By: Mark Spann
TO: Phillip R. Crombathy
FROM: EC Research Team
DATE: September 2, 2021
Dear Mr. Crombathy,
We are writing first to thank you for choosing Eulogy Curators, LLC. As you prepare for the inevitable demise of your corporeal presence, you can be comforted by the knowledge that at the end your virtual presence in the thoughts and memories of family, friends, and associates will be shaped and guided by one of our professional eulogists. The eulogy we provide will be one that you, had you lived, would be proud to leave as a virtual legacy.
And it will be a legacy! Please be assured that the entire text of your eulogy will be uploaded to any and all social media platforms, along with a selection of photographs from the wake, within 12 hours of the conclusion of your service.
Second, we wish to assure you that the preparation of your eulogy is well under way. As you should recall from our publication Guide for the Pre-Deceased it is standard practice to review the details of your life as provided by you and as supplemented and enhanced by our team of researchers. This comprehensive review ensures a faithful, sympathetic account of your life journey while also mitigating as much as possible the risk of backlash aimed at our professional eulogist and lawsuits directed toward Eulogy Curators, LLC.
In your initial communication, Mr. Crombathy, you enquired about our menu of supplemental eulogological enhancements, and we are happy to pass on (no pun intended!) that information to you.
Embellishment and/or exaggeration of multiple (more than one ) items of information is available for an additional 10% surcharge, up to six (6) items, as are omission and/or obfuscation of multiple items. Beyond six (6) items, you step up to our potentially discoverable falsehood protocol, which carries a 25% surcharge as well as a denial of responsibility by Eulogy Curators, LLC. PLEASE NOTE: with this potentially discoverable falsehood protocol you and your estate assume all risk should litigation result.
Also please note, Mr. Crombathy, that on your application you did not opt out of our premiere “deep dive” data collection protocol. Accordingly, we here at Eulogy Curators LLC have assembled a team of research associates to gather and verify as many data points as possible. Once this data collection is complete our curators will personally select the data most relevant to the compilation of your custom-designed eulogy.
To that end, Mr. Crombathy, the balance of this admittedly lengthy communication comprises questions and points that we believe require clarification before we proceed with the final draft of your personalized eulogy.
Item 1. We have some questions regarding your biographical information: We have verified the details of your birth in St. Louis, Missouri in 1958 and early residence in several homes on the city’s south side. Your mother’s employment history with what was then the Union Pacific Railroad Company and the details of your early education at several Roman Catholic elementary schools have all been verified by our research team and will be included in the final text of your eulogy. Your mother’s struggle with chronic depression and her death during your studies at seminary (see Item 5) were unfortunate and, although many years have passed and we have never met you or your mother, she will continue to be in our thoughts and, as you identified as a Catholic, our prayers.
You did not complete the section regarding your father. We assume that this was an oversight on your part and have taken the initiative to gather much of the needed information; however, there are a few gaps in the data. Please fill them as best you can, Mr. Crombathy, so we may prepare the final text of your eulogy.
Our research has indicated your father relocated to Houston, Texas, in 1965. Court records confirmed that your mother filed for divorce shortly before Christmas of that year, citing mental cruelty and abandonment and noting your father’s chronic alcoholism. Records also indicate your mother made repeated attempts to obtain child support payments, without success. We would appreciate your confirmation of these data. We also determined that your father worked for several years as a building maintenance technician at the NASA Space Flight Center in Houston until his disappearance in 1983. After that there is no information available until the discovery of his bullet-riddled body in a wooded area southwest of the city in 1987. Regarding the departure of your father in 1965 and subsequent failure to maintain a relationship or to provide emotional and financial support to you and your siblings: do you wish your feelings to be characterized as (a) devastated, (b) relieved, (c) confused, or (d) deeply resentful?
Item 2. We determined that you traveled to the Houston area in the summer of 1982 and returned to St. Louis in 1983, in the same week as your father’s last known appearance at his employer. Shall we characterize your father’s passing as “violent” or merely “untimely”?
Item 3. This is not a question, but rather a clarification on our part. You noted in your genealogical information that in addition to two younger sisters you have a younger brother whom you have not seen for approximately 30 years. You further stated that, while you have faithfully sent birthday and Christmas cards, as well as the occasional letter, your brother has never responded. You shared (somewhat confessionally, as often happens with our clients) that you wonder sometimes if perhaps you could have been “a better brother to him” (your words) and if there was a specific incident during your childhood that underlies your brother’s unresponsiveness to your many entreaties over the years.
