Gina Mei
April 07, 2015 11:56 am

Emily Debrayda Phillips, a Florida school teacher who died last month at the age of 69 from pancreatic cancer, left the world a wonderfully gorgeous written legacy: her self-penned obituary in the Florida Times-Union.

“It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away,” she begins. “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.”

From there, Phillips gives an overview of her most memorable experiences, offers some apologies, and generously discusses her family and friends; and in the process, reminds all of us to appreciate every moment we have. Her memories feel tangible in their detail — a lifetime of sensations, of unbound love and happiness, of scraped knees and hand-sewn dresses, of “small rosebuds still wet with dew to wear to school on spring mornings.” The totality of these moments is a life well-lived and well-appreciated, and her obituary is inspiring in its joyful honesty. Shortly after it was posted last week, it went viral; and it’s easy to see why.

“So many things in my life seemed of little significance at the time they happened but then took on a greater importance as I got older,” Phillips writes. “The memories I’m taking with me now are so precious and have more value than all the gold and silver in my jewelry box.”

The obituary is, of course, especially meaningful for the loved ones Phillips has left behind, and her family is floored by the attention her writing has received.

“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Bonnie Upright, Phillips’ daughter, told The Huffington Post. “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.”

We, for one, couldn’t be more grateful to Phillips for sharing her experience and her memory of the world so beautifully. According to Upright, when Phillips asked her to read the first draft of the obituary last February, the diagnosis still felt too recent and too painful — but when she asked for a second time, Upright found that she couldn’t say no.

“Quite honestly, it was one of the most special moments of my life,” Upright continued. “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.”

Her story, her words, and her voice have proved to be incredibly powerful for strangers the world over, too. The attention has been beyond the family’s “wildest dreams,” and Upright has said her mom would be “humbled but super excited” by all of it. And Phillips deserves every bit of the attention. Her obituary is filled with wisdom that all of us can benefit from hearing. It’s a celebration of Phillips’ life, but it is likewise a celebration of living. It reaffirms our appreciation for what we have, and for all that we have left to give — and reminds us that it is always enough.

“I was born; I blinked; and it was over,” Phillips writes. “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,” she continued. “Oh, and never stop smiling.”

You can read the rest of her wonderful obituary for yourself right here.

(Image via.)

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