When You Die, I’ll Be There to Take Your Stuff
I spend my days clearing every last thing from homes of the recently deceased and soon-to-be-departed. The only thing odder is entertaining the cast of characters who swoop in to buy it all up.
Photos by Kristen Tomkowid
We park the box truck in the dead man’s yard like a six-ton hearse and knock on the front door. A disheveled middle-aged woman answers, still in her pajamas.
“I forgot you were coming,” she says, leaning out the door to see the truck. Emblazoned on the side: William J. Jenack: Estate Appraisers & Auctioneers.
“I’m a mess,” she says. “My mother’s dying.”
We ask if she wants us to come back another time.
“No, please come in.”
She’s been living in the dead man’s house for the last two years, a white Victorian-style home with blue shutters and ivy reaching up the side. She’d known the dead man, Stanley, her whole life. He was on Broadway and she used to sit in the garden as a little girl and watch him sing show tunes. Before he passed, she promised to take care of his home, which is decorated like Stanley’s still around. His photos hang on the wall; open songbooks are displayed on the piano.
You learn a lot about a dead man rifling through his house – lifting his furni…
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