Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Tribute to Jen Anderson

It is rare to come across someone in one's professional life that becomes both a role model and a friend.

I met Jen Anderson in 1999/2000 when I was working with the team at Lifeskills. Jen had been Barrie Hopson's ex (founder of Lifeskills) and had been in consulting for a long time. We needed help with some work at Metropolitan Housing on our leadership development / project management work and Jen arrived to help. She was wonderful - organized, smart, focused, funny, supportive, challenging, imaginative, creative and well versed in the "stuff" both in terms of substance and process. We got on well.

In 2002/3 she won some work with Sunderland Hospital and again we worked together - just the two of us. We created a program, delivered it and trusted each other a lot. We spent time socially here too, where I found out more about her hopes and ambitions. Given that she had beaten cancer once, the only thing "odd" about Jen was that she continued to smoke.

She wanted to move to Kenya, to live there with her partner Phillip and rest. She had battled with cancer and won, but it had left her conscious of the frailty of life. They had a place in Kenya - they were getting ready to go. The idea was to do a bang up job on their house in the north, sell it a profit and retire to Kenya on the basis of this (and other cash set aside).

She couldn't, however, leave her father - who was frail and a little dementia got in the way of their relationship, which was a grumpy one anyway.

Then she got hit with another bout of cancer, this time she was finding it tough to beat. She tried chemo, she tried alternatives, she tried, well anything and was very systematic about it too - I can just picture her colour coded binders, key points underlined, power point slides with the focal points of various therapies... She kept us all informed of progress and was for ever optimistic, though her last note had a sense of running out of options.

She died yesterday. Her partner was there with her when she moved on and was able to spend the time caring for her.

But I will miss her. I will miss her smile. Her energy. Her commitment and her ability to show empathy with people. I have lost an exemplary colleague and a friend. I have lost someone who knew the value of life, and lived it to the full as long as she could.

Take care Jen, wherever you are. I know you will spend time in Kenya - be there whenever the mood takes you.

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