When you’ve hit rock bottom any effort towards better is a step in the right direction. From a place of quiet desperation, Jackie Capers- Brown found herself contemplating if she would ever be able to regroup and regain her footing after experiencing the unexpected death of her fourteen-year-old son, Blease Jr. in 1995. Having experienced numerous deaths in life from her parents to two siblings all before the age of twenty, there combined deaths did not have the profound impact on her life as her son’s death. How do you get your life back on track after it has been derailed? This question resonated in her spirit and soul day after day as she thought about the fact that her mother died nine months after her brother Arthur was murdered. As a teenager, she remembered thinking that the death of a child had the power to kill you from a broken spirit. It became her greatest fear.
For years she set on the sidelines of life after Blease’s death, going through the motions but truly not being present in her life, she lived on auto-pilot. Her journey to get back on track began in the shadow of her son’s death, as she made the connection to her adversities and successes in life she began to recognize a pattern of thoughts and actions that equipped her to bounce back from previous setbacks and adversities. As she made the connection to these steps, she got off the sidelines of her life and repositioned herself in the driver seat of her life. Living one day at a time, she used her personal history to move forward and begin to get her life back on track after suffering her greatest personal tragedy.
In the Spirit
At the start of 1985 Jackie was unemployed. She and her two children, Dee and Blease Jr. moved in with her sister Glendia so that she could regroup after this setback. To afford housing she knew had to get employed as soon as possible. Empowered by the renewal of her faith and the application of God’s word in her daily life as taught by her Pastor Cynthia DeBerry of Abundant Life Ministries in Columbia SC, she became undaunted in her belief that better days were ahead for her and her children.
After unsuccessful attempts to get a supervisory position similar to her previous job and desperate for full-time employment with benefits, she accepted a housekeeper position with the Columbia Marriott hotel in May of 1985. Soon after her ninety days of employment she was promoted into an administrative supervisory position. Her new position provided her with a different view…a much larger view of what was possible within the company. After recognizing advancement opportunities within Marriott Hotels, Jackie set a goal to become a Marriott manager. The lack of a college degree did not dissuade her towards this goal. She believed that she was destined for leadership.
On the job training, the integration of wisdom gained from scriptures, her ability to work well with co-workers and exceed the expectations of hotel guests were key factors that led to her being awarded The Employee of the Year in 1986. This recognition increased her influence within the hotel as she took on community service projects with the assistance of various staff members throughout the hotel.
A New Vision
In 1988, Human Resource Director, Wayne Napier recommended her for a supervisor’s position with the Courtyard by Marriott division. After interviewing with the hotel’s opening General Manager Dee Harrington-Hucks she was hired as one of the hotel’s opening housekeeping supervisors. After seven months and the resignation of the hotel’s Housekeeping Manager, Jackie was promoted into the Housekeeping Manager’s position.
Under the leadership of Dee Harrington-Hucks, Jackie’s vision of what she was capable of being and doing with Marriott enlarged as she became exposed to several managers including a GM who had not finish college yet had built successful and rewarding careers with the company. With two children, a husband and a 50-plus hour work schedule she did envision returning to college for a degree, at the time. She could see… based on the hotel’s organizational chart how she could become a Marriott GM.
In Full Bloom
Except for 1990 and 1991 at which time the company and its hotels were being restructured, Jackie was promoted with the Courtyard hotel division every other year. In 1991 she separated from her husband. Her son, Blease Jr. decided that he would live with his father. At the time she did not see this living arrangement as a problem because her children had access to one another. By the time of the separation, she had become a member of Courtyard’s Hotel Task Team which allowed her to travel to assist with the opening of the Raleigh Airport Courtyard. She became a member of the Mid-Atlantic Diversity Council which allowed her the opportunity to interact with key regional executives within the Courtyard division.
