Grieving brothers heartfelt obituary to special sister moves people to tears

A heartfelt newspaper tribute from a loving brother to his late sister has brought readers to tears.

The touching obituary for Karen Ann Sydow was discovered in the Los Angeles Times and shared by writer Daniel Miller, who posted the column on Twitter after it moved him.

The emotional in a 189-word tribute was written by Karen's doting brother, Erik Sydow, simply titled ‘A Special Sister’.

Reading the column, it was clear that the love and affection Erik felt for his sister was beyond compare, as readers on the social media platform were brought to tears reading it.

Karen passed away on September 5 aged 61. In the following days after her death, her brother Erik put pen to paper and began to pay homage to his wonderful sibling.

And boy did Erik paint quite the picture in which he detailed how she only spoke three words; ‘Mom’, ‘Piano’ and ‘Donalds’, referencing her love of the fast food restaurant.

Despite not being able to communicate extensively through her words, due to cerebral palsy, Erik wrote of Karen’s unwavering happiness and showing her joy through laughter and clapping; like she did on the pair’s recent bike ride and picnic at Lake Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley. This day out would turn out to be their last before Karen's passing.

On the final meeting, with the happiness also came a striking moment for Erik when Karen unexpectedly put her head on his shoulder and shed tears, making clear that she is mourning their mother who died a few months earlier in May 2021.

Karen died of heart and respiratory failure, as Erik put it in the obituary, “I think she really wanted to be with Mom”

He also directly spoke to his sibling in the tribute, penning: “Karen, I wish I could have made you laugh one more time. I needed you too.”

Los Angeles Times writer, Daniel Miller, and his wife spotted the obituary in the paper. His wife, nearing tears, told Daniel to read it and subsequently Daniel felt so moved by Erik’s touching words that he shared Karen’s tribute to Twitter.

At the time of writing, Daniel's tweet has just over 208K likes and 21.2K retweets.

One Twitter user 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."

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Another added: "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."

The tweet even attracted the attention of major US TV personality, Hoda Kotb, Co-anchor of The Today Show.

Daniel, wondering whether Erik had known that his written piece had become somewhat of a phenomenon, reached out to the 64-year-old cabinetmaker.

Erik, it seems had no idea that his words had been so widely shared and celebrated and was touched by the support and kind words on Twitter. He was, however, more interested in sharing more about his little sister with Daniel.

Karen Ann Sydow was born in Newburgh, New York, on December 9, 1959. She was the daughter of Shirley and Eugene Sydow. As Erik described to Daniel for the Los Angeles Times: “We never knew anything was developmentally wrong with Karen until she was three years old.”

However, once the details of Karen’s cerebral palsy came to light, Shirley and Eugene worked even harder to give her the support that she needed as well as moving to West Hills in 1963 for access to better medical care.

Growing up, Karen loved to listen to records on Eugene’s phonograph, something which is believed fed into her love of piano. Erik remembered: “She would be in front of the stereo all afternoon.”

Sadly, Eugene died in 2007. Erik continued: “My sister was my father’s No. 1 priority. 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 as well as taking music classes, a place where Erik said his sister thrived.

A frequent weekend activity for the Syndow’s were trips to McDonald’s as it was Karen's favourite food. She also liked journeys in the car, so Eugene would take a longer route to a McDonad’s further away for Karen to enjoy. Once at their destination, Karen would start clapping her hands, overjoyed to be there.

Her love of McDonald’s never waned as Erik continued the tradition by bringing Karen her favourite McDonald’s meal, a cheeseburger, French fries and Coco-Cola when he visited her.

Erik’s grief is of course very raw and he says that it can come over him unexpectedly. During these difficult moments, he 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 gave her a kiss, telling her that he loved her and for the first and only time Karen had strayed away from her three words, she said “I love. I love”.

Speaking of the moment, Erik said: “She said it two times, clear as a bell: ‘I love. I love.' It only happened that one day. I don’t know what brought it out of her.”

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