First published in Thrive Global 19 November 2019 https://thriveglobal.com/stories/live-authentically-to-the-end-and-face-death-head-on/?
It’s often the case we find out just how extraordinary someone is when they die. The only problem is we don’t have an opportunity to share in that knowledge whilst they are still alive. I knew that Jennie Gorman was an extraordinary human being, the moment I met her 7 years ago that was evident. At her memorial service today, I heard those sentiments echoed by so many of the people who had gathered to pay their respects, one last time. She was a prominent and iconic businesswoman known and loved by many. As in life, in death, she had much to share. She was known for her huge heart and for keeping it real. She was one of the most authentic human beings I have ever met… I don’t say that lightly. For Jennie, life was all about relationships; it’s the basis of everything that means anything. Underpinning all of that is authenticity.
Authenticity according to Jennie
Authenticity is the pathway to freedom. To be authentic is to be real, embrace who you are and be who you want to be and not some version of what you think someone else wants you to be. That is living your own personal truth; a truth that is projected outwards with every thought, word, feeling and action you take. For Jennie, there was no gap between who you are in business and who you are in your personal life.
Who you are arises out of a journey of self-discovery and self-understanding that allows you to find your gift and then give that gift away. If you don’t take the time to work this out not only do you live a less fulfilling life, you also short change those around you. Jennie didn’t pay lip service to this belief. She was a living demonstration of it right up until the end. Generous to the end and with her attention on those around her. Giving always giving. She offered her heart in every exchange.
The company you keep
I heard many moons ago that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend your most time with. Jennie Gorman mixed with some amazing people. She spent time with Jim Rohn, Louise Hay, and Depak Chopra and no doubt they had a profound impact on her life and the way she lived it. She elevated herself in this way and then elevated those around her, so they might rise to their potential. Sometimes that meant simply listening so that someone else might feel understood.
Jennie actively looked out for opportunities to make a difference and was always looking to “pay it forward”. Her personal motto was “Don’t ask what humanity can do for you, ask what you can do for humanity”. Imagine what the world might look like if we all took that as a way of life… It’s the makings of a different world. A kinder, gentler and more authentic world.
An honourable death
Jennie knew full well her days were numbered. She did not resist her fate, rather she embraced it fully. “It is, what it is”, she would say. She made her peace with her life coming to an end. After all, “it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. The more you argue the more you suffer”. More of Jennie’s wisdom in action.
She got to spend time with all the people she cared about, and the number was large. Jennie was fortunate enough to leave nothing unsaid. Jennie invited 50 of her closest friends to her own wake which she attended whilst still alive. It was a wonderful day. The most memorable thing for me is how many people said the same thing in a different way: All were profoundly impacted by her.