Hail and Farewell
It’s the last edition of CBS Sunday Morning of the year, and I am waiting eagerly (is that the right word?) for the “Hail and Farewell” segment. That’s when the host recalls and we react to many of the notables who died during the past year.
This year’s segment opens with a brief montage of Mary Tyler Moore before and during her spunky Minneapolis career woman days, then gives brief mention to other recently deceased actors, comedians, artists, and musicians, and even to some persons far outside of the pop realm (such as Medal of Honor winner Thomas Hudner, who crashed his own plane during the Korean War in an unsuccessful effort to rescue one of America’s first African American pilots. I didn’t remember him at all.)
|MTM and the hat toss|
I am not sure that I am a typical viewer, but I always find myself missing many of the persons noted, even though I have not thought of them for many years. Rose Marie from the Dick Van Dyke Show, for example, or Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It’s hard to believe, but both of them matter to me as Jane Pauley leads me to think of them again.
And this TV viewing comes just a few days after I spent part of a morning on a brief year-end visit to my hometown of Savannah, Georgia, placing stones upon the grave markers of my parents, grandparents, an aunt and uncle, a recently-deceased young cousin, the parents of childhood friends, and one special, much-missed childhood friend of my own. My most surprising find that day was the gravesite of a dentist who treated both of my parents long ago. His stone proudly includes his D.D.S. title after his name and notes that he was a “devoted husband, father, grandfather, and dentist” — a man who treasured both family and profession.
I don’t think I’m at all obsessed with death, but I am fascinated by cemeteries, particularly those that are homes to the graves of famous people. A few years ago, I dragged my wife and daughter through a persistent drizzle to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris to view the “final resting places” of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and 12th century lovers Heloise and Abelard.
One unusual memory of that visit involved our being approached at the cemetery by a young woman speaking very rapid French. She wanted directions to a particular grave. (Since I was a poor student of French, at best, I didn’t really understand her request at the time, but I did some research after the fact.) It turns out that many young French women seek out the grave site of a noted 19th century journalist and lover killed in a duel as the result of an affair. The women rub themselves against one part of the statue’s anatomy in hopes of increasing their fertility. Could this happen anywhere besides Paris?
|Note the location of a suspicious bright spot on the statue.|
A few years before that, Audrey and I walked gingerly through the chaotic Jewish cemetery in Prague, where graves have been stacked atop each other for centuries and gravestones placed there many years apart lean heavily upon each other. We never found the grave of famed Czech Rabbi Judah Loew, who is reputed to have formed a Golem to protect Czech Jews from a series of pogroms in the 16th century. Rabbi Loew’s Golem has an important place in Jewish literature; it could have been useful in our later history, too.
|My photo of centuries of graves in the Prague Jewish Cemetery|
So this is what I am thinking about on the last day of 2017. I am reacting to Hail and Farewell for a year many of us would like to ignore or forget.