Excerpt from Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss, and the Road to Success by Lisa Lisson

Part leadership guide, part memoir of loss, and part personal empowerment primer on how to achieve your goals no matter what the universe throws at you — this is FedEx Canada Express’ president Lisa Lisson’s story. Resilience is about how to rise to the top in a man’s world, triumph over adversity, lead a fulfilling life, and live each day with purpose and gratitude.

Check out this exclusive excerpt from Chapter One of Resilience, then learn more about the book here. Order a copy and take 25% off with promo code LISAL25! 


Chapter One

Around one o’clock in the morning on Monday, August 13, 2007, I was awakened by the sound of a loud thump. When I looked to see what had caused it, I noticed my husband wasn’t in bed. Puzzled, I turned on the bedside light. “Pat? Where are you?” No answer. I climbed out of bed and went around to his side. He was lying motionless on the floor as if someone had set him down there. “Pat, why are you on the floor?” No answer. I shook him. “Patrick, wake up.” I shook him again. Oh my god, what’s wrong with him?

I put my ear to his chest. Nothing. I felt for air under his nose. Nothing. My adrenaline was surging. I raced for the phone, dialed 911, ran back to his side, put the phone on speaker and set it on the floor.

This can’t be happening. Don’t you die on me. Don’t you dare die on me.

The dispatcher came on the line.

“I need help. My husband’s lying on the floor. He’s not breathing. Please help me do CPR.”

“Help is on the way, ma’am. Is your front door unlocked?”

“Oh my god, no.”

“You have to go and open it. Where are you in the home?”

“The master bedroom.”

I run downstairs, disable the alarm, fling open the door, run back upstairs and kneel at Patrick’s side.

“Okay I’m here. Tell me what to do.”

The dispatcher tells me how to position myself, where to place my hands, how to lock my arms. His tone is calm, prescriptive.

“This is what you’re going to do, ma’am. On the count of three, you’re going to push down hard on your husband’s chest. You’re going to press down for three counts. Then you’re going to release and start over. I’m going to count with you. Tell me when you’re ready.”

“I’m ready.”

“Okay, here we go. One. Two. Three.”

I press on Patrick’s chest. One. Two. Three. Release. One. Two. Three. Release.

I repeat the cycle six, maybe seven times.

“Is he breathing yet?”

“No. Why isn’t he breathing? Why isn’t this working?”

“Keep going, ma’am. Stay with me.”

One. Two. Three. Release. One. Two. Three. Release. “Come back, Patrick. Come back. Please. Breathe.”

“Mommy, what’s wrong with Daddy?” Chloe, our seven-year-old daughter, and Mya, her younger sister, are in the room. They can see their father on the floor. They can see me pressing on his chest. They can hear the dispatcher counting.

“Daddy’s not feeling well, girls. The ambulance is coming. Can you guys go sit on the stairs and watch for the shiny lights?”

I say this in my mommy voice without breaking rhythm.

They leave the room.

One. Two. Three. Release. One. Two. Three. Release.

“Is he breathing yet?”

“No. Why isn’t this working?”

I hear footsteps on the stairs. Male voices. “God, there are kids here,” one says.

A fireman is in the room. In one fell swoop he scoops me up by the waist, lifts me in the air and deposits me outside the bedroom where his partner is waiting with the kids.

“We’ve got this, ma’am. Take them downstairs.” They go inside and shut the door behind them.

As we go down the stairs, the paramedics pass us going up. The foyer is swarming with uniforms. They’re milling about, conferring in huddles, talking into walkie-talkies. The house looks like the command post for a military operation.

Two police officers are waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. A female officer leads us away from the commotion towards the kitchen and family room at the back of the house. We sit down on the couch. I have a clear view down the hallway to the foyer from where we’re sitting.

“How many children are in the house?” she asks.

“Four. Two are still sleeping.”

“How old are they?”

“Nine and three. Should I go and get them?”

“No, we’re not going to wake them. Who can you call to be with you right now?”

I want to call my mom, but my parents just left for a Mediterranean cruise. Jojo, our nanny, lives down the street. I call her to come watch the kids.

The officer wants to know if Patrick suffers from any medical conditions or is taking any medications. No. Does he use any drugs? No again.

She asks how long we’ve been married.

“Thirteen years. It’ll be fourteen in January.”

“Is everything good between you both?”

At first I’m puzzled by her question. Then I understand.

