The Midnight of My Soul
Chapter One

The Midnight Of My Soul
WHEN I AWOKE ON August 14, 1998, I was surprised to find that I had slept at all, but mostly I was
surprised that I was still alive. Certainly the pain that radiated from my head, to my heart, to my very
soul was enough to have dropped a charging rhino in its tracks. But no, I was alive, heart beating,
air moving in and out of my lungs, brain functioning, albeit on a very minimal level from the horror of
what could happen today. Oh, I was not going to murder anyone, but I may have to kill the thing that
was, and had been for almost twenty years, the very reason for my existence. The purpose. The
why of everything I did. Every thought in my head centered on this one thing, but no matter how
hard I tried to save it, I might fail. And I would have to be the one to pull the plug. I would be the one
to close the doors on the dream I'd nourished for those two decades.  Quietly, I rose from the bed.
As I slid my feet into the slippers on the floor, I looked over at my husband, John. Normally, he was
up before me, but this morning he lay there, staring up at the ceiling, looking as defeated and
exhausted as I felt.
Book Lorraine
To Speak

Lorraine is available
to speak throughout
Canada and the
United States where
she delivers her
uplifting message of
how to build your
dream, and if by
chance you lose it,
how you can still
Chapter One
Order Unfinished
The Midnight of My Soul
© 2005 Blue Ibis Books Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Like a robot, I showered, fixed my hair, and applied my makeup. I opened the doors to the walk-in
closet and pulled out the suit I had picked out the night before. It was one of my favorite outfits,
comfortable, professional looking, flattering. I needed to be all those things for this unbearable day.
Yes, actually I was preparing for my professional gallows.  While I dressed, John had showered
and gone to the kitchen to prepare a light breakfast, as was our routine. Yes. Keep the routine. Try
to act like as if this was a normal day. We get up, dress, eat, talk about the day ahead, and
together as we had done for fifteen years, we go to work. Ah, but it wasn't work. It was never
work. I loved what I did. Loved my staff, loved my students, loved the very air that circulated in my
schools. Thousands had walked those halls, laughing, learning, and hoping for a brighter future.
And now, we were possibly at the end. Through a series of events I had not foreseen, I might
have to close the doors for good on The Career Academy. My heart beat arrhythmically at the very
notion that I would physically be able to do such a thing. I would be putting thousands of students
out on the street to find other schools to take them in, or worse, not to make that effort. Some
students would be disgusted. Others, I guessed, would be angry. That would hurt the most. The
anger. I worked hard at making sure everyone loved me. I tried to be the mother, the big sister, and
the favorite aunt, who was always there for them. I often went to their homes and got them out of
bed so they wouldn't miss a class. I drove them to school. I paid their electric bills, their gas bills,
and their phone bills. I allowed their tuition payments to lapse. Oh, what I did so they would
succeed. And look at me now. I was the one who was failing.
It was seven in the morning when John drove us through the quiet streets of St. John's,
Newfoundland, a Canadian province of just over five hundred thousand people. We’d made that trip
countless other mornings. Not too long before, I had leased a new car. Yes, it was just a
possession, but I enjoyed driving and riding in it. It saddened me to think that this, like everything
else John and I owned could be gone – sold, returned, or auctioned off in bankruptcy court.
Others on the road, people in taxicabs, on buses, crossing busy intersections, went about their
business as if this were just another day. Didn’t they know I was dying inside? Couldn’t they tell
that today was not just another day? Today could be the end of days, as I knew them.
Inside the car was a silence like the vacuum of space must be. What was left to say? Nothing. We
had cried, prayed, cried some more. We'd cashed in the money from our retirement plan and sunk it
all into our business.
“Do you really think the bank and the investor will pull out on us?” I asked John.
He did not answer. It was too hard for him to answer. I could see his Adam’s apple bobbing up and
down as he tried to reign in his chaotic emotions. It was impossible to imagine a scenario where
we'd get no help from the bank and no help from the investor who already had millions of dollars
invested in our schools. Surely SCC, Sirrom Capitol Corporation, would do everything in their power
to protect their investment. Wouldn't they?
By eleven o'clock we knew the answer. We were all gathered around the big table in the
boardroom. John and I, my daughter Kathy Lush, who was a senior Vice-President of Student
Satisfaction and my son Todd Lush, the Vice President of Admissions, our lawyers, our
accountant, and other members of our executive team. I called the Canadian Imperial Bank of
Commerce and was told that they were sorry they couldn’t help. They felt that our investor, SCC
should come to the table. I disconnected the call and pretended not to notice the pallor that had
taken over every face in the room at the death sentence we'd just been handed. Then at eleven a.
m., Newfoundland time, Paul Henry, the SCC representative called from Toronto, Canada. His voice
came tinny over the speakerphone as he killed any hope of reprieve we might have been clutching
tightly to our breast.
“All the managers here at SCC have met,” he said. “And I'm sorry to say that we’ve discussed
everything, and we’re not prepared to invest any more money. You should call your banker.”
“I've already done that,” I replied in a voice that I hoped did not display my growing panic. “They
said that you, our investor, should be the one to help us through this.”
“I'm sorry, but we can't do that,” he replied. “Perhaps you should contact the Department of
Education again.”
