Eulogy

Mark Hogan (Brother-in-law) “Jason Sabbag, 26…” This should be the introductory clause to a wedding announcement, a promotion announcement, or a lease application, something normal for a 26 year old young adult just entering the prime of his or her life. Instead, with sickening horror, we found ourselves reading these words as the introduction to an obituary in Wednesday’s Greenwich Time. I could spend hours up here today trying to speak to the magnitude of the September 11th tragedy, what it means for our country and what it means for our individual lives, but I’m not going to do that. I’ll leave that to the media, because that’s not what today is for. Today is Jason’s day. As one of the speakers at the Yankee Stadium memorial ceremony said this past Sunday, 6,000 people did not die on September 11th; rather one person died 6,000 times. Today, Jason is that one person, for even if he had been the only victim of the attack, the World should be just as mournful and outraged, for it has lost one of its most beautiful people. Today is for remembering, celebrating, honoring, and for some of you, getting to know Jason, so that we all leave here feeling tremendously blessed for the 26 years Jason was with us instead of numbingly sad for all of the years that he won’t be. Some of you might have noticed that I used the word “beautiful” to describe Jason. Those of you who didn’t know Jason well might be thinking “Here we go again, another exaggerated glorification of a person who really wasn’t that special”. I wouldn’t blame you. After all, we all know it’s human nature to lionize those who are no longer with us. This is not one of those cases. Jason was a “beautiful” person, and you’ll hear it over-and-over again today from his friends, his family and his colleagues, not because we are just going through the motions, but because it’s the truth. To those of us here today, he was a beautiful son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend, soul mate and colleague. I’m not sure I even realized what a beautiful brother-in-law he was until I found myself crying uncontrollably for days following the tragedy, including in front of over a thousand people outside of the New York City Armory. What was it about Jason that made him so special? That made him “beautiful?” You’ll hear many different perspectives today, from that of his brother, Cliff, to that of his cousin, Eric, to those of his college, high school and childhood friends, to those of his colleagues at Fiduciary Trust, and even to that of his tennis coach and mentor, Allyn Michalek. The reason you’ll hear so many perspectives today is that Jason was a far more complex person than he appeared to be. Yes, he was the good-looking, smart, athletic, polite, hard working and successful person he appeared to be from the outside. But, he had far more too him than that, and those of you who think you knew him well will undoubtedly be surprised at the different perspectives you’ll see of him today. Let me list a few: • I doubt his colleagues at Fiduciary Trust, who knew Jason as the consummate focused business professional, were aware that his favorite movies were “Dumb and Dumber” and all three “Naked Gun” movies, in no particular order. • I also doubt that his friends, who knew Jason as a wisecracking, carefree, fun-loving, “guy’s guy” was so serious at work that he refused to talk on the phone for more than 15 seconds, in a whisper no less, because it wasn’t “professional”, or that he was so sentimental that he slept with his beloved grandmother’s broken watch and German dictionary with him at all times. • I doubt that anybody who has watched Jason indulge with aristocratic grace in the finer things in life such as Cuban cigars, vintage champagne and gourmet food could believe that he was obsessed with outlet shopping at the Woodbury Commons, shopping for fake watches in Chinatown, and with trying to find restaurants in the Zagat guide with a food rating over 20 and a price under $30. • I doubt that anybody who has seen Jason work out so hard to keep his body as fit as it was could imagine that he could eat more food and drink more Diet Pepsi in the course of a few hours than any human being I have ever laid my eyes on. • I doubt that any of you who have watched Jason sail through life’s stressful moments in such a laid-back manner and wondered to yourselves if anything could get him upset, would believe that he got so angry when his favorite college basketball team, the UNC Tarheels, lost, that he wouldn’t talk to anyone for hours if it was a regular season game, and days if it was an NCAA tournament game. • And, I am absolutely positive that nobody who has ever seen Jason’s pig sty of a room at home, in college or at his first two bachelor pads in New York would ever dream that he was such a personal hygiene freak that he took an average of five showers a day, refused to go the gym without taking a shower first, and had developed a novel “hands-free” style of riding the Subway so that he wouldn’t have to touch any of the germ infested handrails. These are just a few of the contrasting perspectives of Jason that you hear about today. My personal perspective is as follows. I met Jason 14 years ago, when I began dating his sister, Laurence, who I am now lucky enough to call my wife. He was a tan golden-haired little boy, whose tennis racquet was almost as big as he was. Everyone at the Stamford Yacht Club, kids and adults alike, thought he was the cutest