She thinks maybe I did this. If Patrick’s dead, maybe I killed him. Why else would my fit, thirty-eight-year-old husband be lying on the floor, not breathing?

“Of course everything’s good between us.”

Jojo arrives. She takes the kids to another part of the family room. I ask her not to let them see me cry. As soon as they’re gone, I head for the bottom of the stairs. I have to be there when they bring Patrick down. The officer bars my way.

Ten minutes pass. Fifteen.

“Why are they up there so long? Why aren’t they rushing him to the hospital? Can you please go and ask them?”

“Let them do their work, ma’am. We’re all here to support you. Relax. Take a breath.”

Twenty minutes. Twenty-five. Thirty. I’m going out of my mind. I keep peering down the hallway trying to push my way past the officer, get to the stairway. I don’t understand. Why aren’t they bringing him down?

But they’re not bringing him down.

The fear is coming in titanic waves now. I try to outrun it. Please don’t die. Please don’t die. Please don’t die.

I glance at the wall clock. They’ve been upstairs for thirty-five minutes.

He’s dead. I know it. They can’t get a pulse. Why else haven’t they brought him down yet?

I start sobbing.

Another voice vies for airtime in my head.

Lisa, pull it together. You don’t know if they have a pulse. You don’t have that information yet.

It’s true. I don’t know. I mustn’t jump to conclusions.

I pull myself together.

“Please,” I beg the officer. “Let me go. I need to be there when they bring him down.”

Finally she relents.

I race down the hall and stand sentry by the staircase. More minutes pass. At last the bedroom door opens. A police officer comes down the stairs. He’s young, early twenties maybe. When he reaches the bottom I cling to his arm like a lost child.

“All I need to know is if you have a pulse.”

“Yes,” he says. “We have a pulse.”


If you’d asked me to describe my life before the sirens came screaming to our door, I’d have told you it was blessed. I was married to my best friend — my high school sweetheart and the love of my life. I loved my job as vice-president of marketing, customer experience and corporate communications at FedEx Express Canada, and Patrick loved his as director of marketing at CGC, a global building supply company. We had four kids — three girls and a boy, ages nine, seven, five and three — and a beautiful home in Burlington, Ontario, a community about forty miles west of Toronto. That weekend we’d just returned from our annual summer vacation in Muskoka.

We’d been renting cottages in Muskoka ever since Jack, our youngest, was an infant. That summer we’d rented on Lake Muskoka. We did all the cottagey things: swimming, boating, bonfires. We had music going all the time: The Police, Pearl Jam, U2. The kids knew the lyrics to all of our favourites. When we cranked up “Blinded By The Light” they loved to sing along with Manfred Mann.

The most striking thing about those two weeks was how spectacularly ordinary they were. I planned our meals and Pat shot the videos, just as we always did. He barbecued the steaks and I kept an eye on them so they wouldn’t overcook, just as we always did. I handled cleanup and he readied the kids for bed, just as we always did.

The two weeks flew by. Saturday we drove home. Sunday we got organized for the week. Sunday night we had Pat’s family for dinner. After they left, we tidied up. Then we sat on the patio for a while and shared a glass of wine. Work was always nuts after a vacation and with four small kids life sometimes felt like an endless Tilt-A-Whirl ride. We wanted to savour our last few moments together before heading back into the fray.

After we drank our wine we put the kids to bed. Around ten, we turned in ourselves. We were brushing our teeth when Pat became reflective.

“You know,” he said, “you and I are so fortunate. We have such a great life. We have a wonderful marriage and family, careers we both love, interesting travel opportunities. We’ve already had more joy than most people manage to find in their entire lifetimes. Even at my age, I already feel as if I’ve lived a full life.”

He went on in this vein for the next fifteen minutes. He was still talking about how blessed we were when we climbed into bed.

Pat was a sensitive guy, but I’d never heard him talk this way before. I wondered what had prompted him to become so philosophical all of a sudden.

“Pat, where is this coming from?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I just wanted you to know how I feel.”

“Well I feel the same way, baby. But it’s after eleven. We have work tomorrow. Let’s go to sleep.”

I turned off the light and we slid beneath the covers.


Learn more about Resilience at www.ecwpress.com/resilience.

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1 comment

  • This is a great read! Not only does it describe moments of excruciating angst as evocatively as moments of sheer bliss, it’s also packed with wisdom for both corporate and family life.

    Angus Cunningham on

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