Monday, March 28, 2022


 Let's gaze upon photos of our Mom, shall we?

She was one for the ages, that Mom of ours.

I'll write more about her; I will . . . 

. . . but for now . . . 

. . . let's just gaze, don't you think?

I mean . . . 

Thanks to everyone for helping us celebrate this singular 
Mom of ours . . . 

Mom, the celebration is just starting.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Eulogy for Mom

Good morning. I am going to try to channel the strength of those two Ellens who came before me, as their namesake . . . 
On behalf of my sisters . . . 
Mary Beth
and Jacquie 
My husband Bill 
My brothers-in-law Doug and John . . . 

And our glorious nieces and nephews . . .
Our beloved Corey, in South Korea
Our beloved James, forever in our hearts,
And Clara . . . 
And Uncle Brian and Mom’s siblings,

Welcome, and thank you for being with us today, to remember our Mom, to mourn our loss of her, to celebrate her. The outpouring of love for her and for us has been overwhelming and incredible, and we are all so grateful.
I was with my Mom last Monday evening – we co-hosted book club at her place and had a great meeting and a wonderful evening. Two days later, my sisters got on a zoom that evening, to try to figure out how we were supposed to navigate this world without Mom, and what to do next. Mary Beth said, “Mom was the last person who loved me unconditionally. I mean, I know you guys love me, but I know you have conditions.”
We agreed. We do.

The six of us have been emailing and texting and calling to share memories of that singular, vivacious, beautiful, smart, and adoring woman we got to call our Mom . . . . and the same themes kept coming up. 
Mom loved holidays. She had decorations and accessories for every holiday, special occasion, change of season. In fact, when Mary Beth, Bill and I (the locals) returned to her condo from the hospital on that horrible day last week, we saw Mom’s big St. Patrick’s Day wreath on her front door. This was March 2nd – a good two weeks before the day. 
St. Patrick’s Day was huge for us as kids with our Irish mom. We set the table with green placemats and green carnations and danced to The Happy Sounds of Ireland record and ate Irish soda bread from Grammy’s recipe, and our Lebanese Dad always wore his “honorary Irishman” pin.
Mom loved Christmas, although when we were kids there was always a certain amount of stress involved, mostly centered around whether the six piles of gifts were equal in size. 
Ann reminded us of Mom’s huge red stocking that Dad filled for her every year – mostly with tools and things that *he* needed.
And there were a few mishaps over the years that are infamous in Corey lore. Every Christmas Mom made her delicious, labor-intensive chocolate mousse cake, which entailed separating eggs, whipping heavy cream, splitting and placing ladyfingers around the perimeter. We all loved it and were so excited to dig into our Christmas dessert. 
Mary Beth  remembered one year we heard a ruckus in the kitchen and when we went to investigate, there was our dog Yobo, paws up on the kitchen counter, digging into Mom’s masterpiece.
We spent one memorial Christmas on St. John when Julie lived there. It was magical and beautiful and we all fell in love with our niece Colleen, who was two.  In the course of putting together dinner one night, the vat of marinara Julie had made at Shipwreck Landing ended up on the floor , Cape Fear style. It was a sea of red and looked like something out of a horror movie. It took Mom a little time to laugh at that one…

We grew up to the sound of opera playing every Sunday morning, with Dad making omelets for everybody. Those magnificent arias from La Boheme and La Traviata are forever etched into our souls .  And it wasn’t just at home – Mom and Dad and Uncle Brian had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera House for many years. Which means we girls got to have Uncle Brian visit, which was pure gold for us. (He recently reminisced about his young nieces running down Bettswood screaming in joy when we saw him in the driveway.) Mom and Dad took an Italian class at one point, so that they'd better understand what they were listening to.  Jane remembers mom saying that Dad studiously did all his homework. Mom, not so much  - she would sit in the back of class and pray she didn't get called on. 
And Mom loved classical music. Bill and I took Mom to the symphony in New London not long after Dad died, because they were playing Beethoven’s Fifth, and we thought mom would love it. She did love it, but she also didn’t stop crying through it. 
We are a family who cries. And we are a family who sings. We know and love all the show tunes, from Jesus Christ Super Star to A Chorus Line. We girls sang Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in its entirely every time we went on a road trip, *AND* when we were together this past Christmas, much to the chagrin of every single person in Mom’s condo who was not a Corey sister. One by one they left the living room and hid in mom’s small den to get away from us. Which is ridiculous because we were really good.
She was sassy – she loved a good, snide aside – we heard many many comments about those good snide asides at the wake yesterday – and she was smart. Mom was an avid reader – she took our book recommendations and we all constantly emailed eachother about what we were reading. The librarian at Mom’s local Library actually emailed me last week to offer us condolences and ended her note, “We all at Pequot Library will miss one of our great readers.”
Mom said reading books, reading the New York Times, and doing its crossword puzzle every day, was what was getting her through this long winter (mom was not a big fan of winter). Well, that, and Mary and Teri Brown hosting Mom every Thursday night for dinner, and their leaving of meals at Mom’s doorstep throughout the week. 
Because we are also a family who loves to eat, and to talk about food, and to make food. Mom made dinner every night while we were growing up, and the eight of us sat down together at 6 pm, for spaghetti or pork chops or Mom’s famous meatloaf every Monday night (Dad loved that meatloaf). In the last few years, though, Mom was happy to let someone else take charge, especially if it was one of her culinarily-talented daughters. When you cooked for mom, she thought you were magic. But our Irish Mom – along with Dad in the old days, and her daughters later – could put out a fabulous Lebanese meal.

