Every person who works in health care probably has been told to imagine the patient as his or her mother. Perhaps you have even heard it said at board meetings. And in that spirit, I want to tell you about my mother.

She had four children — I'm the youngest — and she loved and delighted in each one of us differently and specifically. She was thrilled by all our achievements, from the first piano recital to the master's degree. She gave us room to make mistakes and, if asked, helped to fix them. She had unending patience and unflagging interest in our lives. Each of us believed we were her favorite.

She gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and encouraged us to do the same. She could win over the surliest customer service rep and soothe an apoplectic principal. She was relentlessly optimistic, predicting sunshine on cloudy days and positive resolutions to dire situations. And on more than a few occasions, from 500 miles away, she told me, grown-up and a parent myself, that it was time to go to bed. She was usually right.

She was more than a mother. She volunteered for more than three decades, serving on the boards of community agencies, charities and schools dedicated to empowering young women. She made our hometown a better place to live through her service on zoning and city planning boards. She prepared for every meeting as if it were a final exam in her favorite subject and never hesitated to make hard decisions or ask uncomfortable questions.

She loved to play cards, loved to dance, loved Rod Stewart, loved her family.

She died five years ago this month, due to what I believe was a profound failure in care coordination. As she recovered from a difficult surgery, multiple specialists weighed in, prescribing meds and ordering tests without consulting one another. We could not compel these physicians to talk to each other, so signs of her decline were overlooked. The majority of medical care is not like this, of course, but that doesn't matter much when your mother experiences the minority.

I like to imagine that you are thinking of your mother or father or best friend receiving care in the hospitals you lead and that this magazine helps you to ensure that each patient receives excellent and compassionate care. I like to imagine that my mother lends us a hand, too.