Kerry Anne - Creating a new life.
On 28th May 2014 Kerry Anne returned from her family business to find her husband had passed away unexpectedly at home. The next day Kerry Anne asked herself one question: “Do I let my passion die with him, or do I follow it with everything I have?” She decided to restructure, sell out and pursue a newfound purpose.
Kerry Anne first met Alec in 1999 at a Sales Award Night in Albury NSW. Alec was my boss in my new job selling Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door. He was a standout that night, cleaning up the awards and working the room with all the charm of a Hollywood celebrity. By the end of the night this vacuum salesman had swept me off my feet.
Alec was driven and strategic as a leader, teaching our crew his amazing sales skills and consistently leading from the front. We spent plenty of time together over that first month of training, first at work, then increasingly at play.
My initial attraction to Alec quickly grew. He was completely enchanting to me in his zealous ambition and his ‘the-sky-is-the-limit’ outlook. Our night-time conversations set the stage for a love that would last a lifetime.
After a year we decided to open a Godfreys vacuum franchise in Wagga Wagga. With everything in place, Alec and I set up house and got married. April 27, 2002 was the best day I ever experienced. My four-year-old daughter Isabelle joined her two cousins as flower girls, and my seven-year-old son Zac gave me away.
Alec pledged his vows first to me, then the children, promising to care for them with the heart of a loving father. Alec lavished heartfelt dedication on my children every single day, even when confronted by the hurtful complexities that can arise in blended families. For over a decade I was Alec’s lover, best friend and lifetime companion.
Our romance took me on a journey of refinement that inspired increasing confidence, boldness and purpose. This love propelled me into entirely new orbits from those I had ever known. Our shared commitment to growth had always been a defining aspect of our relationship, and saw us move through several versions of our business over the years. The bulk of our time, and success, had been in selling vacuum spare parts on our VacuumSpot website. Start-ups are hard, but we’d finally grown to the point that I could swap full-time teaching for working in our business.
On the Australia Day weekend of 2013 Alec and I packed up our daughter, two dogs and a cat to relocate from our country NSW home to the big smoke of Melbourne. We intended to expand our networks, make the most of importing opportunities, and find new clients who had deeper pockets than our Wagga Wagga locals. The first year and a half was intense. Our initial optimism waned as our hopes of work/life became a frustrating pipe-dream. It was challenging to be in each other’s pockets 24/7 while we chased the pot of gold. We did achieve a few significant milestones, but managing ongoing debt and the demands of growing our business was brutal.
By 2014, we were both stretched. I retained some perspective with my workouts, my gratitude journal, and the reflections I kept in my phone. Alec, however, was a mess. His weight and his drinking were on the rise, and he started skipping the gym. In February he was prescribed strong analgesics to relieve the pain caused by a cracked rib, which were taken in addition to his antidepressants. By May, the cracks were starting to show right across the board.
One day in May, Alec seemed so unwell I suggested he stay home while I managed things at our warehouse. It was weird that Alec didn’t answer my texts or emails, but I reasoned he was probably resting, so I told myself not to worry. I picked up my sixteen-year-old Isabelle, we went to the shops, then headed home. Isabelle and I pulled into the carport of our bushland home on the outskirts of Melbourne and finished our conversation in the car. I lead us both through to dump our groceries in the kitchen. As I came around the bench I saw a sight that caused instant panic. Alec was lying face down on the kitchen floor. I felt scared. Terrified. I was confused.
My heart was pounding and my head was spinning. Alec was always mucking around. I hoped it was a joke, but I knew it wasn’t. “Alec? … Alec?” He didn’t respond. Fearing the worst, I crouched down and touched his neck. His skin was just as soft as ever, and the shaggy brown curl of the hair I always loved covered part of his face. His skin was stone cold. I have never felt the world rush so fast and yet stop so hard. I sent Isabelle out to the verandah while I rang the ambulance. I leaned against the bench to steady myself and answered all their questions, but when they asked me to turn Alec over, I couldn’t. “I don’t know what has happened, so I am scared of what I will see on his face. He is cold and his body is stiff and heavy. There is no point, sir. My husband is dead.”
I learned later that Alec had a heart attack caused by a fatal combination of alcohol and medication. It was a tragic accident that no-one saw coming. The following days were clouded in a haze of shocking horror and gutting loss as I followed the steps taken by thousands of widows around the world each day. From the moment I stepped into the kitchen that night, I began a journey I never knew existed.
At first this pathway was as dark and eerie as a sinister fairytale forest. But gradually, the dappled light filtered through the canopy of the trees, guiding the way forward to fresh open spaces and, eventually, home. I could have been engulfed by the vast emptiness that flooded me when I found Alec dead.
I could have crumbled under the heavy weight of the business that threatened to crush me with bankruptcy. I could have buckled under when things didn’t work out or when I didn’t know how to fix them. I could have given up on the hope-filled dreams I had built my life on. But I didn’t.
My recovery consolidated lessons that have changed my life forever, and ushered in a clarity that only comes when your authentic identity meets your dreams. I am truly grateful for this journey because it has allowed me to be free to follow my deepest passions without limits.
Kerry is a vivacious woman who follows her purpose by writing and speaking at events. The author of ‘Creating My Infinite Self, How to Find and Follow Your Passion’, she works with small business owners to help them follow their passion by transforming their daily systems and processes.