Mom was a devoted catholic, and a firm believer, and went to mass daily when she could. She prayed to God for help, and thanked God for his help. Mom’s faith helped her through the very hardest times in her life – when our Dad, her beloved husband Joe died, and when her grandson James died.
Mom loved watching Sports on TV, especially golf (which she always called “the golf”), UConn basketball (Go Huskies), the Mets (and the red sox from her boston days), and the football team she affectionately referred to as “the stupid Giants.” She said the Masters – which she especially loved watching with her son in law John – was her Super Bowl.

Mom was a knock-out. One of my favorite stories is when Mom and the then-five of us were headed to San Francisco then Seoul, South Korea to finally join Dad, who had been drafted to serve as an army doctor and was living across the world without us, (and he wasn’t happy about it). Family housing finally became available , and mom got her daughters inoculated, packed us up, rented out our house, arranged to have the car shipped, and got us to Korea. Mom’s siblings and friends were gathered in the airport to see us off, and – being a big group of Flatleys – were a crying, sniffling mess, having to say good bye to us for a year or two. Dink Brown remembered that Mom came around the corner, holding hands with a couple of her girls, looking like a movie star. Heading to Korea to see her man.
Oh, Mom and Dad. They made it hard for us, those two, with their beautiful partnership and devotion to eachother. They were tight. They were in love. They set the marriage bar HIGH.

Mom was relentlessly positive.  And it wasn't an act, she was a firm believer that you could find the positive in any situation.  At times, though, it made it hard to get information, because she always framed bad news with the eventual upside. When dad was first diagnosed with kidney disease and was in the hospital, Jane  and i joked that we had to find a spy in the hospital so we could get the facts, because every time we talked to mom she'd say, oh he's going to be fine …..
She encouraged us to carry that positivity, too. She always expressed utter certainty that we would figure things out ourselves, that we should trust ourselves and our judgement.  She'd say things like, you'll know what to do, trust yourself, you’re doing great- All. the. time.  And it worked.

Mom was good in a crisis and was resilient.
Jacquie remembers: “When mom went to San Diego for James’ high school graduation, she took a fall and had to spend a good chunk of her first day in town  at urgent care just to make sure that nothing was broken. Jacquie assumed that they would adjust their evening plans to allow rest and recovery, but mom wasn’t having it. If you look very closely at the photos from their seats behind home plate at that night’s Padres game, Jacquie said, you might notice some slight bruising, but it is almost impossible to see anything other than mom’s big smile and sparkling eyes. 
Yes, resilient. And tough. We really never knew her to give in to pain, sadness, or grief. Even when Dad died, she was adamant in her resolve to carry on with her head held high. She refused to become a person shrouded in sadness.
Indeed, it was only a few months after Dad died that Mom went with Julie to visit Colleen in Ecuador, and we were stunned to see photos of Mom zip-lining with them through a tropical forest.
But as tough as she was, Mom was also so nurturing.

