A Tribute to Merritt Levitan ’13
by The Milton Measure on Monday, September 30th, 2013
“How can I possibly begin to write about Merritt? She is crazy and goofy. She is so, so smart. She is loving and endearing. I use the present tense, because to me, she doesn’t really seem gone. She is still here with me, and with all of the people who love her. Death does not remove a person’s presence from your life.
No matter where our lives took us throughout our four years together at Milton, I knew that Merritt was always there. She was like a constant in a sea of change. Always friendly, always trusting, always just as wonderfully frazzled as I was.
My favorite memory with Merritt was a Thursday night with the Milton Paper. Our friend Osaremen Okolo ’13 had to go to an anatomy review session, so Merritt and I accompanied her to Pritzker. While we waited outside for Osaremen, we began to get delirious. After all, it was cold, it was late, and we were slightly stressed given that it was exam season.
Suddenly we found ourselves dancing like maniacs on the benches outside Pritzker. Merritt blasted “Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris and Florence Welch, one of her favorite singers. We screamed, we hip-thrusted, we jumped, and we belted. It got to the point that Osaremen had to text us to let us know that her entire anatomy class could see and hear us through Pritzker’s glass windows…Oops.
Merritt’s carefree energy was so contagious that neither of us even cared. We kept dancing until we were out of breath. Merritt was one of the few people at Milton with whom I felt so comfortable given any situation. That stress-free, spontaneous, crazy moment, though it only lasted five minutes, is a memory with Merritt that I will cherish forever.”
-Ali Golden ’13
“I saw Merritt grow as a person. Actually, it was more than that. Merritt gave me the great pleasure of feeling that I was helping her, that I was participating in her maturation and growth as a person. She promised me to keep in touch. She kept her promise until a couple of days that destiny acted with so much cruelty.
When I met Merritt for the first time, she was trying to hide her shyness under a mask that did not befit her. That was not the real Merritt, but someone trying to find her role in the new community that was for her the Upper School. I talked and talked to her, and that was my big arrogant mistake. Merritt did not need lessons from me. She needed to be heard. I discovered the wonderful world of Merritt. Instead of shouting loud and meaningless, Merritt realized that she had the vision and the gifts to make a better world. Big actions in small groups is what made Merritt loved by those who knew her. She used to say “not many people know, but I….” and then she would show me a great art portfolio, a picture teaching how to ski or an activity organized to kids with diabetes. Merritt was full of energy, intelligence and…yes, she was one of the most wonderful human beings I have met. And I am not exaggerating. Merritt wanted to continue creating a better world. Knowing how stubborn Merritt was –yes, she was also that- I am sure that she is still helping people, wherever she is. I miss her so much!”
“My best friend is probably laughing about the fact that I’m writing an op-ed in the Milton Measure right now. As board members of the Milton Paper, every other Friday during our senior year, we’d read the front page of this publication with a judgmental—read: biased—eye. Merritt’s vivaciously competitive spirit always fueled my own. I apologize for continuing on about a rival publication but I must say this: I am immensely grateful to the Milton Paper for giving me time with my best friend. Being at school until 10pm each Thursday night isn’t ideal, but in those extended hours I got the chance to just be with her, making countless memories; moments that I’ve been trying to dig out and mentally catalog. We only ever wrote articles together and edited most side by side—I couldn’t bring myself to start writing for my college paper this fall out of a fear of muddling those newspaper memories.
I was blindsided this summer. I thought I would be making the quintessential transition between high school to college but my friends and I experienced change far more intense than moving away from home. Did you know that death can come as you’re avoiding a pile of dirty laundry? Death comes as you echo the groan of the treadmill under your feet or when you’re quietly making a chicken Muenster sandwich for a Tuesday lunch. But death doesn’t level you until you’re sitting on the floor of your living room, surrounded by people who loved her, waiting for a call from a hospital in Memphis. It waits to strike until you’re nestled in between your mother’s knees and the friends leave because they can’t stand to see you break. I didn’t understand death until I opened a letter with my best friend’s handwriting on the front, mailed on the 2nd of July.
There is no lethargy better than tears. To all members of my Milton family who are reading this: don’t be afraid to cry, even now. It was in the minutes that I stood, sat, and laid, unable to speak, that I realized the weight of a best friend. The profundity of a peer who is a sister by choice, not because of shared blood. Death came far too quickly, but a realization of genuine friendship is what I never saw coming. Merritt gave me a friendship that I will carry with me and maintain throughout my life, living and experiencing and loving—forever for her.”
