No mother expects to outlive her daughter, but as Sue France entered her 50s, the unimaginable happened. Sue shares with us her story of sadness and strength.
When my daughter Rachel died of Cancer in 2001 at the age of 27, I quickly realized that in order to get through the grief I would have to focus on something else so I arranged a memorial ball. The Ball was a success and I raised £15000 for the Kirsty Appeal in Manchester. The highlight of the night was Jason Orange who came along with a gold disc to auction and everyone had a great time.
Rachel was an actress and attended hundreds of auditions, often reaching the final call backs and sometimes getting picked. However there were regular rejections and put downs especially in her first years after drama school and we marveled at her determination to rise above the regular humiliation and keep going back for more. I actually made the decision to learn from her strength and chose to survive rather than let sadness overwhelm my life.
I gave up my job and went to work in the “Kirsty Appeal” (a Manchester charity, formed to raise money for the local children’s hospice) office as a volunteer. My main tasks were inviting celebrities to events and obtaining raffle prizes. I enjoyed putting experiences together so for instance if one prize was a night’s stay in London, I would add a theatre trip, backstage visit, dinner at a famous restaurant and the train fare so that the final package was something special.
From this I was invited to work for a brand new boutique hotel in Leeds with a brief to plan events and bring celebrities to stay. I enjoyed life in the hotel industry and was soon promoted to Head of PR and Marketing for the hotel group. I took on this position at the age of 56 so I am proof that women over fifty can achieve recognition in business even at this stage in their lives.
When I retired in July 2010 I was unexpectedly asked to run the Forward Ladies Networking Group on Merseyside. I love arranging events for the ladies and have expanded my area to include Cheshire. We sponsor a show now on a local community radio station and I also enjoy being on the show. I think my daughter would be amazed that I have gained the confidence to talk on the radio as I could have never done that before!
This is actually my third career as I was a children’s wear designer for many years and had my own business in London in the seventies.
I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have totally different career paths to fit the stages of your life and I like the idea that my latest one in my sixties could be the best one yet. I wasn’t expecting to have a new career at this age so I am not especially financially driven. I gain greater satisfaction from watching women achieve new business and build friendships at my events.
Now I am 62 and this weekend I am taking some ladies to a Kirsty Appeal event. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know these ladies this time last year and they have now become good friends. I urge ladies in their fifties to view their future with optimism and continue to look for new challenges and experiences.