And to quote Jacquie again: “One night when I was really young - probably 6 or 7 - my friend got homesick during a sleepover, and mom came in to help. She said it was okay if my friend wanted to go home, we could make that happen, but asked if she could read us a story first. I was across the room on my own twin bed watching mom read to my friend. It was a familiar book, and in listening I came to realize that mom was embellishing the story, adding to it to make it longer when she saw that it was having the desired calming effect. In that moment, I saw my mom’s heart. How lucky were we that she was *our* mom?”
One of mom's superpowers was that she tended to her relationships.  She cultivated real connections with people and she fed those relationships.  She kept in touch with people.  Her daughters, her siblings, her friends - she checked in, she showed up, she spent time.  
She’s always had friends in multiple generations – from Molly in the Bedford School Nurse years, to Kristen and Gordon upstairs in Southport Woods, to the members of the book club Mom and I are both part of (well, I’ve only been in it for eight or nine years; I’m still new), and – speaking for myself – with my friends. My friends *love* mom. Bill and I joke that all we have to do to get people to come over to our house in New London is tell them Ellen is in town. They come running.
Mom has always had such strong connections with, and truly loved, the community she was a part of at every point in her life – That was so evident yesterday, wasn’t it?
Her formative years in Brookline with her parents and 12 siblings were her solid foundation. That Flatley clan is a club those aunts and uncles of ours *love* being a part of, and we’re so glad you’re here with us. Mom and her siblings and in-laws have zoomed every Sunday for the past year or two and when you asked Mom how the call went, she always always replied, “oh, so great.” She loved it. And she loved her pack of nieces and nephews and their babies. That family has suffered a devastating blow in losing two siblings and a sister-in-law within a few days, and we feel so deeply for you all. 
Then the Norwalk years. She loved raising her family in Norwalk, and Mom & Dad had a vibrant circle of friends. They celebrated Friday night cocktails every week at the home of one of the circle that included the Cronins, the Browns, the Champagnes, the Gardellas, the Lawlors, the Cioffis. They and the Shorehaven crew are lifelong friends.
And Mom adored her Southport Woods community, where she & Dad moved to after their retirement. After Dad died, we daughters were so grateful that Mom had so many friends surrounding her, and looking out for her. And she loved being part of a community with so many social activities, from Wine Wednesday at the clubhouse every week, to yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day party – for which Mom was still getting rsvp phone messages last week.
And my sisters and I are even more grateful for that Southport Woods community now – that community has utterly taken care of us this past week. They have fed us and checked in on us and housed us, soothed our souls with food, wine and firewood and we are forever grateful.
We’ve talked about Mom’s siblings, we’ve talked about mom’s daughters, we’ve talked about her communities, but really, let’s face it. For mom it was all about her grandchildren.
In thinking about and talking about mom this last week, Julie, Jane and Jacquie all said essentially the same thing, about how incredibly helpful mom was when their babies were born.
As Julie – or was it Jane – said, “She’d come and know just what to do   - relieve you of all the housework so you could enjoy that baby and so you could sleep.  it was extraordinary.  She'd whisk those babies away, walk them, sing to them, then bring them back when they were ready to nurse.  Most importantly, she would never overstep, never coach; would only offer advice when asked. She had a perfect touch.”
And in Jacquie’s case, after she’d walk and walk those babies, she’d return with a burrito for lunch. (Mom did love those San Diego burritos.)
She always had mini muffins for breakfast for the grandchildren, and smarties and hershey’s kisses – smarties and hershey’s kisses, always – and she’d pretend to sneak them from her pocket to one of the kids’ pockets, and was fooling no one. She also may or may not have snuck them an occasional spoonful of ice cream before breakfast.
And when the kids got older, their Grammy was utterly engaged in their lives, though they all lived a plane ride or long, long drive away. Mom went to all eight of their high school graduations, and to the college graduates’ graduations, too. She wanted to hear everything, and to know everything about each of them.
Actually, so many people made that point to me yesterday, too. Mom looked at you with those blue eyes and asked about you and wanted to hear the answer. She listened. Bill was just saying yesterday how much he appreciated that. “She listened to my stories and laughed at my jokes.” That’s big. One can get lost in a big family and she made a point of singling everyone out.
When we were kids, and were walking with mom, she’d get a little ahead of you and then reach her hand back and wiggle her fingers for you to catch up and grab her hand. Any of us can make that gesture to any other one of us, and we know exactly what it means. It’s sort of the universal sign of Mom.
She pronounced bagels “bah-gulls” and  was very very stingy with the cream cheese.
Her generosity bordered on compulsive.  We sisters joked that if you complimented mom on something, she'd make you take it.  Take it!  I don't need it anymore! You'll love it in your home.  never mind that they were flying home and taking a platter in their carry-on wasn't practical.
Her drink was Vodka, lots of ice, splash of water, stem glass. 
Mom loved sunshine and warmth. Mom was sunshine and warmth.

Personally, a couple years ago, when covid began, I started calling Mom every day. Every day at 4:44. It meant so much to me, and it meant so much to Mom. Our conversations weren’t always deep or impactful or profound: we talked about what we were going to have for dinner (of course),  what we did that day, all the things. Mom was ready to get off the phone the moment she got on the phone, but I was dogged; I wanted details. And after she and I spoke, Mrs. Cronin and my mom spoke. I’ve been talking to Mrs. Cronin every day since last week and she said to me, “we talked about stuff we didn’t talk to anybody else about. It was just . . . the stuff you talk about with your best friend.”
Your best friend.
Mom was a best friend and a mom and a sister and an aunt and a sister-in-law and a Grammy. And a GiGi. 
And a Friend.
That woman was adored.
And she made us all feel adored. 
She had friends everywhere and we’re all heartbroken because we all felt adored. I don’t know how you have that much room in your heart, or your brain, to know all those people, and to love all those people, to be friends with all those people.
But she did. She had all that room in her heart for all that love for us.  She loved us.
She loved us unconditionally. 

March 14, 2022