Paolo Coelho once said, “To live is to love. Everything else is just details.” Margret Wallace Leverett lived well though I’m sure you may be familiar with some of the details. She was born in Sibley, Iowa in 1928 and grew up in a loving family. She met my dad, Jim and married him in 1950. That means she was married to the man she loved for over 65 years, and I can tell you that they were in love right up until the last day.
She devoted herself to her four children for the first half of her adult life, and that is the part I’m most familiar with. All of the four of us are here, my older brother Bruce, my younger sister Margot, and my youngest brother who came from England with his family. I think it’s a testament to her love for us, that we are all here, and were all here in the last month, remembering her and her love, even as she had forgotten, toward the end, some of those details. It is this part of her life that I remember the best, her attentiveness, her worry, her care for each of us. It made our lives better, and safer, having her care about us, and look out for us coming home. I have just one story about that, although there were many. On the day Kennedy was shot (this was kind of a 9/11 of our era), somebody hit me in the head with a tomato as we were let out of school early; this was in an elementary school in Toledo, and I ran home, upset; it seemed to me the world was going to end. But she was there for me, as usual. She said to me, you’ll be ok, everything will be ok, and she washed my hair and put my life back in order again. Our lives were full of examples like that, maybe not all as dramatic. We’d lived in St. Louis and Cleveland before Toledo, and Pittsburgh and Buffalo after. There were plenty of details.
One remarkable thing about her is that, having seen the last of us out the door, she decided to enter the work world, and often told of feeling unqualified – she hadn’t earned a paycheck in thirty years. But she reframed what she had done in the course of raising us, and went out there and presented herself as a cook, an organizer, and a health supervisor. She got a job with the New York Health Department – and before long she was writing the book – the New York State manual for Home Health Aides; this was the manual that every home health aide in the state used to take care of people – and she wrote the book.
In her professional careers I should mention first the League of Women Voters, who she served for many years, and who honored her several times for her service; she was also active in a number of other organizations. Several people at Good Sam have mentioned how well she ran the library here at Good Sam. One person said to me, she ran the best meeting. She was rational, she was clear, she moved it right along. I’d like to mention all the groups she was involved in, but I might miss a few, or get them wrong.
And besides, these are just details. She loved people; she loved life; we loved her back. I was a ruthless competitor for her love. As my brother well knows, I was in her face from the very first minute. And she was always, always, always there for me. I speak for my brothers and sister, and my Dad as well, when I say that. And for the grandchildren, and the great-grandchild. Let’s not get caught up in the details, that’s what mattered.
Mom was Scottish; her dad was a Wallace. Mom was a Presbyterian, and she believed. Toward the end there, she was all worry, and had lost track of some details, and she kept saying there was a meeting upstairs and she had to go to the meeting. I kept telling her, there is no meeting, there is no upstairs. In my mind I thought, maybe she knows more than I do, so then I just said, you’ll be ok, Mom, everything will be ok. If there’s a meeting up there, you’ll be ready for it.
For a while there, toward the end, I wasn’t sure she knew everything I meant when I said it to her. So I’ll say it now, just so it’s out there, just so it’s said. Mom, you were everything to me. As Auden said, you were my north, my south, my east, and west, you were my working week and my Sunday rest. My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song…. What I know, I know from watching you, from being near you, from loving you and being loved. We watch ourselves turn into our parents, and that’s fine with me. We will carry on, we will know your love is there, and we will always love you. There is nothing else to worry about.