Our friend Stephanie, 32 years old, died at the end of October. I have been cleaning for the past few days as we get ready to move our of the condo where we have lived since August. We have grown fond of the place and I want to leave it in tip-top shape for its owners. As I scrubbed every nook and cranny I thought of Stephanie and the times we had done work like this, shoulder to shoulder. She was the only other person I have known who was made happy by doing hard cleaning.
Stephanie came into our lives in nearly a decade ago. We were looking for a “nanny” for my spouse and me. With both of us keeping brutal work schedules and traveling we were barely afloat. We needed someone to help with the cleaning and the laundry but just as much we needed someone to make sure there was food in the refrigerator when we returned from travel.
Enter Stephanie. We had placed an ad for a personal assistant in the local paper. We had a lot of inquires and a few promising candidates but no one we felt truly comfortable with. A mutual friend introduced us to Stephanie. As soon as we meet her we fell in love with her.
Before we started interviewing candidates, I had made a very detailed book of what I wanted in our employee. It included detailed instructions for everything from cleaning to shopping to writing checks to pay our bills. Each potential candidate was given an opportunity to review the book. Understandably most took one look, thanked us and left. Stephanie actually welcomed the book. She told us that it helped her to know just what we wanted because she wanted everything to “be up to grade” and done “the way you like it.” We never used the book. Stephanie took such good care of us it was irrelevant.
Stephanie came and soon our lives were organized and clean. We were eating better. I could not get used to finishing my breakfast and just walking away. I would be dashing off to work at the same time I was trying to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Stephanie would kindly but firmly take my hand off the dishes and say, “this is my job, you go to yours.”
Stephanie traveled with me to several professional conferences and worked as an assistant for our group. She got presentations organized and made sure we were in the right place at the right time. If we were missing something she wold calmly take care of it for us. Once we were at a meeting in Las Vegas. When we went to check in the hotel had messed up our reservations and about everything else possible. It was late and we were tired. With the eye of an experienced travelers, I could see that something was going on and told Stephanie to just quietly wait. As it turned out, I was right. The hotel apologized and “upgraded” our rooms. We were supposed to have 2 conference rate rooms on the back side of the hotel. We got was a 2,000 square foot penthouse suite. The private elevator to the suite should have tipped us off but neither of us were prepared for what we walked into. I later found out that the room rented for over $3000 a night.
During the meeting, I was in charge or organizing a lunch meeting at a restaurant I have trouble hearing and we came up with the idea of hosting a luncheon in the suite. The dining table seated 16 so we had plenty of room. I left Stephanie in charge knowing that just a few hours later I would arrive at the door with the board members right behind me. There was no margin for error.
I underestimated both the hotel and Stephanie. When I walked in, the luncheon was resplendent and Stephanie was the picture of composure, professionally dressed and quietly in command. She welcomed people made sure they had the right paperwork for the meeting. She ushered them to the buffet that was laid out on two large tables decorated with arrangements of orchids and iridescent tile. Her composure helped us all feel comfortable in a setting that was far outside of our usual fare. I had never even been into a suite half that size.
On that same trip we decided to fly standby to get home earlier. As we rushed to the plane, I put my lip gloss with her stuff to speed us up at security. Both of us forgot the lip gloss. About a year later she brought it to me. We both burst out laughing.
When I was remodeling our house that burned, Stephanie came and work with me. She and I did the hard job moving furniture out of rooms and cleaning them perfectly so that the builders could lay new floors. We worked day after day together. We were grimy, sweaty and a bit fragrant. We took time for our afternoon tea break. In my experience, house cleaning does not make many people happy. The result of the work can be happy but the process of crawling around on your knees cleaning out cabinets, removing that little pile of lint that builds up on the corner of floors, removing those crumbs between the counter and the stove that is pushed tightly up against the walls does not make a lot of people happy. It made Stephanie and me happy.
When our house burned she went to see the remains alone. We generally did not like people going to the house without us since it was so shocking. We had become used to the reality so could have a moderating effect. She told me later that she broke down, crushed by the magnanimity of the loss and remembering the good times we shared together creating the home there.
Stephanie knew how much our home was a refuge and a place of restoration. She wanted us to be home again. It breaks my heart that she will not be able to see our new home that is rising from the ashes of the fire. I take comfort in knowing that her spirit is with me on days like today and that she will be with us in our hearts in our new home. When I am on my knees cleaning the crevices of our new house, Stephanie will be with me. I will set a tea party for two.
Stephanie Kline-Husy, November 12, 1980 – October 30, 2013