My boss had always gone above and beyond to inspire and motivate her employees. Recognition and appreciation were never in short supply when Monica was in charge. She single-handedly made sure that every Artist at Peachy Trends knew their worth.
We weren't just her employees. She saw each of us as individual and unique human beings. She had this mystical power that ignited the spark in all of her artists—a keen sense of how to bring out the best in people.
Our cartoonist Mikey for example. His life was transformed from the healing touch of art Monica provided when she took him under her wing. Alcohol was his vice. Mikey was homeless when Monica first hired him. He was sinking in the new yet endless sea of anime art but with an unrelenting twinge to stick to his roots. He was a brilliant artist and undoubtedly capable of perfecting anime. Still, his heart held steady to his old school Disney roots.
Monica found outlets for Mikey to use his raw talent. He's no longer homeless and enjoys a six-figure income. Mikey also opened a homeless shelter and has been a blessing to the community. He focuses on helping others help themselves because that's what Monica had done for him.
Maria, our architect, is another excellent example. I'm convinced she may still be working a dead-end job somewhere had she not met up with Monica. Maria wasn't able to go to school but didn't need to her talent was unmatched. She may not have had the best of opportunities, but fate landed her in the right place when Monica added her to our team.
Monica intrinsically knit together this team of tremendously talented yet complete and total misfits. She knew what she was doing, and her success spoke for itself. I had something in common with Monica; I aged out of the foster care system as she did. I'd met Monica at an event for foster children focused on helping us find our future. I was drawn to Monica's booth because of the visual appeal.
We chatted, and I was impressed with her story and was excited to learn that she was an artist because I was an artist too. When we finished our chat, she looked me in my eyes and told me, Ari- I believe in you. I know you can make this work. For the first time in my life, at that moment, I felt hope. For the first time, I believed that I could have a bright future.
Monica had given so much to all of us. We were all shocked and devastated when we arrived to work on Wednesday. Monica's Aunt was there to inform us that Monica had been killed in an automobile accident the prior evening. It seemed like hours passed as we all sat in disbelief and confusion. We were in shock; we were numb.
Monica's Aunt was in her office speaking with an attorney for the company. We could hear them talking, but I don't think any of us were listening. The powerhouse, the sunshine, the motivator we all knew and loved was gone. Just like that. Gone. It didn't make any sense. Eventually, we all tinkered around with busy work, waiting for some sort of cue from her Aunt or the attorney.
It wasn't very long before the pair stood and swiftly emerged from the office. With looks of frustration, they headed directly toward our work area. The attorney stopped before exiting the building and requested that we all meet the following day again at noon. He said we would need to go over arrangements for Monica's funeral and her final wishes. He indicated we would also discuss the company's future and come to an understanding of what we could expect from here on out.
Monica had started her design company all on her own. She never received help from anyone, and she never even borrowed money to get her business going. She didn't have encouragement from family and was very proud that she had built her little empire all on her own. She had raw talent. The kind of talent that only comes from some spiritual entity beyond human comprehension. Her circumstances were bleak when she'd aged out of the foster care system, but that did not stop Monica.
She was fierce, she was creative, and she was amazing in every way possible. She built her business which then became her family solely on recognizing unique art from lost souls that may otherwise be overlooked in the art industry.
It wasn't just about her astounding talent as an artist; it was about relationships. It was about making a difference in the lives of people. For Monica, she just wanted to leave a mark of love on the world. She didn't just want it; she lived it.
They say only the good die young, and that was certainly true when we lost Monica.
All of her video messages started playing through my mind, so I put them on my phone through the car stereo system on the way home. I just wanted to hear her say goooood morning, Ari one more time. She sent daily video messages to us each morning before we arrived at work. She met each day with remarkable enthusiasm, and it always rubbed off on us. We were so blessed to have been able to work with her; what would happen next flooded my mind.
I rolled the blanket back, climbed up on the bed, and let my slippers slide to the floor. My bed never felt more comfortable and secure that night. Amidst all the chaos and devastation, I'd completely forgotten about the bonus I'd recently been awarded at work. When I said Monica was amazing; I wasn't exaggerating. My compensation was $20,000. A recent design of mine had won over a very lucrative client and was a real game-changer for the business. So basically I got a bonus for doing my job.
To be honest, the $20,000 was like a tiny motivational deposit. Motivation to continue to pull through for this particular client. I was set to be a substantial key player in establishing our company as a multi-million dollar entity through this business partnership. Not only that, but my next opportunity would have been to receive a $500,000 commission if my designs had been picked for their first official ad campaign with Peachy Trends.
I wasn't sure the campaign would even be carried out since she was gone. She's gone; it still didn't feel real.
Suddenly I couldn't even remember her Aunt's name. Rebecca, Rachel, I couldn't remember. I was hoping there would be an opportunity to hear it again before she realized I didn't remember her name. I decided to look online to see if she was on any of Monica's social media outlets.
The next day I sat stoically in our noon meeting. Monica's sudden passing had such a tremendous effect on me. It'd weighed heavy on my heart from the moment I heard the news.
It wasn't a surprise when the attorney placed Moleskine notebooks in front of each of us. Monica loved Moleskine products because they were inspirational, made more sense for artists, and she could make customized corporate gift orders for us.
I knew exactly what this was. It was the little black book she'd given us for the second part of our commission opportunity for our new client. My little black book was instantly recognizable. Moleskine had created a version of the little black book with Nikon on the cover. When I opened it, the content was different, though, but it was familiar. I was confused, but Rachel began to talk, so my attention shifted to her.
I skimmed through the content and quickly realized what it was just as I was awkwardly locking eyes with Monica's Aunt. I saw the resemblance; she had the same deep and sparkly grey eyes that Monica did. She was the type of woman that commanded your attention, and she certainly had mine. The vibe was consistent amongst my coworkers.
Rachel lackadaisically explained that the company meant the world to Monica and that she would do everything in her power to keep current operations and projects intact. There was an actual audible sigh of relief from some in the room.
She continued by saying that Monica had just closed the deal for the new client campaign just before her accident. My art had been selected after all. She explained that in light of her sudden passing and the way her final wishes were written, I wouldn't be able to get the $500,00 after all.
I have to admit my stomach dropped slightly, but that sinking feeling was immediately replaced with tears because Rachel then had the attorney announce Monica's final wishes. He informed us that we were all now equal partners of the business and that the only stipulation is that we continued to run the company in a way that would honor Monica's memory. She specifically requested that we all leave the world a little better than how we found it through our art.
I was part owner now; the $500,000 was nothing compared to what we were gifted. I'd just been given a final miracle from Monica, continued hope that life actually would be okay. If Monica could do all she did in her short life, then how could I ever take a single day for granted.
I was just in awe of this amazing woman. I continued to skim through my little black book, which turned out to be a showcase of my work. Monica had created each of us an individualized book, and she had filled the pages with our art. With clippings from articles we made and representations of our art through her eyes. It was truly amazing.
We were all given the remainder of the week off and would gather again at Monica's funeral on Saturday. It was being called a celebration of life as requested by none other than Monica herself. It was fitting; if there were any way to make any ordinary thing into a celebration, Monica would be the one to do it.
The celebration was nothing short of magical. Since Monica had opted to be cremated and have her ashes turned into art, her celebration was held at a local art gallery. On display was all of her favorite art throughout her entire life, including pieces of her own. We went on to run the art business with all of the heart and dedication Monica had brought out in us. I opened a restaurant next door to our studio and named it Monica's On Main.
Her legend lives on throughout town and trickles out into the world through her art, and we are all better people from having known her.