The star of this story signs off her messages to the world with the words… Be inspired. Be Inspiring. The words stand in comfortable alignment with the way she lives her life.

Just before you go on reading, please, stop…

… for a moment…

… and think of a person who is a mentor to you, a role-model of kindness and generosity. Formulate the picture of their face or say their name quietly to yourself.

I met Marie Farrugia in 2010. We were both at one of my first monthly meetings of the National Speakers Association of Australia. Having made the jump from full-time teaching into the Time & Space program work, someone had suggested joining NSAA. Hard to believe if you’ve met this shy little blogger, but there I was shaking amongst these people who had being doing professional speaking for years. I felt almost frozen to the spot. Have you ever stood in one of those new spaces and thought who do I talk to next? I was pushing myself every month to turn up and be amongst these people who, as an occupational trait, present as larger than life and very confident on the outside. A lady with a beaming smile made a beeline through the crowd and was heading towards me.

“Hi Bill, I’m Marie”. The greeting couldn’t have felt more sincere but “hang on”, I thought to myself, “how does she know my name?” The answer came in a second…

“I was at the Marcellin College Mother & Son night, thank you so much” And then Marie said, “come and meet some people”. Suddenly I’m shaking hands with people and being introduced by Marie to her colleagues of many years. Some of these people had built highly successful businesses.

“Please meet Bill, he just presented an experience last month for me and my boy that we will never forget.” Marie’s welcome was effusive. It was at that moment that a shift occurred deep inside your (yes I know you don’t believe but I’ll keep saying) shy blogger. A colleague had affirmed that the Time & Space experience had made a difference to her. She helped me believe in myself, that I was doing professional presentation work. It was real.

Marie, The Mighty Farrug'(*), as I call her, made an offer to help, be a mentor in my speaking development. We caught up not long after that meeting and a friendship has grown from there. I became aware hearing Marie share her story, that she has had her challenges – one being in the form of breast cancer. When I met Marie, she was emerging from a successful regime of treatment. We had attended events each had presented at, to be present as a supportive colleague. I was the only bloke at a session in Hawthorn where she was trying a new presentation. I thought it was brilliant. Little did I know that as she told the story of her discovery of the lump during that presentation, that only that week, had she secretly learnt that the cancer was back. In 2011, we didn’t see Marie much at all at NSAA meetings as the disease had spread. The battle was on.

Marie’s hospital was just near the venue of our NSAA meetings. So I visited on my way in. The memory is still strong and clear – I can see her sparkling smile that welcomed me in. It transferred a lightness of spirit that I’m sure humbled every visitor. There’s no question she was physically weakened by the gruelling medical interventions. Yet typically, this mighty person was ‘other focussed’, so keen to hear the news of our colleagues, excited to learn the latest developments for the Time & Space programs and offering, as always, generous practical tips. Here was my friend and mentor, seriously ill, demonstrating that every moment presents us with a choice about how we deal with it.

I appreciate that not everyone gets the result they want when cancer strikes. I am mindful of our friend Jacinta who is in the battle right now. Her husband Jim, tells similar stories of Jac’s extraordinary determination. From July 2009 up to his passing on March 20 this year, Jim Stynes’ intentionally invited us all to share in and learn from his story. We are unlikely to ever forget the dignity of his struggle. Anne Lamott in her beautiful book Bird by Bird, refers a few times to a dear inspiring friend who had cancer. Anne recalled her friend’s doctor, when the terminal stages had arrived, remarking that, “in these final weeks, she is showing you how to live.”

Just recently I got an email from Marie. I am pleased to report she is going well again. Why am I telling you her story now? Because in that email she sent this beautiful clip she had made called ‘Do it For Me.’

So this is a shout out to the Mighty Farrug'(*). Thanks for your example Marie. And what’s one thing we could all do that could honour that example? I reckon maybe if that person you thought of at the start of this post is a phone call or an email away, how about about simply letting them know that it was their name that you whispered to yourself. Feel free to forward this story to them as well in a ‘pay it forward’ kind of way.

Thanks for giving yourself the Time & Space to read this.  Who are your mighty mentors? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and stories in the space below.

Bill Jennings
http://www.time-space.com.au/

* Pronounciation goes something like this the Mighty Farroodge (Hard ‘dg’ sound).

Marie’s website – http://www.timeforyou.com.au/