I dreaded the weekend run on my deceased sister-in-law's house to work with her friends on resolving her (int)estate. I feared ghosts and guilt. But it was fun! And funny! And interesting! And not scary!
Since my SIL and I were similar in height (tall!), her best friend had urged me to go through her closet and take what I wanted. That was all the permission I needed. I admired my SIL's taste and envied her seemingly opulent wardrobe. Much to my surprise, most of her clothes were eerily familiar to me. I had either owned them previously and passed them on to her, or had copies of them in my closet in New York since my SIL and I sometimes hit the CP Shades sale together, and her mother bought us the same things for gift occasions. (In fact, my mother-in-law buys me the same plaid flannel nightie every Christmas that she bought me the previous year. Luckily, I like it.) So I ended up taking ... nothing.
After abandoning closet-shopping, I browsed her books and was startled to see that a large proportion were self-help guides to spirituality, healthy relationships, personal money management, a better body. My SIL was a supremely self-confident woman to whom many—though not I—turned for advice, which she sometimes dispensed unsolicited. Her bookshelves told another story: of a lonely, wistful, even insecure seeker. I wish I had seen more of that side when she was alive.
I also spent a bit of time sweeping up the little red bodies of lady bugs, which invade the Pioneer Valley every spring in impressive quantities: actual drifts of them piling up on floors, crackling underfoot. My sense of smell is pretty well shot from a sinus infection last year, but I'm told that in such quantities they exude a strong, unpleasant odor.
Other and I went shopping for groceries at the local health-food store, and as we exited, Other turned to me and said, "I got rubbed!" Not robbed—rubbed. The guy at the register was a toucher who knew Other's sister and reached out to express his sympathy.
On the drive home, Other pointed out that every single family among his sister's circle was dealing with a disaster. Since Other and I often feel we're laboring under some mighty bad karma what with all the sadness and stress that has piled up on us in recent years (I sense incredulity in my friends and co-workers when I recount the latest episode in my life), this was strangely comforting. One of my SIL's friends has just suffered a series of mini-strokes; another is recovering from a major stroke that paralyzed him on one side; another's son had surgery for a brain tumor that resulted in a seizure disorder that makes him unable to work, so he's living in his car on the streets of New Orleans; another's daughter has been selling herself on the streets; another's son has been in rehab; another's son has severe, disabling ADHD; several have had cancer. And those are the ones who are still alive.