On 28th May 2014 Kerry Anne Nelson 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.
After a year we decided to open a Godfrey’s vacuum franchise in Wagga Wagga. With everything in place, Alec and I set up house and got married. 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.
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 was intense. Our optimism waned as our hopes of balancing work and 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 achieved a few significant milestones, but managing ongoing debt and the demands of growing our business was brutal.
By 2014, we were stretched. I retained some perspective with my workouts, a gratitude journal and reflections I kept on my phone. Alec, however, was a mess. His weight and his drinking were on the rise, and he started skipping the gym. He was eventually prescribed strong analgesics to relieve the pain caused by a cracked rib, which were taken in addition to his antidepressants. Within months the cracks were starting to show.
Then, one day in May, Alec seemed so unwell I suggested he stay home while I managed things at the warehouse. It got weird when Alec didn’t answer my texts or emails, but I reasoned he was probably resting and I told myself not to worry.
I picked up my sixteen-year-old daughter, went to the shops, then headed home. We pulled into the carport of our bushland home on the outskirts of Melbourne. We finished up our conversations in the car, and as we came into the kitchen,I came around the bench and saw a sight that caused instant panic – Alec was lying face down on the kitchen floor.
I was scared, terrified and 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 as soft as ever, and the shaggy brown curl of the hair 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 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 haze, 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 dark and sinister. I could have crumbled. The weight of the business threatened to crush me with bankruptcy, and while I could have buckled under when things didn’t work out or when I didn’t know how to fix them, I didn’t.
My recovery consolidated lessons that have changed my life forever. 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’s now working with small business owners to help them follow their passion by transforming their daily systems and processes.
This article was first published on TEAM Women Australia.