5 Lessons Learnt From The Loss Of My Tech Guy

WARNING: This blog post is text heavy, visual light!    A few weeks ago, my tech guy Terry Bower, died unexpectedly. For a week plus, I was in shock. I was scared, I felt vulnerable, I was angry. I was also grieving for this man who had not only been helping with techy things for almost a year but also had been evolving into a friend. This blog is going to be a bit different. It’s about the lessons learnt from this man’s death.


Lessons Learnt: Path into the light of life


I met Terry last August almost by accident. The timing was perfect. I was ready to launch my first online course, but there is so much tech stuff to deal with around this project. When I spoke with Terry that first time, he could understand what I wanted to do with HowToPastel and we connected instantly. I couldn’t believe my good luck.

We came to an agreement and he helped me to launch my course, Pastel Painting En Plein Air, last October. Not only did he help me with my launch, he also ‘fixed’ my website which had been hacked and was redirecting visitors to some other pages (not porn thank heavens!).

Now instead of dealing with all the digital tech world on my own, I had someone beside me who knew about such things. Can you imagine my relief and happiness?

We met almost weekly on Sundays by Zoom (Skype-like) to report on our individual progresses around my business. (He was also working for my partner Cam too.) We were planning new websites for me – a fresh new look for HowToPastel as well as my GailSibley.com site.

I tell you all this to show how valuable he was to me. I saw Terry in person on my last visit to Ontario (to teach at the ICAN Pastel Conference). We dove deep into website design and were both excited about working on a whole new look for HowToPastel. We also began talking about the launch of my new pastel online course for beginners. He seemed fine. Next thing I knew, he was emailing to say he was in hospital for tests.

A couple weeks later, we had a Zoom session on Sunday. He was gaunt (where was the big robust man I knew?) and explained he had colon cancer but was wanting to keep working until his surgery in July.

A few days later I texted him.


And again I texted.

Again nothing.

A week later, a mutual acquaintance informed me Terry had gone into hospital Thursday and died Saturday. That was 2nd July. I still can’t believe he’s gone.


I’d like to share some thoughts, some lessons learnt from this loss of my warm-hearted and helping tech guy Terry.



1. Change is Inevitable

You can count on the constancy of change. Nothing stays the same. We all know that rationally but we tend not to live that belief emotionally. Losing Terry after coming to depend on him was a huge change. Now I feel alone and vulnerable in my business. But I need to face the reality and move on, make a new plan and re-adjust the path. Out of this change, I have found a new strength, a determination to learn more, and the belief that there is another tech person out there who will understand my needs the way Terry did.


Lesson: Be open to change. Change, even a painful one, can be beneficial. Out of loss comes growth and strength. The loss itself will be painful but you will be surprised at what strength you have to make it through the change. Be prepared to let go of what may have been your original plan.


2. Stay on Top of Things

Part of the difficulty with Terry’s sudden death is that he had created new bits and pieces for my website to which only he knew the passwords. He was doing the work and there was no (apparent!) need for me to know these things. Much of the work was on platforms to which he had a commercial license. Of course I couldn’t have the passwords to these platforms as any password would open up access to his other client’s work. Still, there should have been some process in place for life changes.  I still need to work out how to access these things.


Also, I was keen to develop a new and expanded functionality and look for HowToPastel.com, a website I’d started with only a basic knowledge of WordPress. Terry and I had started talking about the new website from the start but it wasn’t until I saw him in June that we really entered fully and committed into the project. A couple of weeks after his death, a month after this meeting, I was angry at myself for not being on top of this, for not getting this project going way earlier.


Lesson: Have safeguards in place. Ask, ‘What if…’ questions and have the answers in place before a crisis occurs. Stay on top of things. Don’t put off projects or let them slip saying, ‘I’ll get to that next month’. Prioritizing will help with this. Be in control of your business.



3. Listen to Your Intuition

One of the things Terry and I had discussed over and over was setting up a membership site on the platform he had a license to use. (Subscribers would pay a monthly or annual fee and get something in return behind ‘closed doors’.) We’d talked but never followed through. We also talked about changing the location of my online course videos to one that again, he had a commercial license to use. We never got to that change. And now I’m glad. That would have been even more of a nightmare to untangle.


Lesson: Sometimes it’s okay that things slip through the cracks. In this case it certainly was. I think deep down, we have an intuition about things. I hadn’t yet been convinced to make the changes Terry was suggesting so I believe unconsciously I had the brakes on. And this can be a good thing. Listen to your gut.



4. The Value of a Tribe

I remember at an internet conference I went to, the encouragement to build a tribe around you. Your tribe consists of people who help you in all different ways with your business – your accountant, your lawyer, your tech person, your designer, your social media manager, your marketing person. When I met Terry, I was at the beginning of that journey to acquire team members. I had been told a long time ago by Jo Barnes, not to let the tech stuff get in my way, to hand it over to someone who knew there stuff. Terry was that person for me. Like I said, I couldn’t believe my luck. We had the makings of a great team. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. But my time with Terry gave me a taste of what it’s like to be relieved of tech duty. And with that, I am now more willing to put in the effort to find someone else.


