Andy Corren could not bring his mother’s far-flung friends and family together for a funeral after her death this month.
So the writer and talent manager did the next best thing: He wrote a brutally honest obituary to let them know that his “plus-sized Jewish lady redneck” mom had died.
In the obituary published in The Fayetteville Observer last week, Corren pays tribute to his mother, Renay Mandel Corren, 84, who died in El Paso, Texas. With every line, the epitaph rattles off qualities of a sassy, unapologetic woman who lived life to the fullest.
“The bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch of a sprawling Jewish-Mexican-Redneck American family has kicked it,” Andy Corren starts. ” … 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.”
He goes into detail about her complex life and love for weekly manicures, colorful jokes, rolling joints and dirty magazines. He jokingly described her as supermom and “perfect PTA lady,” then quickly retracts.”HA! HA! HA! Just kidding y’all!,” he writes.
The goal was to paint an accurate picture of a woman who was not perfect, but lived an authentic life to the fullest, says Corren, who lives in New York City. The obit has been widely shared on social media, and he hopes it teaches the world to celebrate women like his mother.
“Most women like Renay don’t get respect. Either they were too fat, too poor or too old. They are made to feel invisible and they are not invisible,” Corren told CNN. “My job was easy, I just reported the facts.”
He wrote the obit on his mom’s final days
Corren wrote the obit at his mom’s bedside as she was dying from advanced diabetes and sepsis. He shared some of the lines with her before she died.
“She laughed. As a writer writing for one audience, that was very satisfying,” he says. “I didn’t believe anyone was going to read it. I genuinely thought it was going to be rejected. I was shocked it even got printed.”
She’s survived by her five sons and other family members, all of whom were not surprised by the obit. “Knowing her and me, they know it’s right on brand,” Corren says.
Renay Mandel Corren spent her final days surrounded by loved ones. She had been unconscious for two weeks, but regained consciousness and was in good spirits on her final day. The family played her favorite sounds and talked about her favorite food: casino ambiance music and beef tongue deli sandwiches, respectively.
Though she was — in Corren’s words “a talented and gregarious grifter” and spent her final years “under the care, compassion, checking accounts and, evidently, unlimited patience of her favorite son and daughter-in-law,” she was loving, caring and accepting of everyone.
“It was not a soundbite parenting experience. None of my parents had a lot of training to be parents themselves. They did the best they could, which was not good at all,” he says. “When you have a parent who’s nontraditional, chaos become part of the picture. But she was a great friend, she was a magnetic force. She may not have had the greatest maternal instinct but she had the ability to transcend any differences.”
The family will hold a memorial for Renay Mandel Corren in Fayetteville, North Carolina on May 10 on what would have been her 85th birthday. Before she moved to El Paso to live with her son, she worked and lived in Fayetteville, and formed close relationships, Corren says.
He’s received offers to write obits
Since the obit went viral, Corren has received offers to write obituaries for other people.
“I’m gonna have to change my outgoing message to say, ‘This is Andy. And no I cannot write your obit.’ I understand why people connected with this — there’s a soul-stirring need to be understood and have our stories told in a way that encapsulate the ups and downs, the joys and the disappointments. I understand the requests, it’s very sweet,” he says.
“But I will not write your obituary.”
Renay Mandel Corren was an avid reader and taught his son the value of reading. Writing an honest story about her life was the perfect sendoff, Corren says.
What would she think about the obit’s popularity? She did not believe in the afterlife, Corren says. That’s why she lived her life to the fullest.
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