The Lady Friend and I were recently in New York to attend a memorial for an old friend and neighbor of mine.
Cherie Tredanari was 96. Her husband, Len, died some years earlier. In the past 30 or so years, it seems we have attended more memorials and fewer funerals; as if funerals were coming out of fashion in a more secular and less religious time.
This may be a reflection of the more cynical world we live in; we hear church attendance has dropped considerably. Most people claim to believe in God but fewer may belong to a church or attend regular services.
Funerals, as I remember them growing up, were largely religious ceremonies. The main speakers were the rabbis, priests or ministers. Today, it seems anyone in the audience can have his or her say. More and more, we hear of people holding their own memorials for their loved ones –— called by many, “celebrations of a life.”
Such was the memorial for Cherie. About a hundred people turned out. Many took the microphone to celebrate her as mother, grandmother, friend, cook, hostess, artist, gardener, etc. Some of the stories were humorous, others funny; some thoughtful, some insightful, a few boring; some went on too long, a few sparkled.
On the other hand, a memorial was an opportunity for all to celebrate the life of an unforgettable lady in her own time and ours.
The mother of a daughter and a son, and grandchildren who survive her, Cherie set out as a young girl to become an artist. By the time of her death, she was a sculpture of note. Her principal work is a series of metal sculptures inspired by the adventures of Don Quixote.
For a long time, my favorite reading in the newspapers has been the obituaries. In the best there is a beginning, a middle and an end.
Last week in the New York Times, one in particular caught my attention. In 1987, a “common-sense judge,” Ira B. Harkavy, 84, of Brooklyn, ordered a 77-year-old landlord to 15 days of house arrest in one of his own deteriorating apartment buildings.
The judge, whose death was reported last week, was known for “common-sense solutions” to juridical questions. In the 1987 case of the landlord of the six-story building, the defendant “failed to address more than 400 housing violations.”