Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eulogy for Irene Sabo Corcoran

This is how I eulogize, folks. Many people approached after the funeral, asking for a copy. I actually never wrote it down; I performed it from my head. It didn't feel proper to write it down for the first year. Since this weekend is about Rene, it's felt more natural to put it on screen and share it. She'd approve, of course, of something that glamorized her. So here's saying farewell.
I want to tell you something about my grandmother.

On August 23rd an Allstate Agency appeared in Ireland. No one thought it was odd because only one lady saw it, and she was quite used to Allstate Agencies. That woman was Irene Corcoran.

She walked inside. There was Roland Maynard, Joe Richardson, and a host of people who absolutely did not work at Allstate anymore. They buzzed about the office, trying to sell insurance.

Rene asked them, "What's going on here?"

One muffled the phone to his shoulder and said, "You put a lot of yourself into this place. Work has to be done. Money to be made."

"Yes,” she said, “but I don't want to do it now."

He said, "You don't have to. We just thought you should remember. In fact, you can’t stay here."

He directed her to her office. She walked down the hall, past all her awards and certificates, and through the familiar door frame. Except it wasn't her office.

Inside was the cramped Sabo family living room. Her father stood by the wall, admiring a framed photograph. It was her graduation picture from Sarah Lawrence, just a couple years ago, decades after he’d passed. Her mother came to his side.

"I can't believe you did that," her father said, shaking his head.

Rene came over to them. They touched hands and admired it.

She remarked, as she often did, "I look better in the other photos."

"I like this one," said her mother. "By the way, your room is taken tonight. I’m afraid you can’t stay here. "

It had been decades since she'd had to give up her bed for immigrants, but she remembered the drill. Families came across the Atlantic and needed a break. In such cases, the Sabo family’s daughter broke. She nodded.

Her mother asked, "Can you get something from the kitchen for me?"


"Just something we thought you should remember."

So Rene went into the kitchen, looking around for the parcel. Except it wasn't a kitchen. It was a ballroom, full of noisy people. Across the floor she saw a familiar man. A decorated World War II hero, captain of the football team, and a scholar. She put a hand to her cheek.

“Damn, I did well.”

When her once and future husband stepped out through the double doors, she followed. She found herself in the corridor of a hospital. She looked through each door. In the first, she saw herself delivering her first daughter, Mary. In the next she was cradling the newborn Christine. Then their son, Jodi, and then littlest Deirdre. Through further doors she saw all her grandchildren, a parade of babies. She sped up, loving them all, but not that enamored with reliving childbirth.

She left the corridor for another kitchen. Jodi's kitchen, now all grown up. Her daughter in law Bean was busy cooking, cleaning fruit and piling dishes in the sink. There were so many people: Doug, Bernie and Susan, and friends from the local church. Outside were still more familiar voices, including her husband’s laughter. Her grandchildren were everywhere. Christine’s daughter, another Deirdre, carried a cake, a stream of Rene’s friends following behind and offering to cut it. Her oldest grandson, John, was there too. He almost never visited, but there he was, talking to Jodi about stocks.

She felt tired, so she sat in a corner, listening to her husband and friends chatting outside, and stared at John. Eventually he noticed and looked back, still chatting with family. Gradually, Rene smiled. It was more sincere a smile than he'd seen in a decade of holiday visits, and it left him guilty, wishing he'd come much more often, to see that expression, if not to cause it.

Rene didn't talk to anyone. Instead she watched this loving family buzz around the house for a while. Then she stood up and walked through the glass door, outside. It was bright out there.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to tell you about my grandmother. Thank you.


  1. I wrote a choka for my uncle when he died. My mom (his sister) took a printout and they read it when they scattered his ashes at sea. So I know what you mean by "This is how I eulogize."

    This was a nice way to memorialize her!

  2. That was amazing. How can something in such a matter-of-fact tone be so deeply touching?

  3. It touch down on my heart. Very sympathizing post...

  4. I'm loving these pieces for your grandmother. She must have been a wonderful lady. This was a touching eulogy.

  5. That was such a loving piece about your grandmother. Just beautiful!

  6. A beautiful way to eulogize, I didn't know her and yet was interested all the way through because of the way you told her story. Everyone there must've been captivated. Nice tribute to her on your blog.


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