Working to assist a member of the hotel’s housekeeping staff with sweat equity hours for a Habitat for Humanity home in addition to her management performance and company volunteer commitments resulted in her Manager of the Quarter recognition in 1994. On February 9, 1995, Jackie became the General Manager of Marriott’s million dollar Fairfield Inn property in Wilmington, NC. Almost ten years to the date she started as a housekeeper with Marriott Hotels, Jackie had worked her way through the department management ranks of the Courtyard division to transfer to the Fairfield Inn division as a General Manager. The promotion and relocation resulted in her questioning the living arrangements that she had agreed to with her son. He spent the summer of 95 in Wilmington, while she and Dee began to get acclimated into their new home and city. Jackie began to contemplate how she would get Blease Jr. to change his mind as to his living arrangement.
A Sucker Punch
Blease Jr. honored his word to his father and returned to Columbia SC, for his freshmen year in high school. She decided to respect his decision, for now. Christmas break was a few months away. So during the first week of August in 1995, Jackie and her daughter Dee traveled back to Columbia so that Blease Jr. could prepare for football tryouts for his freshmen football team. On August 22, 1995, two weeks after she had traveled to Columbia SC, Blease Jr. died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest.
She felt like nothing in her life had prepared her for this moment…the moment she was struck with a sucker punch and knocked her down on the canvas of life with little strength to get back up. Why would God enable her to reach a life-changing goal just to have the rug pulled up from underneath her with the death of her son? She had so many hopes of what this promotion would mean to not only her career but also in her ability to financially provide for her children. Her children were the force behind her motivation to stay the course in the face of roadblocks she encountered personally and professionally as she paved a path towards this goal.
In the Wilderness
Why God why? She continued to ask herself between moments of uncontrollable sobbing. She was living three hours away from her family and long time friends, in a new city, a new job and little emotional support. She hadn’t even joined a church. She was devastated. After taking a few weeks off after the funeral, she put on her public face and went back to work. She stopped seeking God. She was angry at God, life and herself. It didn’t seem as if she could ever get over her loss. She didn’t know how to process her anger in a healthy way and so she suppressed it…creating more problems as her health took a turn for the worse.
From panic attacks to stroke level hypertension to suffering with bouts of depression she often felt like she was a walking time bomb. Her physician suggested therapy; she tried it for six weeks and stopped going citing schedule conflicts. Her doctor eventually warned her that “You have to change some things in your life, for your health to get better”.
Despite her personal agony, she was achieving award winning success as a Fairfield Inn by Marriott General Manager. Three years after her son’s death she resigned from her GM’s position without a roadmap for her future. She knew that she couldn’t continue the status quo. Other than her professional life, she had become indifferent towards life which resulted in a state of complacency. The intensity of the emotional pain she endured from the death of her son to the lack of purpose in her life set the stage for a period of introspection. Without the demands of work, she began to examine her life and how it had taken a downward spiral as a result of this experience. She eventually realized a blatant truth; any change in her life would be based on what she was willing to do to make that change. Just as no one came to rescue her from the anguish she suffered after her mother and father’s death, no one could rescue her from the pain she felt because of her son’s death except her! She was going to have to chart a comeback from her greatest setback if she was going to experience better.
The Turning Point
After years of living in an emotional hell she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy, she took a cue from her history and began listening to inspirational music, reading religious and self-help books on various topics including the grieving process. She had suppressed her emotions about her son’s death. This was not a healthy way to grieve. Having lived many years consumed with negative thoughts and emotions about his death she decided to take a queue from scripture by allotting a specific time limit for mourning. She limited herself one-hour ONLY, each day to mourn her loss. The turning point came when she stopped focusing on Blease’s death and instead began to focus on his life and how he had been such a blessing to so many in his short life. This shift in her perspective on this tragic experience was the U-turn that led her back to exercising her faith.
