Emily Phillips was from Orange Park, Jacksonville. As a child Phillips had admired her teachers greatly, and so she decided to follow in their footsteps and take up teaching as a career herself. In fact, in 1968 she started working at the very same elementary school that she’d attended as a girl.
In the years that followed, Phillips became a mother and then a grandmother of five. But then, in her late 60s, she received some terrible news. She discovered that she had cancer.
Philips had pancreatic cancer specifically, a particularly deadly form of the disease. She was diagnosed in February 2015, but tragically it was only a matter of weeks before the grandmother succumbed to the illness. Sadly, she passed away on March 25 of the same year, aged 69.
While her loving family were distraught with loss, there was one thing about Phillips’ passing that kept them smiling. And it came in the form of a piece of writing she had left behind.
However, it wasn’t just random thoughts that Phillips had penned for her loved ones. No, before she died, Phillips had actually decided to write her very own obituary, something that is almost always written by someone else. And she had crafted 1,045 words of genius.
The obituary attracted a lot of attention after it was published on a local news website and newspaper. Then it became popular on social media too. Everyone was clearly enjoying Phillip’s wise words.
Why? Well for a start, the piece was so beautifully written. It wasn’t melancholy or full of life’s regrets. In fact, it was the complete opposite. It was a light-hearted and humorous account of her life’s memories.
“Everyone told me it would happen one day, but that’s simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience,” was the opening phrase of the obituary. And with that, Phillips set the tone for a truly poignant piece of writing.
Phillips didn’t focus on life achievements either, as is perhaps typical of an obituary. instead, she chose to recall some of her favorite memories. And she described these as having, “more value than all the gold and silver in my jewelry box.”
First, Phillips recounted little interactions she had enjoyed with various family members over the years. She also focussed on tiny details from her childhood that were significant to her. “I remember cutting small rosebuds still wet with dew to wear to school on spring mornings,” she wrote.
“So…. I was born. I blinked. And it was over. No buildings named after me, no monuments erected in my honor,” she continued. And yet to Phillips, that didn’t matter because she had so many other valuable things in her life.
She continued, “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?”
Not only is the obituary quite moving, it’s also inspirational. And what’s particularly thought-provoking is the part in which Phillips gives advice to her readers. Her parting wisdom will definitely make you feel warm and fuzzy.
“In the end, remember… Do your best, follow your arrow, and make something amazing out of your life. Oh, and never stop smiling,” she wrote. What lovely words from a clearly amazing woman.
Phillips’ daughter, Bonnie Upright, told local media that the obituary was “the epitome of my mother.” Praising her mom’s impressive writing skills, she said that the whole family both laughed and cried when they read it.
Unsurprisingly, the public reaction to the unusual obituary has been very positive. Those who have read it online think it’s a brilliant piece of writing. “I don’t even know her and have no chance now of meeting her, but have fallen in love with her personality just from reading her obituary!” wrote one woman on Jacksonville.com.
Another online fan described the obituary as “beautiful,” and some even felt inspired to write their own obituary too. Others, meanwhile, have even been in touch with Phillips’ surviving family to tell them just how much of an impression her writing left on them.
“The messages I’ve received from complete strangers, hearing how impactful her words were, is the greatest gift my mother could have left us,” said her daughter. And just wait until you hear how she signed it off.
Phillip’s ended her obituary by writing, “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).” Clearly, this grandmother retained her sense of humor right until the end.
“Today I am happy and I am dancing. Probably naked. Love you forever. Emily.” These were the final words of the beautiful and light-hearted obituary. And so while it’s undoubtedly very sad for the family that they have lost such a wonderful woman, at least they can take comfort in knowing that they will always have her very special self-penned obituary to hold onto.