Lesson: Having people around you to share the workload, to help deal with the stresses of running a business, to have your back, and to help build your business is a necessity. Whether your tribe members are friends and family members who support you emotionally and even financially, and/or hired members like Terry who help with the things that aren’t your forté, like tech stuff, like accounting stuff, like legal stuff, it’s worth the time and effort and money as you grow to invest in creating this tribe. You will be better off for it. I am learning this the slow way. Thank you Terry!



5. Death is at Your Shoulder

Always. And it’s final. You never know when death is going to tap your shoulder and say, It’s time. The death of someone, especially someone you know, is a reminder, to live fully. That’s hard to remember day in, day out, through the routines and habits of our daily lives. I think as artists, we have a head start in this department. Every time we are brought up short by some scene, by some small corner of colour, or the pattern of a shadow, or the quality of light that just makes us want to paint it, these are moments of being truly alive.


Lesson: As cliché as it is – Breathe. Laugh. Be grateful for each day. Tell those around you that you love them. Try not to take anything for granted because all can change in a flash and death is around the corner. Help others see the way you do as an artist, appreciating every visual nuance in the life around us.


“We meet but briefly in life, if we touch each other with stardust, that is everything.”     ~ Unknown


I miss you Terry.




Do any of these lessons learnt resonate with you? 

What are not staying on top of that’s vulnerable to sudden change?

Let me know by leaving a comment.


Next week, it’s monthly pick time!!


Until then,

~ Gail


PS. You can hear Terry’s voice on the instructional video he made for me about the ordering process for Pastel Painting En Plein Air.

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26 thoughts on “5 Lessons Learnt From The Loss Of My Tech Guy”

  1. Wow Gail! That’s a sobering story…I am so sorry for the loss of your friend Terry.
    I enjoy your blogs, and find your shares to be useful and encouraging, as I embark on
    my “leap of faith” journey to leave my retail picture framing business and become
    the full-time artist that I so desperately crave and desire.

    Thank you again for sharing so many pointers…I look forward..


    Maureen Pitcher
    Lafayette Hil, PA

    1. Thanks Maureen.
      I know what you mean about that desperate craving to become a full-time artist and also how difficult it can be to leave the safety of your business. So, good for you taking that leap!! I hope my blog continues to encourage you in your journey. Let me know what else I can write about to help you.

    2. I’ve learned one thing in life. There are no coincidences. You met Terry and he became part of your journey. I’m very sorry for your loss. Life is short. I’m glad you spend it doing what you love and encouraging others to do the same. xx
      Anne Laslo

      1. I believe the same Anne. Thank you for your words. I am indeed lucky to be living this artistic life and am glad of the reminder. It’s easy to forget when you are immersed in the day to day tasks. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry for your loss of a special friend. Best luck in your search for a new tech specialist. Your pastel at the top of your story is lovely.

    1. Thanks Gailen.
      I wish that was my pastel but it’s a photograph. I’m glad though that it does have the effect of a pastel. I just couldn’t find a right painting for this post hence the photo.

  3. So sorry for your loss. Loved your reflections from this very sad event in your life. You are so right that things can change in an instant and you shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m 60 years old and reigniting myself finally with my artwork and it was really hard to take that step because I had so much self doubt. I just made a decision to get serious and work at it one day at a time and not be so judgmental of myself and just focus on the joy I get from the work and sharing it with others. Sometimes you just have to make your goals simple and attainable.

    1. Thank you MaryAnn for your comment. Self-doubt can be such a killer of who we can become! How wonderful to hear how you are moving forward and that you’ve created a simple, attainable goal, working at your art one day at a time – the journey begins with one step. And love that you are focusing on the joy of the process rather than the outcome. It’s in the doing that you move forward, not the self-battering. Good for you!!!

  4. So sorry for your lose. It is always a shock to lose someone so quickly. It is like it makes your heart stop when you first hear about it.
    I have a question. Where do you look to find your “monthly picks?”

    1. Martha, that’s exactly it – heartstopping!

      Regarding the monthly picks, I cruise various FaceBook groups I belong to and also any links I come across. Also I may see someone in a magazine whose work I like and then I’ll checkout their website. It’s a loooooooonnnnnng process through the month, as is making the final picks and then writing about them!

  5. Gail, they all resonate and so sorry to hear of the loss of a friend. I read in a book the distillation of Buddhism to seven words. (I know, very simplistic, right?) I keep them posted where they are easily seen and find them to be helpful and grounding.

    Everything Changes. Everything is Connected. Pay Attention.

    Wishing the best for you.

