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BY GLENN SAPIR
It was the eeriest e-mail I’d ever received. The subject line—“so kong old pal”—hinted at both the message and the sender. It was from erratic typist Mike Levy, former OWAA president (1993-94). By realizing the “k” was meant to be an “l,” I read on with trepidation.
It was, indeed, a farewell note from a man who lived “four extra wonderful years Thanks to the electric pump that powered my failed heart.”
But infection had set in, he explained, and he’d run out of usable antibiotics. His breathing had become more troubled, his kidneys were slowly degrading and he knew that as the infection markers built up he’d be facing a lingering and unpleasant death.
So, his plans had been made with a level head to leave home at the proper time and go to hospice, where, with his family by his side, he’d have the power unit disconnected, likely black out in 30 seconds and sleep easily until his heart quit.
In his e-mail, he reminisced about a career as an outdoor writer and the adventures he had.
“I wish I could stick around to see the next chapter in my kids’ lives, or keep up with your doings, but I am content with my 72 years … ,” he wrote.
He then concluded his poignant message, “And may you enjoy the life you have and be grateful when you have to leave it. It really is an amazing adventure while it is given to you.”
That missive was dated Dec. 20, 2010, and began a short, but treasured series of correspondence.
In part, I replied, “The one thing I’d like to say is that you’ve made a difference … in my life and that of many others. And when we assay the value of our lives, and look around at our loved ones and remember our friends, and the thousands, if not millions, of readers, and know that those lives are much better by knowing and even loving us, then we not only go out as winners, but also knowing we have fulfilled the purpose for which we were put on this earth. This assayer says you, my friend, are a wealthy man. God bless you!”
Two days later he sent a note—with another surprise. This e-mail’s subject line announced, “Disregard previous message— maybe!”
“Apparently I am not quite as far gone as I was led to believe,” he wrote.
All numbers had improved dramatically, and he figured he’d bought himself some weeks, even a couple of months. Replies to his earlier e-mail had been pouring in from those to whom he had reached out.
“Thanks for the tributes! It’s a privilege to hear these things while I can appreciate them! Like eavesdropping at your own wake.”
That was good-humored Mike Levy, joking to the end, which came on Wednesday, March 2. An e-mail from his daughter, Becky, said that her mother, brother and she were by his side when her father passed away. She wrote that the day before he died, “Dad asked me to be sure to e-mail everyone in his address book letting them know when he had passed.”
You were an award-winning writer, Mike, and a servant to OWAA, recognized by the Ham Brown Award you received last summer. But more than that, you were a devoted husband and father to Cynthia, Seth and Becky. You were a mentor to many young writers and sportsmen and an endearing ambassador for our profession and the sportsman’s world.
To me, of course, you were a friend—and that is the treasure you’ve left with me.
“So kong, pal.♦
Editor’s note: A moving obituary was written by one of Mike Levy’s colleagues at the Buffalo News. You can access it at http://www.buffalonews.com/Levy_made_indelible_mark_with_outdoors_reporting.html.
—— Glenn Sapir is director of editorial services for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and outdoor columnist for The Journal News (N.Y.). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.