kid alive and wanted to be around him. While in the process of falling in love with Laurence, I also began falling in love with Jason. Even though I was 20 and he was 12, we hit it off right from the start, having a tremendous amount in common, from our love of tennis, to our love of college basketball, to our competitiveness and drive to succeed. Having no brothers of my own, I found myself amazed at how desperately I wanted to serve the role of big brother to Jason, as well as to Cliff, who was 10 at the time. Thankfully, Jason and Cliff accepted me with open arms. Over the 14 years that followed, I had the privilege of watching my new little brother grow from that golden little 12-year-old boy into the beautiful 26 year old man that he was when he left us on September 11th. I watched with great pride as Jason excelled academically and athletically at Greenwich High School, where he graduated near the top of his class, was captain of the tennis team and won the state open doubles championship. I beamed at his graduation from Georgetown University, where he earned a degree in economics and graduated with honors. And, I felt almost like a proud parent as he moved to New York City, achieved professional success at Citibank and Fiduciary Trust, and began planning his future with his soul mate, Sarah Hare. During these 14 years, I probably did as many things with Jason as most of us have done in a lifetime with our own brothers and sisters. From playing tennis tournaments together, to attending basketball, baseball and football games, to WWF wrestling events, to skiing together in Vail and Utah, to golf vacations in Florida, to restaurant and bar-hopping in New York City, we did it all. Why did we spend so much time together? For a couple of important reasons. First, we always had fun together. One of the unique things about spending time with Jason was that you never had a bad time when you went out with him. With some friends, you have some great times and some not-so-great times, but not with Jason. He was always in a good mood, looking to have fun, and willing to do whatever anyone wanted to do, as long as it wasn’t “a hassle”. We all Jason know, Jason hated hassles. A second reason is that over the years, because Laurence loved her brothers so much, the two of us could never do anything without inviting Jason or Cliff. Whether it was bringing them to the movies, bowling or sporting events with us when they were little, or inviting them to dinner with us every weekend in New York during the last two years, Jason and Cliff always had to be included or Laurence would be furious. In fact, I even could use Jason as an excuse for my sometimes extravagant purchases—whenever Laurence would get mad at me for buying Cohiba cigars, Krug champagne or Porfidio tequila, I just had to say that I’m buying them for me and Jason and she’d start worrying if I’d bought enough. The third, and perhaps most important reason we did so much together over the years is the wonderfully close-knit family situation created by Jason’s remarkable parents, Ralph and Brigitte. I don’t think it’s possible for a family to be any closer than the Sabbag family is. It’s not just that they love each other a lot—most families do. Rather, what’s unique is that they love being with each other so much. I can’t tell you how many times over the years Jason, Cliff and Laurence have turned down doing things with their friends in order to spend a night, a weekend or a vacation with their family. Thanks to Ralph and Brigitte, who as all of you know are two of the warmest, most hospitable and fun-loving parents around, every night spent together as a family is a cause for a celebration. All any of the kids have to do is say they’re coming home for the night or the weekend and it’s off to the races—Brigitte to Fjord Fisheries and the butcher to buy swordfish, lobsters and the choicest cut of beef; Ralph off to the liquor store to make sure the house is fully-stocked with each of our favorite beers and wine, as well as the ingredients for Jason’s specialty mixed drink of the weekend, be it margaritas, mojitos or caprihinis. No effort or expense is spared to make the evening special. Jason enjoyed these occasions more than anyone, often serving as the ring leader, trying to either convince me, Laurence and Cliff to join him and Sarah with his parents in Greenwich, or to convince his parents to come into the City for the night to hit the town with all of us. I’ve never seen him happier than when he was organizing a family birthday dinner or presiding over the table at a family tradition such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Passover. This family may have lost its ringleader, Jason, but it has not, and will not, lose its love for spending time together. I watched this love survive through the darkest hours of the last two weeks, largely due to the remarkable strength and courage of Ralph and Brigitte, and the tremendous outpouring of support from the friends and family here today. And, I know that it will survive in the years to come. Why? Because all of the friends and family in this room today are going to help see that it does, because the only tragedy bigger than losing Jason would be losing the one thing he loved the most, his family’s joy of togetherness. There are so many things I’m going to miss about Jason that it’s futile to try to list them all. A few, however, bear special mention and will help give you an inkling of how hard it’s