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My Jack Of Diamonds and my commitment for 2015

jack-of-diamondsJack Of Diamonds is the final chapter of my favorite storyteller, Bryce Courtenay. It was my book of choice back in July on a family getaway: life doesn’t get much better than a day spent relaxing by a pool, immersed in a great tale. Over the years it’s been an annual ritual to be swept away by Courtenay’s string of bestsellers, normally unwrapped on Christmas Day as a gift from my mum in earlier years and my husband in later years. Though this one I purchased myself in the airport bookshop.

In truth I knew before launching into the story of Jack Spayd that his creator had left this earth; Courtenay’s battle with stomach cancer came to a close just ten days after this book was launched. I savored every chapter knowing each would take me closer to the end. But it was only in the prologue that reality hit home and, like many other fans, I was heartbroken.

Courtenay left a message in lieu of the sequel we had come to expect, leaving no doubt we could no longer take for granted this creative genius:

“It’s been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives,” he writes. “Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, `Thank you. You have been simply wonderful’.”

Just three months on my heart would break again; a story of much greater intensity played out this time, and much closer to home. This time my dear dad was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer in November. His light faded quickly and he left us one month ago today.

Those who have lost a parent will attest it is a life-changing event. It’s a time for reflection, for honour, for contemplation. A reminder we cannot take for granted those people we adore.

My father was a man of few words, yet when he spoke it was with the same clarity and conviction that he applied in all his life. He was a man who was loyal, well educated in the school of life, and not easily swayed by popular thinking or the latest fads. He had an opinion and wasn’t afraid to own it. And he was very clear about who was important in his life; he never set out to impress those who weren’t.

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Dad passed away eleven days before he and mum would celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary; having said his goodbyes to me and my sisters and our families. None of us were ready for this; all of us are contemplating what it means.

For me there is a message about integrity and ownership and backing yourself. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when you think you have it all. My dad raised me with an expectation I would have an opinion and be prepared to stand by it. I’m not sure I’ve lived up to that expectation in all of my career, particularly when the pressure to conform was at its greatest.

My commitment for 2015 is to honor my dad’s memory by demanding the best from myself and the people I work with; by sticking my neck out and taking clear positions; and by remaining focused at all times on the things that really matter.

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From my family to yours, happy new year. May 2015 bring health, happiness and the energy to pursue your goals with vigor.

And as a final word, who better to inspire us on our journey than the late great Steve Jobs:

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Welcome to 2015 and Happy New Year to all!  So…. what’s your commitment for the year ahead?

Jen xo

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"The only moment we ever really have is this one - celebrate it. Happiness isn't in the future or the past but in the awareness of the present." - Anna McPhee

Anna's words are how she lived her life. She has been an amazing inspiration, a wonderful support, a gracious mentor to me throughout my career. So many of us counted her as a girlfriend to look up to, and her legacy will live on in the many women she has inspired to live their very best life.

I will miss her.

Sending condolences to Reggie, Anna's beautiful mum Trish and adoring sisters, and all of her extended family.

Vale Anna Marsali McPhee (1970 - 2017)
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