Over 20 years ago, I represented a low income African-American single mother in a federal housing discrimination case that went to trial. The defendant was a particularly nasty man and one of his attorneys behaved unethically as the case headed to trial. My client was a religious woman, and read Psalms in her Bible throughout the week long trial. Each day when I asked her how she was doing, she said, “I’m blessed.” At the time, I found this truly remarkable, as she had lost a child in a house fire in St. Louis before moving to Madison where she experienced housing discrimination. Clearly, she knew something that I did not about treasuring each day, and the jury agreed, awarding her with a $95,000 verdict after finding the landlord liable for discriminating against her.
A few days ago, I was reminded of how important it is to treasure each day when my wife and I received the shocking news that our dear friend, Rick Radner, who introduced us 35 years ago, passed away from a sudden heart attack. He left behind a loving wife, 3 children, brother and sister, and a funeral home packed beyond its seating capacity full of friends and other family members. Shortly after I heard this devastating news and made arrangements to fly to Detroit to attend the funeral and provide what comfort I could to his family and be amongst friends, I turned to my 17 year old son, and said, “This is why you should treasure each day.”
I had known Rick since high school, and we remained close friends for 40 years. We talked regularly, including just a few days before he died, and shared our philosophies of life, constantly learning from each other. Rick and I attended each other’s children’s Bar Mitzvahs as well as each other’s weddings, and took 2 incredible hiking trips, one with 2 other dear high school friends to visit my family in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, in Mexico and then traveling by train to the unparalleled beauty of the Copper Canyon, exploring its beauty. Some years before that trip, Rick and I embarked on the most arduous hike either of us have ever taken, descending to the bottom of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a National Park in southern Colorado. The climb is so steep that there are no trails, and there were a number of times when I questioned whether I could take the next step without falling and injuring myself. But, somehow each of our survival instincts kicked in and we found our inner strength and persevered.
Before I left for his funeral, my wife recalled that no one made her laugh harder than Rick. He used to call my wife a “leaker” because he made her laugh until she cried. This memory made it all the more touching, when his sister Nancy recalled Rick’s own wonderful laugh during her beautiful eulogy and even gave the standing room only crowd attending the funeral a rousing imitation of his hearty laugh.
Towards the end of Rick’s funeral, the Rabbi quoted the Psalms 34:13-15 to describe Rick beautifully:
Who is the man
Who desires life
Who loves all his days
To see good
Guard your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit
Turn away from bad
And do good
And pursue it
May Rick’s memory be for a blessing. May those of us who remain on this earth remember that our lives are fragile so we must treasure each day. For me, that means devoting myself to my family, my friends, my communities, and playing my small part in making the world a better place.
For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems contact him through his web site: Systems Change Consulting.