My dear mother, pictured here, was the most giving person I’ve ever known. She constantly thought of others.  I recount her wisdom to us below:

1.  Love Others Beyond Anything Else.  She poured out love everywhere she went — for her 5 children, 19 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.  She also volunteered for everything, including to help children who didn’t have what we had.

2.  Get Up and Live!  She got up at 5 am every day and organized her days mostly around the care and love of others.  

3.  Be Organized.  We used to joke with Mom that she was so organized she would have the Christmas decorations up and then down before Christmas was even over, she was that efficient.  

4.  Enjoy and Integrate with Other People.  Mom made everyone feel so comfortable, even the shyest person.  When Dad and Mom were at Harvard Law School, Mom met Eleanor Roosevelt who commented how easy Mom made everyone feel in the room, and how lively she was with interesting conversation.

5.  Connect to Nature.  Mom loved gardening, birds, flowers and the spring.  She was born in the spring and left us in the spring.  She liked that quote from Wordsworth — “One impulse from a vernal wood may teach us more of man and of moral evil and of good than all the sages can.”

6.  Connect to Your Roots and Serve Others.  Mom loved her English and Scottish heritage, her friends from childhood for over 80 years, and loved volunteering in school, the community, and at church.  

7. Live, Even When You are Dying.  When Mom entered Hospice in the final days, she told us in her soft voice that she had a vision, that she was looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when God gives life to man and that she was on a journey of “Everyman” — that 15th  century play where Everyman learns that when you are brought to death and placed before God, all you are left with are your own good deeds.  Mom’s cup of good deeds was overflowing.  

8.  Mom loved the Spring and she loved Samuel Johnson’s “On Spring” — “To make use at once of the spring of the year and the spring of life.  To acquire while our minds might be yet impressed with new images, a love of innocent pleasures and an ardor for useful knowledge, and to remember that a blighted spring makes for a barren year and that the vernal flowers, however beautiful and gay, are only intended by nature as preparatives for autumnal fruits.”  Mom left us a bountiful autumn and brought such magic into the world with her motherly love.

Finally, my father said it best when Mom left us — “Mom’s greatest hope would be to carry forward the love she has for us to one another.”  


  • John Bridgeland

    Founder & CEO, Civic

    John Bridgeland is Founder & CEO of Civic, Vice Chairman of Service Year Alliance to make a service year a common expectation and opportunity for all 18-28 year olds, Co-Convener of GradNation to reach a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020, and Vice Chairman of Malaria No More, a nonprofit working to end malaria deaths in Africa. Previously, Bridgeland was appointed by President Obama to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions. He also served as Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Assistant to the President of the United States, and first Director of the post-9/11 national service efforts under President George W. Bush. He is a Senior Fellow of the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of  Virginia. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia School of Law.