I was working as a consultant in a beer company,
helping the president and senior vice-presidents
formulate and implement their new strategic vision. It
was an enormous challenge.
At the same time, my mother was in the final stages of
I worked during the day and drove 40 miles home to be
with her every night. It was tiring and stressful, but
it was what I wanted to do. My commitment was to
continue to do excellent consulting during the day,
even though my evenings were very hard. I didn't want
to bother the president with my situation, yet I felt
someone at the company needed to know what was going
on. So I told the vice-president of Human Resources,
asking him not to share the information with anyone.
A few days later, the president called me into his
office. I figured he wanted to talk to me about one of
the many issues we were working on. When I entered, he
asked me to sit down. He faced me from across his
large desk, looked me in the eye and said, "I hear
your mother is very ill."
I was totally caught by surprise and burst into tears.
He just looked at me, let my crying subside, and then
gently said a sentence I will never forget: "Whatever
That was it. His understanding and his willingness to
both let me be in my pain and to offer me everything
were qualities of compassion that I carry with me to