going to be for us to live our lives without him: 1. I’m going to miss Jason’s convoluted theories on everything from Thanksgiving to college basketball to the Academy Awards • Take his theory on Thanksgiving: Jason enjoyed Thanksgiving leftovers so much that he came up with the theory that we should shouldn’t even eat on Thanksgiving day, just save it for the next day. • Or take one of his theories on college basketball. Jason, citing his own version of the transitive property as irrefutable proof, liked to argue that since UCONN beat Duke in the national championship game in 1999 and UNC beat Duke during that same year and UCONN in pre-season game in 1998, that UNC was, by the transitive property, of course, the rightful national champion in 1999. • Finally, take his theories on the Academy Awards arguing with a straight face that Leslie Neilson deserved the Best Actor award for both “Naked Gun” and “Naked Gun 33 1/3” because it’s so much harder to be a “comedic genius” than to do Shakespeare. It’s not even the theories themselves that I’ll miss, but rather seeing the mischievous look of satisfaction on his face when he I realized, as I was vehemently arguing some of these inane theories with him, that he could push my buttons so easily. 2. I’m going to miss Jason’s random phone calls to me that would go something like this: “Mark, you got to turn on channel 41. I’m telling you, it’s the most fascinating thing you’ll ever see. What is it? Just trust me, these guys are geniuses.” So, not wanting to disappoint him, I go over to the TV, turn on Channel 41, only to find something like the Stihl National Chainsaw Competition on ESPN2. 3. I’ll also miss Jason’s patented routine of going to a restaurant with his family, watching him eat his own meal, and then the remainder of his Mom’s, Sarah’s and his Dad’s meals, then complaining about how disgusted he is with himself for eating so much, and then proceeding to eat the entire doggie bag of Laurence’s unfinished meal while we are finishing our drinks and waiting for the check. 4. I’ll miss the pure enjoyment he got from his merciless, good-natured teasing of his parents for things such as his Mom’s knack for ordering the most inappropriate food for a particular restaurant, such as fried shrimp at a ski bar in Vermont or venison at a Waffle House in North Carolina and then complaining that it’s not good, to his Dad’s occasionally hilarious responses to questions such as “what country are you from” with answers such as “I’m from French.” 5. I’ll miss our regular Saturday afternoon ritual of deciding and researching what restaurant to go to in New York City. As some of you may know, Jason and I share a love for extensive research before making decisions, the Zagat guide was a must. One of Jason’s favorite things on Earth was the Zagat restaurant guide, so much so that he and his friend Andreas would spend days trying to think up witty comments to submit in hope of being published. In fact, I think he’s still outraged that his quote for Carmine’s, the family-style Italian restaurant; “don’t forget to wear your jogging suit to blend in” didn’t make it in a few years ago. As part of our ritual, once we consulted the 2001 Zagat guide to choose the place we’d like to go, which with the two of us could take hours, Jason would then have to screen our selection the previous five years’ Zagat guides to make sure the reviews never mentioned his dreaded two words - “small portions”. If they did, Jason would automatically strike that restaurant and we’d begin all over again. 6. Lastly, I’m going to miss Jason’s kindness. Despite his quick wit and love of teasing people, he never had a bad word to say about anybody, and did not have a mean bone in his body. In fact, if any of us ever said something bad about a person, Jason would be the first one to get disgusted and tell us to cut it out. Even when Jason would tease you, he would pick on something that he knew wasn’t personally hurtful. For example, he loved teasing me about my junk food habit and asking me if my computer keyboard had turned orange yet from my Cheetos-stained fingers—”Mongrel food” in his words. If he knew something would hurt you, he left it alone, such as the night that UCONN beat Duke in the 1999 National Championship game. Even though Jason hated Duke and would have loved to celebrate and taunt me, he realized that I was genuinely devastated, and just said, “That’s too bad” and went home. If the roles had been reversed, I don’t think I’m a good enough person to have been as kind as Jason was. Sarah told me that Jason only spoke critically of me once, telling her “the only thing wrong with Mark is that he puffs his cigars too fast and turns green”. Well, Jason, the only thing wrong with you is that we loved you too much and you left us too soon. You have left a bigger void in our lives than time or anything else can ever heal. We love you, we’ll remember you forever, and we’ll miss you forever. Goodbye. Biography The New York Times Portraits of Grief Jason E. Sabbag Memorial Scholarship Fund Family Eulogy Tributes Eulogy from Allyn Eulogy from Andreas Eulogy from Andrew Eulogy from Cliff Eulogy from Eric Eulogy from Mark Eulogy from Peter Eulogy from Vinnie Fiduciary Memorial Service Georgetown Remembers Memorial Service for Jason Missing Poster Photos of Jason Photos: Family Photos: Friends & Family Tribute by Gautam Khanna Tributes to Jason Add Entry to Guest Book View Guest Book About this Site | Terms o