The family of a Florida woman mourned her death from pancreatic cancer in March, just one month after diagnosis. But it’s not solely Emily Debrayda Phillips’ passing that’s the focus of this story — it’s the beloved former beauty queen and retired teacher’s self-penned obituary that “won the internet.” Emily’s death note has gone viral.
Phillips was 69-years-young at the time of her death on March 25. Just mere days into her diagnosis, the terminally-ill woman penned her own obit. Emily fashioned it in a way that her family expected it to be: funny, emotional at times, and reflexive of fond years gone by. Overall, Phillips authored her own life story as a lasting memory for her loved ones, and the message of saying goodbye was painful, but real in her eyes.
She then made a stunning request: She wanted her daughter to read it. Her daughter, Bonnie Upright, couldn’t muster up the strength to do it, even after her mom asked her a second time. The “diagnosis was still too raw,” Bonnie said in an interview after her mom passed away.
“How do you tell your dying mother no? The answer is, you don’t.”
Then, Emily Debrayda Phillips hatched a novel idea: She’d read her own obituary while her family members listened. It began in a somber tone; the thought that a woman had written and was now reading her own life legacy was surreal. Ss she went on, it became clear that Emily was sassy until the end.
“It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away. Everyone told me it would happen one day but that’s simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience. Once again I didn’t get things my way! That’s been the story of my life all my life.”
Bonnie reflected on her mother’s colorful life as a beauty queen, educator, mom, grandmother, and “sassy” human being. The obit was who she was.
“Quite honestly, it was one of the most special moments of my life. To hear my mom tell her story, with her words, and her voice, is something I will always treasure. We laughed at the appropriate times, and cried when she was through.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Upright said. “She was a teacher by profession, so for many years, she impacted the lives of hundreds of children. But in the end, it’s the lesson she’s taught adults that may be the most memorable of all.
“So often when obituaries are written, it’s about people that are left behind. I love it that it’s [Emily Phillips’ obituary] about her.”
Perhaps one of the most riveting moments in the obit was a single sentence. Arguably, it speaks not only about Phillips’ life, but the circle of life in general.
“I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”
Towards the end of Emily’s obituary, she summed up life, seemingly in poetic fashion.
“No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor. But I DID have the chance to know and love each and every friend as well as all my family members. How much more blessed can a person be?
“If you want to, you can look for me in the evening sunset or with the earliest spring daffodils or amongst the flitting and fluttering butterflies. You know I’ll be there in one form or another. Of course that will probably comfort some while antagonizing others, but you know me… it’s what I do.
“I’ll leave you with this…please don’t cry because I’m gone; instead be happy that I was here. (Or maybe you can cry a little bit. After all, I have passed away). Today I am happy and I am dancing. Probably naked.”
You can read Emily DeBrayda Phillips’ obituary in its entirety here.
[Photo by: New York Daily News]