A father patted his son's head as they looked at photographs of Amy Friedlander, 46, and her family in the vestibule of the John Jay Middle School Theater, where hundreds gathered Sunday to remember the victims of the shocking murder that unnerved the hamlet of Cross River.
Mourners began arriving an hour before the 1 p.m. start, finally able to formally acknowledge the family's death after the original service was postponed because of the Nor'easter. A glamorous family photograph was flanked by snapshots of Gregory, 8, on the soccer field and a fresh-faced Molly, 10, smiling into the camera.
The Jewish Family Congregation of South Salem, where the family worshiped and the children took religious lessons, organized the memorial service with the help of the Katonah-Lewisboro school district. Media was not permitted to use cameras inside the building and interviews were barred.
Rabbi Carla Freedman opened the service by acknowledging that all were there seeking "comfort and consolation from each other." Some in the crowd closed their eyes as the cantor sang Pslam 16 in Hebrew, "God is at my side."
Deborah Bernstein, Amy Friedlander's John Jay Prep business partner and friend, spoke next, describing Amy as "empowered by the ability to provide for her children," and a "great and adoring mom." Bernstein said she and Amy became instant friends and talked 10 times a day—Amy speaking "incessantly" about her children.
Bernstein and other friends who spoke focused not on the stories that have emerged since the murders—domestic violence, the debate over live-in divorces, and the motivation for Samuel Friedlander, 50, to gruesomely murder his family before committing suicide Oct. 18—but on the everyday, the little fragments of the Friedlanders that will be missed.
Molly made friendship bracelets better than anyone, and loved pie and sushi with brown rice. Gregory loved chocolate chip cookies and had an infectious energy that could brighten any carpool. Amy was the kind of woman who, when she learned one of her students loved apple juice but wasn't allowed the drink at home, greeted the child with the beverage at every tutoring session. And Molly and Amy loved their mother-daughter book club.
As the service moved toward a close, the theme turned from memories to a focus on life moving forward. Cristy Harris, the Lewisboro Elementry School principal, was joined by former teachers of the Friedlander children who presented an original poem written by poet Ted Scheu titled "Planting Daffodils." Scheu had worked with both children during LES enrichment programs, which their mother also helped coordinate.
"We definitely plan to celebrate how life goes on," read one line of the poem. Following that theme, Lewisboro Elementry students and staff will each plant a daffodil bulb to create a garden in honor of Molly and Gregory. Daffodils return each spring.
When the service concluded 45 minutes later, mourners quickly disbanned, some stopping to look at the photos of those smiling faces one last time.
South Salem Presbyterian Chuch will host local clergy and experts from the field of psychology at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 to help those grieving who would like counsel.