Karen Ann Sydow’s obituary, written by brother Erik, touched the hearts of thousands on Twitter
A loving tribute from a brother to his recently deceased sister has gone viral on Twitter. The obituary for Karen Ann Sydow caught the attention of social media users after Los Angeles Times writer Daniel Miller felt particularly moved by it and went on to share it with his followers.
Karen’s touching obituary was written by her doting brother Erik Sydow and published in the Los Angeles Times last week.
The 189-word tribute, titled A Special Sister, reflects the love and adoration that Erik had for his sister.
Karen Ann Sydow passed away on September 5, aged 61. In the days after her death, her brother Erik put pen to paper to pay homage to his wonderful sister – his feelings shining through the newspaper pages.
His text, though short, painted an emotive picture of Karen, whose cerebral palsy let her speak only three words: Mom, Piano and Donalds – but those were enough to communicate with her family.
Erik wrote of Karen’s unwavering happiness; of her joy, which she showed through laughter and claps.
Their last time together was on a bike ride and picnic at Lake Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley. It was not long after their mother’s death in May.
Erik recalls how Karen had unexpectedly put her head on his shoulder, tears running down her cheeks: she was mourning their mother.
Two weeks after expressing her pain, Karen died of heart and respiratory failure. “I think she really wanted to be with Mom,” Erik wrote in the obituary.
The power of social media: Everyone now knows how much Erik adored his ‘special sister’
Erik wrote: “Karen, I wish I could have made you laugh one more time. I needed you too.”
When Los Angeles Times writer Daniel Miller’s wife spotted the obituary in the paper, she told Daniel, nearing tears, to read it. He felt so moved by Erik’s touching words that he shared them on Twitter. Users didn’t take long to react.
One commented: “If the point of an obituary is to make you feel you knew the person and to share their loss then the fact her brother did so in so few words is astounding. What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your sister with us Erik. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Another one said: “As a mother of a child (21) with cerebral palsy who is non-verbal but has a laugh that is the most contagious that you’ll ever hear, this made me cry so much this morning.”
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Daniel, wondering whether Erik was aware of the impact his written piece had had, reached out to the 64-year-old.
He had no idea and was grateful for the support. He was also keen to share more about his little sister with Daniel.
Born in Newburgh, New York, on December 9, 1959, Karen Ann Sydow was the daughter of Shirley and Eugene Sydow. Erik tells Daniel, for the Los Angeles Times, they “never knew anything was developmentally wrong with Karen” until she was three.
But once the details of Karen’s cerebral palsy came to light, parents Shirley and Eugene worked hard to give her the support that she needed – including moving to West Hills in 1963 for access to better medical care.
Growing up, Karen loved to listen to records on Eugene’s phonograph. Erik says: “She would be in front of the stereo all afternoon.” That’s where her love of the piano might have come from.
Dad Eugene sadly died in 2007. “My sister was my father’s No. 1 priority,” Erik recalls. “He left me very few instructions when he passed but… he just wanted her to continue to be happy.”
Karen’s home for the last 30 years of her life was at Tierra Del Sol in Sunland, a non-profit centre where she received physical therapy and took music classes. She thrived there, Erik assures.
A frequent weekend activity for the family was to go for meals at McDonald’s – it was Karen’s favourite food. As she also liked travelling by car, Eugene would take a longer route to a McDonald’s further away for Karen to enjoy the ride. Once at their destination, overjoyed, she would start clapping her hands.
Erik often took Karen’s favourite McDonald’s meal — a cheeseburger, French fries and Coco-Cola — when he visited her at Tierra Del Sol.
The pandemic put a massive strain on those visits, but the duo managed to see each other again before her death – the recent trip to Lake Balboa Park marking a triumphant return to some sort of normality for them.
Erik will be scattering the ashes of his loved ones on a beach in Cumbria
Erik intends to scatter the ashes of Karen and their parents in a private ceremony at a peaceful beach in Cambria, where the family used to go on holiday,.
In his toughest moments of grief, Erik returns to a treasured memory – a time ten years ago when his visit to see Karen was drawing to a close. He hugged her and kissed her, telling her that he loved her, and for the first and only time, Karen said something other than her three usual words: “I love. I love.”
“She said it two times, clear as a bell,” Erik says. “It only happened that one day. I don’t know what brought it out of her.”