By Leverett Wing
My mother passed away 10 years ago.
Mom was our family’s foundation, my emotional compass and, to that point, our eight year-old son Lleyton’s best friend. Her death was devastating to Lleyton, my wife Marian, and me.
Chinese culture dictates that, at a wake/funeral, grieving families provide visitors candy and a coin (often used to spend on something sweet) wrapped in white paper as a way to help lessen the bitterness & sadness of death – an offering which Chinese-operated funeral homes usually take care of as part of their arrangements with families.
Unfortunately for me, the funeral director in our hometown of Chelsea had no knowledge of this custom (oddly, Mr. Zaksheski’s stunned silence and blank, open-mouthed stare at this request provided the only oasis of humor I found in almost two weeks)
So it was in this midst of grieving, finalizing other funeral logistics, tending to visiting friends & family, and ensuring my own family was relatively stable that I was additionally tasked with figuring out how to somehow carry out this tradition the very next day.
Michelle had been checking on my family daily in the weeks since my Mom had fallen ill, offering supportive words, help if needed, and a shoulder to cry on. When I lamented my dilemma to her over the phone, she quickly said, “Let me call you back in a few minutes”.
I wasn’t sure why she had hung up so quickly, but within 20 minutes, she called back and said simply, “We can help. We’ll be there in a couple of hours. Where do you need us?”
Without hesitation (or my solicitation), Michelle had enlisted her sisters Victoria and Sherelle to help. They, along with longtime friend Audrey Paek, arrived at our home that afternoon, and nearly four hours later, over 750 pieces of butterscotch candy and quarters were packed neatly in shopping bags, meticulously wrapped & taped with hand-cut slices of white-paper – ready for Mom’s wake and funeral the next two days.
The following day, Michelle and her husband Conor took care of Lleyton the entire evening, taking him to dinner and shooting pool. The photos she shared showed him enjoying himself and smiling – one of the few smiles I can recall from him for a month. The following day, they both attended Mom’s funeral.
Michelle and her family did all of this without fanfare or asking anything in return. It’s no exaggeration to say she and her family helped save me and my family during that horrible time.
In the weeks, months and years since then, Michelle and her entire family have been with my family through thick and thin. Her sister Victoria was a God-send in helping Lleyton survive his “Boston Latin School experience”, and I can’t accurately count the number of times Sherelle has been my personal savior and source of perspective. And in spite of her busy schedule on the City Council, Michelle has always been there with a supportive call, email or text whenever we’ve needed her.
By now, we all know (or should know) of Michelle’s accomplishments (Paid Family Leave, government transparency, Food Trucks!!), her vision for Boston (a Green New Deal, free MBTA buses) and the diverse coalitions she’s built during her year-long campaign.
These alone help make her a generational candidate for Mayor. But it’s her other, unheralded, too-unappreciated qualities of compassion, empathy and “heart” which make her extra special.
As I stated in my first campaign email many months ago, I have never been more excited or proud to back any political candidate than I am to support Michelle (… my apologies to anyone else I’ve supported in the past).
I’ve sent countless (probably, too many) emails & texts asking you to support her by volunteering, donating and by voting for her. I’m asking you now to help Michelle close out this historic campaign with whatever time or energy you can spare to help her across the finish line next Tuesday.
Michelle is the standard by which I hold all public officials. She is intelligent, visionary, compassionate, tenacious, equitable, progressive, kind, tireless, tough-as-nails, and bold.
More important and precious than that, however… She’s family.