Lessons From My Loving Mother, Barbara Graves

Lessons From My Loving Mother

You gave us all the gift of confidence, an ability to “go with your gut.” I use that advice every day as a CEO and a parent. It was uncanny how you could size up an individual after a moment’s observation–and each time you would be spot on. It was as if you had this sixth sense about whether someone was trustworthy, shallow, brilliant, or honest. Spending those valuable hours with you helped sharpen my judgment and evaluation of people and situations.

Sometimes you simply amazed me with your generosity of spirit and commitment to the development of young people. During your Homecoming Service, we were all brought to tears when Erica Holland, a young woman who recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, recounted your special relationship. She told us of the chance meeting when you were honored at an event and how you took the time to let her share her life story as well as her goals and aspirations. She found in you a valuable mentor who, during the course of her college years, would regularly write or call her to check on her progress, give her a boost during challenging times, and provide significant financial support. Erica was so moved by your kindness, caring, and friendship that she kept all 34 letters you wrote her over the past few years. It shouldn’t surprise me that your dedication to uplifting those in need drove you to help a perfect stranger and, in this case, enabled Erica to achieve her dream of attending law school. You always found time to become involved in the lives of young people, eager to help them reach their full potential whether they were your sons, your grandchildren, our friends, company employees, the female executives and entrepreneurs you counseled and inspired at the Women of Power Summit you co-founded, or the young people at risk you helped gain an education through our family’s B.R.I.D.G.E. Foundation. I sincerely get it, Mom: To whom much is given, much is required.

I believe your most powerful lesson was one of courage. It was painful for all of us to hear that you had been stricken with gallbladder cancer three years ago. Through this period, however, I drew from your strength, determination, and upbeat attitude as you valiantly fought the disease. You never once held a pity party, made others feel uncomfortable in your presence, or let cancer rob you of your spirit. In fact, you remained that strong, vibrant woman that I had known all of my life. You still kept your infectious laugh. You still pursued activities to lift the less fortunate. You still nurtured and inspired me, my brothers, your grandchildren, and countless others. And you were still Dad’s dynamic partner and best friend.

You showed me that regardless of circumstance you can rise above any adversity. Your fortitude has always been a motivational force in my life–and it is more so today.

Although I often wish I had many more years to spend with you, I count my blessings every day that we had the opportunity to have had such a wonderful, loving mother who took pride in sacrificing herself for our benefit. You gave Johnny, Michael and me exactly what we needed to be strong men who can play a significant role in this unpredictable world. Your lasting lesson of unconditional love for your children is one that we all embrace as fathers guiding our children to become productive citizens and responsible adults.

Mom, although you have passed to a better place, you will forever be in my heart each moment of every day. I promise to ensure that your legacy endures.

My love always,