Lessons From My Loving Mother, Barbara Graves

Lessons From My Loving Mother

Dear Mom,

I love you and miss you deeply.

Although it’s been a few weeks since you’ve passed, I can still feel your powerful presence in my life. I find that I still reach for the phone to make my daily call to you. I could always rely on your valuable insight, unwavering guidance, uplifting words of encouragement, as well as a good laugh or two. Those conversations were always the highlight of my day.

When I think about you I can’t help but reflect on how remarkable you were. I know everyone says their mother is special, but your contributions to our family, friends, colleagues, and society made our world a better place. I truly believe our world has been significantly diminished without you in it.

You were the anchor of our family. Although you had to contend with a testosterone-charged home with four alpha males, you ruled our household; we all knew you were clearly in charge and had the final word. It was your combination of common sense, compassion, and tough love that kept our family together. It was you who enabled Dad to achieve his vision when so many others scoffed at his dreams. It was you who instilled in my brothers and me–and, by extension, your daughters-in-law and grandchildren–the confidence to view the world as one of limitless opportunities and the belief that through education and preparation we could pursue and attain any goal our hearts desired. Dad always said that you set the moral compass for our family. And he was right.

Your words and example have given me so many priceless lessons about business and life.

You taught me the value of having a true life partner. Growing up in our household, my brothers and I were fortunate enough to witness a relationship of love, respect, and shared values that spanned more than a half century. It is so rare today to find a couple whose worlds are in the same orbit and whose most precious moments of the day are times spent with one another. And although you told me many times you would have been content to just manage a household and raise three rambunctious boys, you did that while helping Dad grow Black Enterprise from an idea of a newsletter into a flourishing, multigenerational media company. You were always willing to play any role–editorial director, circulation director, general manager, CFO–and as such you were his most dedicated worker, strongest ally, and best adviser.

Through it all, you were still Mom–our protector, our disciplinarian, our teacher. Although we grew up as beneficiaries of the business and financial success of black enterprise, you drilled in us the values of hard work and responsibility. Even though you met and spent time with some of the world’s most powerful and wealthiest people, you never lost your humble, Brooklyn roots. You never defined yourself through material possessions, enjoying tooling around in your PT Cruiser instead of the latest luxury model or feeling just as comfortable flying coach as you did in first class. Growing up, we would often ask you where we had placed a pair of sneakers or one of our sweaters and you’d quickly quip “If you only had one, then you’d never lose it.” And over the past decade, much to my father’s chagrin, you instituted a no-gift rule at Christmas demonstrating to us the lasting value of a simple handwritten card.

You taught us to “earn everything you deserve,” that there are no shortcuts in life, and there’s a right way and wrong way to do everything. That principle was demonstrated in your focus on our education, in which you made sure my brothers and I correctly pronounced every word or directed us to solve problems by deconstructing a challenge and then figuring out a solution. You told me if I took the correct course–avoiding superficial schemes–and had a willingness to sacrifice, then I would emerge a more enriched person. You were so right. Your lesson has gained even greater resonance as I manage our company through a turbulent business environment.

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