when I go? Will my family know how much this is worth? Or how special that thing is? Will they make sure those two things are sold together? Those two pictures really should stay together…
Susan Yasinitsky Hara was an online friend. I met her many years ago (15 maybe) online on rec.craft.beads, one of the original newsgroup locations where beader’s congregated to visit and build online friendships. She was also a very good customer. Sooz, as she was known famously for, was an outspoken, opinionated, caring and very social member of that newsgroup. Abrasive at times (many times actually), very vocal in her opinions, especially if it were in regard to something she felt strongly about, but also very loving and caring of her friends. She gave freely of herself on many levels. Sometimes so much that it was a detriment. But, some people are just that way; they burn bright and hot, passionate and intense. Many times those are the stars that burn out way too soon.
That was the case with Sooz, I believe. She had a lot of life in her, many things she wanted to create, so much invested in the tools and supplies to create them, such a love of life and things she surrounded herself with. But sadly, cancer overcame her and that intensity that defined her, the blazing light that she was, burned out way too early.
The Bead Society of Northern California was contacted and members were asked if they could help to oversee the sale of her estate. It took several members weeks to pour over all of the beads, jewelry, altered art supplies and the myriad of other craft and art supplies that Sooz had collected. Plus her personal items like clothes, jewelry, and household items. The sale was to be held on Saturday, July 30th and Sunday, July 31st in Berkeley, CA.
Knowing one of these Bead Society boards members as I do, when she emailed me about some of the items in the estate, I could “hear” the tone in her voice…she was overwhelmed. While I have some deadlines knocking on my head, I felt I could spare a day to go help get the remaining items prepped and ready for sale. So on Friday I drove down to Berkeley and met her at the house. Walking through the door it was easy for me to fully understand why she sounded so overwhelmed in her email. Oh my goodness! The amount of jewelry bits and pieces that had been collected was astonishing. They had been sorting for weeks, and many, many weeks would still be needed for a dozen or more sorters to come close to getting it completely sorted out. But the estate sale was beginning the next day! What to do? What to do?
My ability to “take charge” rose to the surface and I became a general. Spouting orders of move these here, put those outside, bring those inside, tables along this wall, and let’s begin to make some grab bags! We worked almost 12 hours straight, stopping quickly for two very welcome meals provided by Sooz’ husband Kevin. Still, when our muscles ached beyond being able to ignore them any longer and our brains got so muddled that words no longer came out properly and our eyes were so fuzzy from exhaustion that we had no clue what we were looking at any longer, we had to call it a night and hope we had prepared enough for what was to come the following day.
Kevin was feeling the stress, the frustration of losing his wife way too early in life, the anxiety of strangers coming in to his home, the anger at people touching her things, taking her things away. I did what I could to assure him that the people who would come would also be in love with all of these things and they would cherish them as she did. Or was I assuring myself? He left before they sale began. Off to spend the day somewhere else….anywhere else.
Even more emotions to process for me. Is this what my husband would do if I go first? I would hope so. No need to martyr yourself in this scenario. Let it go. Leave while it happens. Don’t torture yourself by watching people touch her things, his things, their things. He needs the money that will be raised from this sale and that is the focus he needed to keep in the forefront of his mind. Don’t let the emotional attachment to “things” blind you to the reality of life. This is for the best. It really, truly is.
8am on Saturday I find myself hustling about as quickly as I can to make sure things are displayed in a way that will make it easy for people to shop, pricing larger items one by one, putting signs above huge baskets and drawers full of the 1000’s of grab bags we created, stacking tray upon tray of rubber stamps, 1000’s of rubber stamps! And setting up household items so they would be easily seen and hopefully admired enough by the estate shoppers that they would want them all.
9:45am. The line of 100 or more is down the street (and will remain this way until well past 1pm). They are excited to shop. There are sure to be treasures. The emotions well up inside of me again. Are they sharks? Are they here to feed? To paw over someone else’s belongings without any concern or care for them? Is their main objective to buy a dead woman’s treasures for fractions of what it is really worth? Oh how horrible those thoughts are.
When I die, I don’t want bottom feeders coming with their claws to grab at my things. I cherish my belongings, they are mine. I give thought to everything I own. My beads are precious to me only after my family. Will anybody know how special that little box that sits on my dresser is to me? How cherished the contents are to me? Will anybody care?
10am. I needed to push those emotions down. This is no time for these kinds of thoughts. My friends need me to help them with this task they have taken on. Kevin needs this sale to happen. He needs this money. He needs to be free from these items. He has no use for beads, or rubber stamps, or women’s clothes.
The line at the door needed to be monitored as only groups of people could be let in at a time. The house could only accommodate so many at once. In they came, excitement exuding from them. And I was wary of them. Be respectful of her treasures please. Be respectful.
And much to my astonishment they were! There was very little “dickering” over prices. I could see people pick up a little trinket and hold it gently in their palm. Look at it carefully and appreciate it for what it was. Pick a book off the shelf and finger through the pages, admiring the quality of the book, of the pages, how they had been kept in such good condition. Hold clothing up to them and appreciate the quality of the fabric, of the stitching; the colors and style. Laugh as they looked through the 1000’s of rubber stamps, how some were comical, others a bit risqué, other still obviously custom created. Be overwhelmed at the abundance of the collection.
My emotions settled. Everything was going to be okay.
I spent the remaining several hours answering questions about beads, jewelry supplies and craft supplies as well as giving the bits of information I knew about Sooz as most every person I came into contact with throughout the day asked questions about her. Why? I am not certain. Curiosity? Does it matter to know who owned this item before you? But I am certain that they listened intently. A few would have tears immediately well in their eyes when I would tell them what she died from. Or that her husband was still here, but without her. And all of them, seriously every single person who I dealt with immediately cherished the things they just bought. They were here because they too love beads, jewelry, art supplies, paper, good quality clothing, and artwork.
And so it passes from one person to the next. These little items that someone carefully chose, loved, admired and displayed with care and attention pass on to the next person who will do the very same thing.
Sooz, you would be happy to know that your treasures have gone on to new homes where they will still be loved, used to create, displayed to be admired, worn to flatter, and owned to comfort.
Oh, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect upon my own possessions. My thoughts about what will become of my treasures. These beads that I am surrounded by, that I love so very much whether they are expensive collector’s items or a tube of seed beads. They will always be treasured by someone. Only those who really want them will have them. Only those who truly appreciate their beauty will bother to come and get them. And when I am gone and no longer have a need for earthly items like that, someone else will get the same joy they bring to me.