-Osaremen Okolo ’13
“I was lucky enough to get to know Merritt as the bright, attentive student, the fierce tennis player, the compassionate caregiver, and the genuine friend. From day one, her contagious laughter brightened my day, her sincere personality taught me to be a better person, and her ability to listen kept me sane. Merritt was yunreal. We usually bonded when we were trying to escape the wrath of Milton academics. We’d text or call for hours virtually every night, complaining about the 45 hours of work we hadn’t done. We never truly realized that the hours we had spent complaining about work could probably have been more useful actually doing the work. She was my saving grace when it came to procrastination; however, I would always wonder why she’d always pull out the higher grade…When I was out sick from Mrs. Jacobsen’s Statistics class one day in the fall, Merritt texted me with five simple words: “Missed ya in class today.” This one text highlights her care for others. She always made people feel better, letting them know that she was always thinking about them. Through the ups and downs at Milton, Merritt made one thing consistent: her friendship. She was so much fun. She was such a beautiful person.
To all you Milton students: The theme of a new school year is always to take advantage of every opportunity that Milton has to offer, whether it’s playing the sport you never envisioned playing or taking the class completely outside of your comfort zone. Cherish every moment with everyone around you. From the study sessions in the library to the casual conversations in Forbes, take advantage of immersing yourself in the love of others. If it’s someone you’ve known for your lifetime or someone you’ve just met, give them a chance to be your best friend. Merritt was not my first friend at Milton, but by the end of our 4 years together I was blessed to call her a best friend. Live life to the fullest and never forget to let the ones around you know you love them.”
-Josh Ellis ’13
“If I had to pick one word to describe Merritt, it would be friend. It’s hard to pick a favorite memory of Merritt because there are just too many. Sometimes, it surprises me that we were only close friends for three years; for the amount of text messages we sent back and forth, it would seem like a lifetime. One of the hardest parts about losing Merritt is that I know she would keep texting me in college, and when I did not reply immediately she would continue sending random texts, emojis, or maybe even the famed selfie that everyone of her friends has at least ten somewhere in their phone camera. I was even lucky enough to receive a snapchat one night of “Merty’s first mirror selfie.” She knew how to make me smile, even during the dreaded, junior spring.
On the tennis team, she may not have fit the typical criteria of a captain, but she epitomized the perfect leader. Merritt did not play in one match last season because of a foot injury that was aggravated because she refused to miss what she claimed to be the “best powder day” at Sugarbush. Still, Merritt managed to be the backbone of the team; she was close with all eight girls on the team and knew how to make us laugh after a tough loss or how to pump us up in a close set. Although she was often late to practice because she was caught up in a meeting or dealing with a problem with her friends, I knew that Merritt was always the one fixing the problem. So many people went to her with everything, because she was a good friend. It still shocks me that Merritt came to every single tennis practice even though she wasn’t playing, but that’s who she was. She used to come straight from her senior project and wait for us on the grass outside the courts, lying in front of her bike like she was posing for a photo shoot. She could not have been more excited for her biking trip this past summer.
I know this because she came over to my house right before she left for her trip instead of going to a graduation party. It had been an ongoing joke that we would always talk about having a sleepover or hangout at my house, but we never followed through. But, she made sure she wouldn’t leave for the summer, for college, and forever without making the trek to Weston once. She was her typical Merty self. She hadn’t packed for her trip, hadn’t packed up her room for her family’s move, but none of that fazed Merritt. She’s the only person I know who could be relaxed in what for me would be the most stressful time. She always put her friendships over everything and always knew the right thing to do. She truly is unforgettable.”
-Abby Lebovitz ’14
“Merritt changed the lives of anyone who was blessed to come into contact with her. She never let social norms stop her from what she loved do. Ever since freshman year, I knew Merritt was an incredible person. Throughout freshman orientation, our advisory was forced into playing games that none of us were all too fond of playing so we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves in front of our new classmates. However, Merritt was different, as she didn’t seem to care that we laughed when she pranced around the quad or had to scream a song at the top of her lungs. From that first day, I quickly realized how important Merritt, and her friendship would be in my life. From seeing her run into advisory ten minutes late, always out of breath like she had run all the way to school, to bringing our Biology class cakes on Friday afternoon during our Senior Spring, Merritt never stopped having fun and doing things because she loved life. Over the four years I knew Merritt, she made me a better person, student, and friend. So here’s to the person that brought out the best in everyone, to the person who never wasted a second of her life, and taught everyone to love each other no matter what. Here’s to Merritt, my friend, my lab partner, my support team, for being the best friend, and greatest person I have ever gotten to know.”
-Tucker Hamlin ’13
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=5034