Two days prior, Paul Henry and I had visited the Minister of Education. He informed us that we had
forty-eight hours to resolve the situation or they would not allow the Career Academy to enroll any
new students. This in and of itself was a death sentence. Can you imagine as a business owner
having the government give you a deadline like that? I railed in anger. I ask you, what banker, given
this ultimatum from a government official, would not back away? Not one of them. They would all
high tail it away like frightened bunnies with a pack of rabid dogs at their heels. They would think
that the government knew something they did not. Perhaps we had been caught in some
wrongdoing. They could not take the chance. Who would?
So there we were in the middle with no answers and no way to meet payroll that day. No matter
how hard we worked, no matter how many calls we made, favors we tried to call in. It was simply
too late.
I disconnected the telephone and left the boardroom with shoulders slumped so low I imagined my
hair could almost brush the floor. In my office I walked over to the window that looked across the
St. John’s Harbour toward where I'd grown up on the green Southside hills. Over there sat the rock
I had perched upon so many years before, dreaming, yearning to be on the other side, the side
where I now stood. To be on this side meant that you had “made it”. You were successful. You
were not living in a tiny little house, one hundred steps from the main road, side-by-side with
Spanish or Portuguese fisherman who flocked to our harbour in the spring of each year.
I could not see the rock from my office window fourth floor of the Baine Johnston Centre on Fort
William Place, but I knew it was there. How ironic that, with tears coursing down my face, I was
yearning to be back there. Back to when life was simpler. Poorer true. Cash poor, but certainly not
love poor.
I left my office and looked for John. I found him right next-door in his office and back on the
telephone calling everyone he could possibly think of who might help. With a tiny spark of hope
rekindled by John's determination, I returned to my own office and made some calls of my own. I
even called Danny Williams, now the Premier of Newfoundland, who at that time was the president
of his own successful cable television business. Danny was very kind, but at the eleventh hour, I
understood why he could not help.
Suddenly, one of our lawyers shouted. “Lorraine, come quickly, look at this.”
I rushed back into the boardroom, almost tripping over my own two feet in my haste to find out
what all the excitement was about. The lawyer had been reading over the contract we had with
SCC, and had found a loophole. “It says here, in laymen's terms, that whatever debts you acquire,
they are obligated to make good.”“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It means you could write a check right now for the payroll and, because of this clause, the
investor would be forced to make it good.”
I almost fell into my chair. Was that hope burning its way up my chest? The biggest reason for the
dilemma we were currently facing was because we could not meet that day’s payroll. If we could
possibly make that payroll, we might have a chance to salvage my dream. My thoughts began to
swirl. What if I did force SCC's hand? What if I started writing checks right then and there? Would I
be setting The Career Academy up for a lengthy and expensive lawsuit? And, if I did force SCC's
hand, it might put a band-aid on our current problem, but it might also open up a huge Pandora’s box
of trouble.
The decision, when I finally made it, was one of the most difficult of my career.
“No,” I said into the expectant hush. A half dozen stunned faces turned to me.
“What do you mean, 'no'?” said a number of voices all together.
“I mean it's wrong to force their hand. I can't do that.”
A lively debate ensued, but I remained firm. If nothing else, I would go down as I'd always behaved
– with dignity and integrity.
After they all realized that I wouldn't be swayed, we broke up the meeting and Joan Lamswood,
the vice president of operations walked to the boardroom conference telephone and proceeded to
call the campus directors. It took her a few moments to gather them all, and while she dialed, I
paced the floor. When Joan nodded that she was ready, I sat down and addressed them over the
speakerphone. My voice quivered as it rose up from deep down inside. I knew that the unfamiliar
squeak that erupted was barely recognizable as my own to the people waiting on the other end of
the line, but I could not help it. All our directors were there. Wonderful people from campuses
across Canada: Higgins Line, Topsail Road, Conception Bay South, Trinity Conception, Gander,
Corner Brook, Regatta Plaza, the aviation schools and our five schools in Ontario – Sarnia,
Kitchener, London, Windsor and Hamilton. And the corporate staff, as always, surrounded me,
very supportive and with barely a thought to their own losses. Their only concern was The
Academy. These people had worked hard for so many years. Some had given their lives to The
Academy even at the expense of their own families. I could not imagine how hard this day, and the
many days to follow, would be for all of them.
Somehow, I found the strength to explain what had recently transpired with CIBC, the bankers;
SCC, the investor; and the Department of Education. Up to this point, I had tried to keep the directors
and executive staff abreast of the cash flow shortage we were experiencing due to a change in
government policy, but they were not aware of the most recent week’s events. I recapped the
things I had told them before. Since January, our cash flow had been severely affected by a
government policy change. Unfortunately, the change came at a time when we had just embarked
upon a major expansion plan. Together, these forces were causing a cash flow crunch that could
only be corrected with the help of the government, our bankers, or the investment company. But all
were unwilling to help, and there was nothing left for me to do.
When I could think of nothing else to say, I ended with just two words: “It’s over.” And as I said it
aloud, I heard the finality in my voice and knew it was true. It was over. My dream. My baby. The
business, to which I had given my entire being for twenty years. The business that I not only loved
with my entire soul, but was totally in love with, was now gone.
I walked back to my office once again, perhaps for the last time. Gently, I closed the door and
stepped lightly over the soft carpet to the window, where I could stare out across St. John's
Harbour at the Southside hills. I felt like I had to do everything slowly, like if I moved too quickly, or
turned too sharply, I would shatter into a million tiny pieces and float away into oblivion. When my
brain started thinking again, I began to wonder how something so promising had come to this bitter
© 2005 Blue Ibis Books Inc. All Rights Reserved.