    1. Margaret, these are such wonderful simple words. Thank you for sharing them. Simple ideas that we need to be reminded about. Not so simple to keep them foremost in our minds and actions.

  6. Dear Gail, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Death is so final and even when you know it is coming it is still shocking. My first husband died at 38. Grief is different for each person. God’s word tells us that He can turn our trials into blessings—it looks like you are doing that ; looking for lessons to help you grow and move forward. Death ignites a fire in us to make each day count! We are reminded to take our dreams off the shelf and go for it. May God bless you !

    1. Thankyou for your kind thoughts Renee. How terrible it must have been to lose your husband at such a young age.
      I like your phrase about death igniting a fire in us. We need to remember that death is there and yes, get on with our dreams!!

  7. Hi, Gail! I am sorry for your loss. I guess, if anything, I could say that I’ve learned the last lesson you mentioned, to laugh, etc., some time ago. I’ve come close to death several times in the last 10 years. It really does change the way one looks at things. I don’t put things off, I try very hard to enjoy each day and I think I understand about living in the moment. I am only a beginning artist, but I do know that it’s important to appreciate the good times when you’re having them! So often, we’re distracted by other things that we don’t enjoy what’s going on right in front of us! To me, it seems, it’s not important if I ever sell a painting as much as it is to learn to paint well. Why? Because it’s being happy with my paintings that matters the most to me! If someone else doesn’t care for them, I concentrate on the things I like about them and learn from the things I could do better. It’s more important to be kind to others and help someone who needs it than to receive all the accolades in the world. Why? Because even our pastels will eventually fade…. the kindness and love we show to others will live on when they have the strength and ability to help others in the same way. By the way, I’m thankful that you’ve been so forthcoming with your videos and teaching! You’ve helped me!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Betty. You certainly sound like you have a fairly intimate relationship with death and are more fully in life because of it.
      I like your outlook about painting – being more concerned about getting better and enjoying the process than worry about what others think. If we could all take that lesson to heart!!
      I’m glad I’ve been able to help you at the start of your artistic journey and hope to continue to do so 🙂

  8. Well for sure it is a sad and frustrating story Gail. And one that so many people would say it would be their worst nightmare – losing a friend and realising control over your business is paramount.

    Take some time and re – evaluate would be my advice. Ask yourself why you left so much in his hands? Never put all your eggs in one basket.. An old cliché I know but it matters when dealing with people you don’t know (as opposed to Terry who you did know) to perform major functions in your business. Keep the functions separate.

    I always come out of this kind of emotional and practical upheaval by asking ‘What can I take from this? What am I being taught?

    XX Heather

    1. Thanks Heather. It’s funny because I realize I’m sort of a control person and I like to know how everything works when it comes to this digital journey I’m on. It was a huge thing for me to relinquish control of some things to Terry which allowed me to get on with the more creative work rather than using the excuse of, “I need to learn how all this works” to distract me from it! It’s certainly been a learning lesson. I feel lucky because another client didn’t even have access to his website!

      I am anxious about getting a new person – one has to be vulnerable and trusting. In the digital space, there’s so much work that’s invisible and hard to check on so there is a lot of trust involved. Not to mention access to one’s passwords for website, social media etc.

      Heather are you doing all the work yourself or do you have someone helping you (a tech person). And if you do, how did you go about finding them?

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  9. Gail , I’m so deeply sorry for the sad loss of your friend . You’re so right we must treasure every precious moment with our loved ones and special friends. May time heal your grief but be assured that all our loved ones and special friends look apon us and are near us everyday , and if we know how to look send us signs to say they are ok. Our special and loved ones stay tucked away forever in our hearts and remain part of us.
    When special people come into our lives a beautifull book opens and everyday the memories we have with them is written in that beautifull life book and one day when unhappily they leave us that book closes. At first it’s too painfull to open it but with time we start opening a page and if you shut your eyes you will start seeing the happy memories written in that life book and your heart will fill with joy when you read a page.God bless Gail.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story about Terry. I am so sorry for your loss and the terrible loss to Terry’s family. I am sure your post has started many of us thinking of the importance of being prepared for any eventuality. All the very best as you go forward. Diane

    1. Yes it was a terrible shock to Terry’s family. I don’t know them personally but I have read the outpouring on Terry’s Facebook page.

      My reason for writing the post was to share my experience and hope others can learn from it so I’m glad if it gets everyone thinking, even a wee bit. Thanks Diane.

  11. Truly sorry for your loss, Gail, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. You are so wise to find the positive learning from such a tragic, heart wrenching event.
    Thank you Margaret for reminding me of those 7 profound words which now hang in my studio too.

    1. Thank you Carol. Finding the lessons, finding the messages, remembering what I gained, all these help to get through this. I too have Margaret’s words up – by my computer in my office. How wonderful to be in this sharing community!!

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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