A Tribute to Canadian PowHERhouse, Suzanne West

“If You Were Not Called, You Wouldn’t Be Compelled”

My heart hurts – as do many others – as we grieve the passing of a friend and true Canadian PowHERhouse, Suzanne West.

Today, International Women’s Day, I choose to celebrate the life of this amazing woman and share a small glimpse of my experience with this bold, brave and beautiful leader.

In October, just five short months ago, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Suzanne personally for the first time.  She had a very full week but squeezed me into her busy schedule before her workday.  I remember arriving at her office before she did and waiting in a meeting room.  I look around and sensed a positive vibe from both her staff and the workplace environment.  It made me want to work there.

When Suzanne arrived, she smiled widely, apologized for running late and shifted from cycling mode to work mode – practically in front of me.  I felt immediately at ease.  We sat down together in a quiet corner meeting room, and I almost felt vulnerable.  Her intensely present energy was focused solely on me.  I had her FULL attention.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had the experience of having someone so completely present in a conversation.  If I have, it has been a rare experience.  I could feel her energy.  I could feel her powHER.  We chatted for a few minutes as I got the courage to approach the reason why I wanted to meet.  I took a big breath and dove into meeting request:  How to best prepare to scale PowHERhouse, my baby.

Her first question right out of the gate hit me hard:  What are you afraid of?  I tried to use humour to deflect and replied, “You mean besides bankruptcy and not affording to eat?”  She asked again, “No, REALLY, what are you REALLY afraid of?”  Without expecting it, I immediately burst into tears.  It was like Suzanne was seeing into my soul and speaking directly to it.  From somewhere deep inside of me, I replied, “It’s SO big – the impact I’m looking to make – I’m afraid that I won’t do it justice.”  I’d never admitted that to anyone before.  My greatest fear:  My inadequacy to carry out the fullest impact possible with the potential of my life.

She held my hand, continued to look into my eyes, smiling, and let me sob.  Never once trying to ‘fix it’ or rush me.  And when I was done, I remember thinking, ‘… But I never got a chance to ask her about her strategy, the steps I should be taking, her best advice, lessons learned, what next….’  I knew the purpose of our meeting that day could be summed up best in what she said next…

If you were not called,

you wouldn’t be compelled.

To you Suzanne, I devote the next phase of my boldness as I find the courage, support, and resources needed to fully scale PowHERhouse and our work in the world.  Life is short.  Life is precious.  Life is finite.  And you have taught me, “If you were not called, you wouldn’t be compelled.”  Thank you for the incredible impact you’ve had on my life.

Just last week I sent Suzanne a hand-written card in the mail to thank her personally.  I knew she was sick, and she had been on my mind a lot the past few couple months.  I’m not sure if she ever received the card to read my words, but I know her spirit, and I’m sure she’s fully aware of the message as well as this one.

Thank you, my dear Teacher and friend.  You are EPIC, and you will be incredibly missed.  Suzanne West, you are a PowHERhouse, and I will never forget you or your incredible kindness.

Suzanne West
Photo credit, PowHERhouse magazine Fall 2017


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About Charlene SanJenko

Charlene SanJenko, Founder + CEO of PowHERhouse Impact Media Group, has worked intimately with thousands of women over the past 20+ years to understand what they need to fully integrate excellence and fulfillment in all areas of their lives. www.powherhouse.com