It was so good to catch up with you on your last couple of visits back to Liverpool.
I first saw Sandra at a conference for forensic support services. Everyone had just poured out of a session on offenders with acquired brain injuries to descend on urns of watered-down coffee and plates of sweating cheese.
On my way to the bathroom, I passed a table in the lobby where STC Services brochures were fanned out next to a sign inviting you to drop your business card into a fishbowl for a chance to win a bottle of Shiraz.
A small TV played scenes of before-and-after trauma clean-up jobs. A very tall woman, perfectly coiffed and tethered to an oxygen tank, invited me to leave my business card.
I did, however, pick up one of her brochures, which I read compulsively for the remainder of the day. I was surprised to learn from the brochure that the police do not do trauma clean-up.
Neither do firefighters or ambulance crews or emergency services. Instead, hired hands like Sandra handle the clean-up at crime scenes, deaths, floods and fires. They have all the same enzymes that break down our food. When these powerful enzymes come into contact with furnishing and the like, deterioration is rapid.
But I still had the brochure, which, by then, had grabbed me by the neck and was dragging me in search of the woman herself. I believe you contacted me for an interview. She asks me in a deep, rich voice when I would like to meet. I tell her I can work around her schedule.
It struck me then that, for Sandra Pankhurst, death and sickness are part of life. Not in a quote book sort of way, but in a voicemail and lunch meeting sort of way. Over time, I learned that this outlook was fundamental to her character.
My other first impression of this striking woman, however, would turn out to be wrong. We are in the cafe, a place where the sick and dying, and those attending to them, can grab a latte or a cheese sandwich.
Everyone is eating except for us. In her sixties, Sandra is very tall and graceful and immaculately groomed.
I feel short and frumpy next to her. She got beaten for stealing the cans of food which were discovered — empty, crushed and hidden — when the walls burned down.
Kicked out at seventeen, she moved in with another family she found through her church. She explains how the light bulbs popped out of their sockets, how she felt the earth shudder, how her first sight of death was over the back fence, watching police throw body parts out of public view.Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your mother, daughter and sister.
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