We have confirmed that, as you suspected, your brother has no social media presence. However, one of our researchers (our newer associates are at times a bit overzealous) took it upon himself to contact your brother and conduct a personal interview regarding his attitudes toward you and your relationship. Although we consider the personal interview an unreliable method of data collection, in your case it was decided to share the findings of this admittedly overeager researcher. Please be advised that we extend no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of this information.
Mr. Crombathy, we are pleased to communicate that your brother did indicate his intention to attend your funeral. He further related that he harbors no ill will toward you; you are “simply not an interesting person” (his words), and that beyond your common parentage there is nothing that he sees in your personality or life experience that is remotely of interest to him or compatible with his lifestyle. We were further informed by this researcher (who is no longer with our company, having shown an inability in this and several other cases to maintain an appropriate degree of professional detachment) these responses by your brother were made with seeming sincerity and without rancor. Again, no warranty is conveyed or expressed by Eulogy Curators as to the accuracy of these statements as they were obtained directly via personal interview.
Item 4. Regarding your account of a near-drowning at your first swim lesson: Our research team found your description of the event quite moving and are requesting permission to use much of it verbatim. Particularly impactful to our team (genuine tears were shed!) was the description of your “frantic and fruitless clawing at the sides of the pool” and the bubbles that enveloped you as you settled to the bottom, instinctively shouting in vain for help as you sank. We were all quite moved as well by your description of “the beautiful, sparkling sunlight dancing brighter than fireworks on the surface of the water” and the calm that came over you as you resigned yourself, matter-of-factly by your account, to your imminent death. Obviously, you were rescued—would you care to provide any details as to how you survived?
Further, you related your belief that a deeply felt desire (may we characterize it as a desperate desire?) to recapture the emotional peace and contentment of that moment (our team would like to use the term nirvana) was a contributing factor in many if not all the decisions you made (for good and for ill) for many years afterward.
Mr. Crombathy, we are touched by the trust you demonstrated by sharing these deeply personal thoughts with our research team—it is just such detailed personal information that enables our eulogist to craft the unique and moving tribute our clients have come to expect from Eulogy Curators. We wish to confirm that, as you prepare for the end of your life’s journey, you continue to believe this “near-death” experience, as you characterized it, motivated some if not all of your subsequent actions and decisions not only as an adolescent but well into adulthood. Such a view would indeed explain many of those actions (please see additional items below). You need not answer if doing so causes you distress; our primary concern is to deliver your eulogy as accurately and empathetically as possible, and it is easier to generate the appropriate emotion if our eulogist has a sufficiently deep sense of the client’s character.
Item 5. Regarding the account of your “brush with the law” during your eighth-grade year at St. Boniface Elementary School: your relation of the principal’s decision not to pursue charges and its encouraging effect on your contemplation of the priesthood were confirmed by your sister, Alice. Please verify the amount of money you and your friends stole from the school office and verify the name of the principal—was she Sister Mary Gerald or Sister Mary Gerard? We realize these may seem minor points but, as you included the incident in your initial communication with our research team, we have assumed it was a significant event.
Item 6. Regarding the presentation of your work history: the details you provided included several gaps in employment as well as a somewhat unorthodox trajectory. You have indicated that your first full-time positions were in the retailing industry, specifically the discount, so-called “big box” segment, followed by a brief time in Houston (see Item 1) and several years at various restaurants in the St. Louis area. You also indicated that you spent several years in Los Angeles working as a stuntman. Our research indicated chronic tardiness and alcohol abuse on the sets of a half-dozen television productions. We also identified three hospital emergency visits for concussions and a broken leg. Our information regarding your employment after 1996 indicated 4 years of employment in Branson, Missouri as a martial arts hypnotist until an unfortunate accident involving an elderly couple from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We found no evidence that charges were filed, despite the husband’s fractured larynx. Please confirm the settlement of a civil suit just prior to the termination of your employment at the Ramblin’ Rebel Revue Dinner Theater there.
It is our understanding, Mr. Crombathy, that since 2001 you have been employed as a dishwasher on a Midwestern river cruise line. Such a colorful work history! We strongly disagree with your request that only your dishwashing career by mentioned in our (that is, your) eulogy. That being the case, do you wish the eulogist to characterize your work history as (a) unstable, (b) eclectic, (c) marked by impulsivity, (d) driven by vaguely defined desperation, or (e) all the above?
Item 7. Your biographical information was blank regarding wife and children. Please verify that it was not an oversight, as most of our clients are persons with spouses and children, and as part of our routine research we discovered documentation that in your early 30s you were married for approximately four-and-a-half years.