The Power of Love
Love is the excellent way. Nine months prior to her fortieth birthday, Jackie’s first goddaughter, Jamya was born. Her unconditional love towards Jamya served as a catalyst to break the emotional shackles of anger, bitterness and despair that had imprisoned her thoughts and emotions. Jamya’s birth represented the evolution of life, it awakened Jackie’s awareness of how much time she had actually allowed to pass fixated on an event she had no control over. As she had done in the past, she began to focus on what she could do to improve her overall well-being. She began to direct her attention to taking steps to restore her relationship with her daughter, Dee. Consumed by her pain after the death of her son, she acknowledged that she had not demonstrated the support and understanding Dee needed after the death of her brother. She decided on purpose to walk in love and acceptance of her daughter for as long as it would take to restore their relationship.
With a shift in her perspective, daily rituals of meditation and prayer continued to heal her broken spirit. During a moment of meditation, she became mindful of an experience on the day of her son’s funeral while she waited to be transported to his gravesite. The scripture verse Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” resonated in her spirit providing her with first hand experience of “the” peace which surpasses all understanding. This memory planted the seed of desire to discover a greater purpose for her valley experience. How could her pain serve others? How could it be used for a greater purpose?
A New Purpose
To gain clarity with her next steps, a previous business acquaintance arranged a meeting for her with personal coach Bobbi Gamma. Bobbi suggested that she become involve with activities that would increase her self-confidence. On the suggestion of Bobbi, Jackie visited a Toastmaster’s International club meeting.
After the first meeting, she decided to become a member of the Wilmington’s Lamplighter Toastmaster club. Within the supportive environment of the club, Jackie used her valley experiences as material for most of her speeches during the first year. When completing research for a speech she came across Napoleon Hill’s quote, “every heartache, every adversity has within it the seed of an equivalent advantage” these words with the scripture verse Romans 8:28 confirmed to her that there was a greater purpose for her valley experience. Speaking publicly about the lessons she learned increased her self-confidence while providing her with the closure she needed to move on with her life. She felt hopeful about her future as pieces of a new vision and purpose for her life began to paint the canvas of her imagination. The impact that Toastmaster's had on her to get her life back on track was highlighted in an the organization's magazine in June 2006.
After receiving encouragement from her fellow Toastmaster’s to write a book about her experiences, she began to review her speeches about and journals of her valley experience. This task would begin to connect the dots to the good and bad, her successes and failures in life. She noticed a pattern in her thoughts and behaviors during these defining moments in her life stemming as far back to the fourth grade when she was bused out of her neighborhood to an all white school. She began to see how the obstacles that she had faced and overcame had truly become the stepping-stones from which she was able to maintain a “core confidence” necessary for the next level of experiences in her life. The major decisions and actions during these various experiences became the outline, which evolved into The DRIVE5 Advantage empowerment process.
Another Leap of Faith
In 2007, Jackie resigned from her General Management position with Pizza Hut, to focus on refining the idea into a practical and memorable concept that would serve to increase its usefulness. In 2008, Jackie moved back to her hometown of Columbia, S.C. with the goal of creating a business that would provide services and products based on The DRIVE5 Advantage empowerment concept. After the completion of the second draft of her book, It’s Your Move! her commitment to self- publish it in 2010 inspired her to begin the promotion and marketing of the It’s Your Move! Empowerment Experience for adults and the “Start SMART – Finish STRONG” workshop for students, both workshops equips participants with practical use of The DRIVE5 Advantage empowerment process and how it enables them to create and maintain progress towards their personal and professional goals.
Jackie believes that our lives are only limited by how far our thoughts and actions will take us. She knows from experience that just because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean that the ability doesn’t dwell within you. Who would have thought when looking at her as a Marriott housekeeper that she would someday become the General Manager of an award wininning million dollar hotel owned by Marriott Hotels? Or that the personal tragedy of the death of her son would eventually lead her on a journey that would connect her to habits that established the mindset which empowered her to succeed despite the odds against her and inspire the evolution of products and services to help others? She believes it is her life’s purpose to use her experiences to enlarge the vision of what individuals believe to be possible in their lives and to equip them with a process that challenges lies of limitations that would hinder their ability to create their desired reality. Better is not only possible…it’s doable!
Copyright © 2010 Jackie Capers-Brown