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My luxury was A livelihood

I had never considered it before COVID, really. I knew I was lucky enough to make enough money to pay people to help me out with certain things that I either did not know how to do, did not want to take the time to learn how to do, or that I just sometimes did not feel like doing it.

I take my car to the mechanic to change the oil, and to the tire shop to put air in my tires when they go low in the winter. I go to the nail salon when I don't want to cut my own cuticles and the hair salon when I dare not risk the store bought brands for my roots. I pay a service to file my taxes. I hired a painter to paint the bedrooms and bathrooms in my house. I have bedrooms and bathrooms, even typing that makes me see my abundance that I sometimes forget. I’m not wealthy, but I can afford to pay for help when I am ill equipped.

And since 2014 I paid someone to come to my home every other week to clean those bedrooms, bathrooms and fold the laundry that I washed. I budgeted money to afford myself that luxury. Because there were plenty of days I didn't want to clean my baseboards, or dust my fan blades and folding laundry was my arch nemesis. I had made it comfortable dressing out of a folded clothes laundry basket for years.

But every now and then something would come up in my life and I would have to cancel cleaning day. I would get sick or the dogs would be sick. Or for whatever reason, maybe once or twice a year, I would cancel. And here's the honest truth, I was ignorant enough to not see what cancelling might have meant to the woman who saved me from living in my own messy life.

And then 2020 came. And when it first hit and I was summoned to work from home, and we were meant to be quarantining, I sent a text to this kind woman who had been with me since 2014 and said "stay home, stay safe. I'll Venmo you until we get through this." And about two months later she came back. We felt safe enough to be in each other’s presence. I had mopped a few times and vacuumed on the daily, cleaned my bathrooms and washed and put away my dishes. I had even changed how I folded and rolled some clothes before I put them away. But she was back and I was delighted and I knew she got a laugh out of my attempt at what would take me 2 days to do what she could do in 2 hours time.

Nora knew me intimately. Probably knew more about me than most people. Because she saw what I don't let other people see. She saw my mess. She saw what I hide from others. My sweets tucked into my freezer, my intimates, hell, if I'm going to be honest, she likely saw things that are not meant for anyone else but me. And she may even have seen my journal left open. If she read it, she never mentioned it, but it is likely she silently said a prayer for me because she read my worry, my sadness, my anxiety. Me, the woman with bedrooms and bathrooms and the luxury to have someone help her fold her underwear into triangles and dust the blinds, amongst other things. What do I have to be sad about or worry for or could possibly make me anxious? It didn't matter, she didn't judge me. She took care of me and she loved my hounds.

In August of 2020 she sent me a text message telling me she had been diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer and wouldn't be able to "work for a few weeks". A few weeks she said. She had been diagnosed with Cancer and still thought she would need to come and clean up my mess, because that was part of her income. I told her not to worry about coming in, to focus on her health. And every other week, like clockwork, as the reminder was set on my calendar, I would Venmo her what I would normally pay her had she come to my house.

I'm not sharing this to put light on a good deed I did, I'm sharing it because it occurred to me in that very moment, while I was still holding onto a job that didn't have much work to do, that I was still getting paid. It occurred to me, that very moment, because I had never considered it before, that my company would not stop paying me if I couldn't come into work because I was sick and getting chemo treatments. Hell, the government would even have my back as a full time employee with the Paid Medical Leave or Short Term Disability Act. Nora did not have that as an independent contractor. She got paid for work she did, so I continued to pay. And in December, I sent her a Christmas bonus. Like I did every year, because maybe she couldn't come to my home, it didn't mean she wasn't putting in all the work.

And maybe some of you are reading this and judging me for not having these thoughts before, but I didn't. I try to do right by my neighbor and my fellow human, but I'm human, and I sometimes don't think outside my bubble. Sometimes I walk blindly. Sometimes we all do.

I would text Nora about once a month checking in on her. I could tell she wasn't doing well, but she had faith. I told her for as long as I had a job, so did she. And the months went on, and the check-ins stayed consistent though further between. The last one gave me some hope, she said it was a long and painful process but she was starting to feel better.

And then last week, I suddenly woke up at 2:30 in the morning and did what I promised myself never to do, I looked at my phone. It took a few seconds for my eyes to focus and the sleep fog to dissipate from them to read clearly. The message read: "Hi this is Mili, Nora's daughter. This past few days are extremely hard as we were given awful news regarding my mother. She unfortunately only has a few days to live. I want to thank you for being so kind to my mom. She loved you and your dogs very much, and always appreciated your kindness."

My heart sank. I loved Nora too. She handled me with such kindness, such humility and a quiet sense of love. she had so much more of an impact on my life than she knew, than I probably knew until that text came through. It wasn't a luxury having Nora in my life, it was part of my livelihood. I burst into tears a few times the next day. I cried for Nora. I cried for the loss I felt. I cried for her children and her husband. I cried because it isn't fair. I sit in my home with bedrooms and bathrooms and her child took the time to reach out to me, in the midst of her pain, having only met a handful of times, to tell me of her grief and her mother's love for me. Nora taught me how to scrub the grime off the bottom of my pans and she inspired me to scrub the fog over my eyes for all that I am and that I have, I can see clearly now more than I did when this all began.

So I did a little digging, and I found a GoFundMe they set up to help cover her medical expenses back in August. I had heard one existed, but she never sent it to me and when I went to look it up, I couldn't find it. But now I have, so if you are reading this, and you have afforded yourself the luxury of having someone take care of things for you that you just don't want to do or know how to do or don't want to learn how to do, and it has increased your livelihood to have them in your life...I invite you to donate to Nora's family to help cover the expenses from her treatment and what will soon be her memorial by going to this link:


I asked Nora to help me sift through the dark parts of my home, to help me not be ashamed of the mess I sometimes make of my life and onto the floor of my bedrooms. Now I'm asking you to help me help her a little bit more.

“Sometimes the only answer people are looking for when they ask for help is that they won’t have to face the problem alone.” – Mark Amend

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