Welcome to my regular series entitled "My Light Bulb Moment". This column highlights a "blinding flash of insight" business, cultural and sports leaders have experienced and how this changed their lives forever.

Dame Malvina Major

Dame Malvina Major, ONZ GNZM DBE, was born in Hamilton into a large musical family. Showing great promise as a young vocalist, she moved to England for further study at the London Opera Centre.

She is respected internationally and has performed more than 30 opera roles in their original languages around the world.


Dame Malvina is a Professor of Voice at the University of Waikato and also has the distinction of training another of New Zealand's great vocalists, Hayley Westenra.

Lightning Bulb Moment - Three Little Words

"Many years ago, my husband and I were discussing with our family about travelling to London for my opera at Covent Garden," Dame Malvina recalls.

Sadly the meeting was a disaster as her husband flatly refused to go to London and take their girls with him.

"To say he was grumpy was the understatement of the year. However, unbeknownst to us he was not at all well. Later on he was very rude to our son and his wife, and they almost came to blows.

"As well as this, our youngest daughter felt her own father didn't love her as he was always telling her off. I stepped in to bring them together to talk and she said to him "you don't love me - I never seem to do anything right". He replied "of course you know I do, or I wouldn't tell you off!" However during this exchange he never said the words "I love you, or I am proud of you" and was continually limited with his physical affection.

Their eldest daughter had gained a successful role in accounting and was the sibling who got on best with her father. However, even though they had lunch together every week, she was frustrated that her father never said to her that he was proud of her and loved her.

Things got dramatically worse when, after helping the neighbours one cold evening, her husband quickly became ill and suddenly passed away. Sadly the children were too late to see him alive once more.


What would you wish to say?

As Dame Malvina explains "If only we could go back, if only we could have seen that his life would end so suddenly and have had time to say the things we wished to say. Death is instant and life does not run smoothly. There are frustrating times, feelings of hate even, but to love once is to love again.

"Don't leave home without a hug, don't go to bed without resolving a dispute, or at least 'agree to disagree'. Often there is no time left to rectify a situation. You cannot retrieve a nasty word when the person is dead!"

Tom O'Neil is an award-winning business speaker, best-selling international author and MD of both www.CV.CO.NZ and www.TomONeil.com. Contact Tom to speak at your next event - Email tom@tomoneil.com