Emily Debrayda Phillips, who lived in Orange Park, Florida and died last Wednesday on March 25, about a month after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, wrote her own obituary that has gained nationwide attention. It is an over-1,000-word, touching recollection of life that was originally published in the Florida Times-Union on Tuesday but became viral after being posted to Reddit.
It’s not her death that’s unusual, or making news. It’s the way she remembers her life.
Bonnie Upright says her mother had a binder, Emily’s Death Notebook. In this binder, instructions for when Emily dies.
“For years the plan was ‘Bonnie, will you please write my obituary?'” said Upright, according to First Coast News.
When 69-year-old Emily Phillips was diagnosed with cancer in February, she decided to take things into her own hands and write her obituary. It begins, “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.” The note continued on to be full of humor and a beautiful description of what her life meant to her.
“So…I was born; I blinked; and it was over,” the woman known as Nana Banana to her grandchildren continued. “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?
So in the end, remember…do your best, follow your arrow, and make something amazing out of your life. Oh, and never stop smiling.
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.”
The woman known as Nana Banana to her grandchildren made several apologies throughout the letter and also spoke of marrying the man of her dreams and having a wonderful daughter and son, just like she wanted.
She poignantly wrote of some of her simplest memories, including twirling a baton in the Miss North Carolina Pageant, tearing up her friend Mary Ann’s paper dolls, her mother wearing an apron, and her younger sister sleepwalking out of the house.
“I do find it surprising that she was able to work in the words ‘hiney’ and ‘naked’ in the obituary, that might have been a surprise. The fact that she did it, and she did it in context, is beautiful,” said Upright.
Upright said, “Everyone thinks their mother is the best and is wonderful — I have proof now. I think the fact that my mom ‘won the internet’ the past couple of days is pretty darn cool. She would be loving the attention,” said Upright. “She was a wonderful mother, a terrific grandmother, and a great sister, and aunt, and wife and all of those things that you hear. But she was a person. She was an individual, and I think sometimes in life we all get caught up in our roles day to day. So, I just think it’s wonderful she was was able to tell her story in her words, in a really impactful, special way.”
You can read the entire obituary here.