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Life's Rich Pageant

Can Andy Corren Do My Obit When The Time Comes?

A graveyard near a steelmill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Walker Evans/Library Of Congress/Getty Images

Life is about envy. Death is about how the living assess you, when your feelings can no longer be hurt and revenge is no longer on the table.

Thus, I wish I had led the life required to have earned an obituary like Renay Mandel Corren. I have not done so, and neither have any of you. Our obits will essentially be: "Born, lived, annoyed, forgot to go to the doctor that one time, died, had their organs harvested, decomposed, and eventually jump-started a small patch of deadly nightshades."

Ms. Corren did live her life, and therefore this epochal assemblage of words—the love, the hate, the credit, the calumnies, the entire magnificent hot meal of recriminations—presented in Wednesday's Fayetteville Observer is the three-point record Steph Curry cannot touch. It is the most perfect homage to a departed being, and it might well be the absolute zenith of letter assemblage. Her son Andy, who wrote it, ought to be your new Jesus and might even be Jesus's Jesus.

If the link annoys you, be not afraid. You can click on it without harm, and the Observer will thank you for it. It belongs to the author in spirit and to the paper in law, after all, and one should honor the departed, her family's artistic indulgences, and a newspaper's diminishing yet very legal prerogatives. At least in this case. 

Take for example, this lede: 

El Paso, TX—A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday.

Of itself hardly news, or good news if you're the type that subscribes to the notion that anybody not named you dying in El Paso, Texas is good news. In which case have I got news for you: the bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch of a sprawling Jewish-Mexican-Redneck American family has kicked it. This was not good news to Renay Mandel Corren's many surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom she even knew and, in her own way, loved. There will be much mourning in the many glamorous locales she went bankrupt in: McKeesport, PA, Renay's birthplace and where she first fell in love with ham, and atheism; Fayetteville and Kill Devil Hills, NC, where Renay's dreams, credit rating and marriage are all buried; and of course Miami, FL, where Renay's parents, uncles, aunts, and eternal hopes of all Miami Dolphins fans everywhere, are all buried pretty deep. Renay was preceded in death by Don Shula.

There is then a massive recitation of Ms. Corren's life that you should read on your own out of respect to the author and newspaper, as well as the inert star of the show. Next comes a powerful closing graf that should make Gillian Flynn, Edwidge Danticat, or the not-nearly-as-funny-as-David-Mitchell David Mitchell give up writing in exasperation:

There will be a very disrespectful and totally non-denominational memorial on May 10, 2022, most likely at a bowling alley in Fayetteville, NC. The family requests absolutely zero privacy or propriety, none what so ever, and in fact encourages you to spend some government money today on a 1-armed bandit, at the blackjack table or on a cheap cruise to find our inheritance. She spent it all, folks. She left me nothing but these lousy memories. Which I, and my family of 5 brothers and my sister-in-laws, nephews, friends, nieces, neighbors, ex-boyfriends, Larry King's children, who I guess I might be one of, the total strangers who all, to a person, loved and will cherish her. Forever. Please think of the brightly-frocked, frivolous, funny and smart Jewish redhead who is about to grift you, tell you a filthy joke, and for Larry King's sake: LAUGH. Bye, Mommy. We loved you to bits.

This obit has apparently gone viral, but great writing should be appreciated no matter how many times it has been reproduced. I hereby declare the author to be a mega-genius of the most enormous magnitude, and if you have even an atom's worth of taste, you will too. Chalices up to the cantankerous dead, and to the people who properly and artfully capture them postmortem.

[Fayetteville Observer]

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