Item 8. Regarding the relationships with several women to which you referred in the essay portion of your application: do you anticipate that any of these women attending your funeral service? This question also relates to Item 7 above; if indeed you were married, would any of these relationships have occurred during that period, and would your wife have been aware of any of them? Is there any possibility that you fathered any children from these relationships? We do not wish to be overly intrusive, but it is our desire to avoid any emotional distress (beyond what is normal in these circumstances) and any potential litigation. To be direct, Mr. Crombathy: do you wish to have the details you provided regarding these relationships included in the final draft of your eulogy or were your merely writing (again) in a confessional state of mind?
Item 9. Finally, there is some confusion as to your intentions in alluding to your nearly 20 years (and counting, we trust!) of sobriety. To be clear, it is a significant accomplishment and should be acknowledged. However, do you wish to provide any information as to specific incidents that led to your recovery (what we refer to in the trade as a “come to Jesus” moment)? We are also be interested in including in your personalized eulogy any thoughts you may have regarding connections between your alcoholism and any of the events surrounding Items 1 through 6 above.
More importantly, do you anticipate that you will continue to maintain your “recovering alcoholic” status through to your expiration? We would not wish our eulogist to make a “big deal” of the sobriety should you suffer a permanent relapse between now and then.
Once again, Mr. Crombathy, we apologize for the length of this communication and the many questions. Again, it is our wish only to provide an accurate, empathetic, and sympathetic eulogy that will provide comfort and closure to the grieving and pride to the client. We thank you in advance for your attention to these questions and your cooperation as we work to craft your unique eulogy.
One last request (again, no pun intended!), Mr. Crombathy: please designate a friend or loved one who will be able to inform us of your passing so that we can calculate the correct duration of your life and include any relevant details of your death into our (that is, your) delivered eulogy.
The EC Research Team
TO: Eulogy Creators, LLC
FROM: Genevieve Littell
DATE: September 12, 2019
To Whom it May Concern:
I am the day librarian at the city library in Southpoint, Missouri, and am writing to inform you of the death of Phillip Crombathy, who was I believe one of your clients. Mr. Crombathy was a frequent patron of our library, and in one of our last conversations he indicated that he wished me to contact you “should something happen” (his words).
I recall a conversation I had with Mr. Crombathy, shortly before his death, in which he referred to his “dangerous fascination” with water, specifically the Missouri River. Our little town is situated on the south bank of that river and, like many residents, Mr. Crombathy enjoyed walking along the riverbank in the early evenings or, on occasion, strolling along the narrow walkway that is part of our two-lane bridge over the river. I regret to inform you that his fascination got the better of him two nights ago, on September 10th at approximately 11:30 pm.
An envelope containing a copy of your email and several pages of notes (I assume they are responses to your questions) was found in the inside left pocket of Mr. Crombathy’s somewhat frayed wool sport coat. He was, at least as we here at the library knew him, a scrupulous, tidy man. Although his checkered coat was threadbare in some spots (particularly the left elbow), he left it folded neatly at the railing before his unfortunate fall from the scenic overlook at the bridge’s midway point.
I am writing to share, as best I can, Mr. Crombathy’s responses to your questions. I am familiar with your company (my late father-in-law was a client) and your thoroughness (although some would say “overzealous intrusiveness”) in pursuing the details of a client’s life. Although Mr. Crombathy was only one of the many patrons who used the Internet facilities here, he notably spent many hours in our library several days a week. Several members of my staff and I enjoyed long hours in conversation with Mr. Crombathy (he always insisted on that formality) as days at a library are long and often tedious, and relatively few people check out books. Despite what we assumed was a certain level of familiarity with Mr. Crombathy, we were aware of very few of the details that you are seeking to include in his curated eulogy. (Although I have long suspected, based on his physical grace and his penetrating gaze during our conversations, that he spent some time as a martial arts hypnotist.)
Here are Mr. Crombathy’s responses to the items about which you enquired:
- All the above
- Thank you
- No, yes
- $493.28; Sister Mary Gerald
- All the above
- It was not an oversight
- Maybe; yes; not to my knowledge; yes
A check was also found in Mr. Crombathy’s coat pocket. I have already forwarded it to your accounts payable department as payment for your services.
Finally, regarding item 9—and Mr. Crombathy was insistent on this—he directs your eulogist to have a shot glass and a bottle of Jamieson whisky in hand and to conclude the eulogy with the following toast, a quote from Othello, act 2, scene 3:
“I have very poor and unhappy brains from drinking. I could well wish courtesy to invent some other custom of entertainment.”
Head Librarian, Southpoint City Library
M. S. Spann is an educator and writer in Washington, Missouri, southwest of St. Louis in Missouri’s wine country. When he is not teaching or writing he enjoys building cigar box ukuleles or just hanging around and watching the world go by.