Last week I told you about some anxiety-filled days I have had. I speculated that my mother-in-law was not going to be with my family for much longer. I’m sad to tell you that last Thursday she died with her children by her side and according to my wife with a tremendous amount of grace.
Her name was Barbara Levick, she was born Barbara Epstein and did a small amount of her growing up in Brooklyn (something she and my mother shared). However, when she was young her family moved to the Motor City and became Michiganders. I first met Barbara 20-plus years ago around Thanksgiving time. She and her husband Ken would visit every year, spend 10 days with us and then go home. Now, growing up in my family I was used to opinionated unfiltered women, but Barb was different ... she could swear like a soldier! That’s not to say she wasn’t grandmotherly, in fact if you were to ask any one of her 13 grandchildren or five great-grandchildren they would tell you she was the best; because she was! She was also a sports fanatic -- football, basketball, baseball, hockey; it didn’t matter she just loved it.
After her husband died some 15 years ago we would fly her in to spend the holidays. So a few days before Thanksgiving we’d pick her up, and a few days after Christmas we would send her home. These were times I honestly enjoyed. Most guys would audibly groan at the very thought of their mother-in-law spending that amount of time with them, but I truly enjoyed it. Now, it didn’t come without a few trying moments. But it’s family, so we would get past it rather quickly. Every Sunday we’d flip on the TV and watch the games. Now I’m a Giants fan and Barb had been in Michigan so long that she was a Lions fan. But she always rooted for my team right along with me, which always made me laugh. A few years ago we were watching the Giants; Eli Manning was not having a good game. After the third interception I threw a pillow on the ground and Barb let out an "Ahhhhhh!!!!" Then she turned to me and said "What do they pay that EXPLETIVE? He should be fired, that BEEEEP! Millions of dollars they pay these morons and they play like this."
But she would no sooner be done berating the quarterback then she would be writing out cards to any and everybody for any occasion. Years ago I nicknamed her Hallmark Barb. Hallmark should have a plaque of that woman in their corporate headquarters. She always addressed a card to my wife and I "Dearest Ones," and always followed suit with something very flowery and sincere but then would look up at the TV and say, "Did that (something or other) just try and steal second? Did he go on his own or did that moron in the dugout send him!?!" She was indeed a very special lady, nothing you can make up, and you’ve got to be born that way.
So at age 83 her body gave out. She fought, but at the end she knew she wasn’t coming out of it. I had the chance to tell her that I loved her before she went, a chance we should never pass up. It’s important for the patient and the person. Folks dream about that final resolve with a love one, that moment that allows you to never second guess. My mother-in-law gave everyone that resolve.
If you think back to the Superbowl, you may remember the Paul Harvey "God made a Farmer" commercial. Well, if Paul Harvey was talking about Barbara Levick I imagine that it would have sounded like this. When God needed a woman who could raise six children, love 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, treat three sons-in-law like they were no different from her children, throw back Vodka, beam with delight at the site of a grandchild, then scream at the TV "does that (insert swear word here) ever pass the ball!?!" God made Barbara Levick ... then broke the mold! I’m gonna miss you, ma. What the Hell is up With that!