California Brother's Poignant Obituary Written for His 'Special Sister' Goes Viral

·2 min read
Karen Ann Sydow
Karen Ann Sydow

The internet is rallying behind California man after the loss of his "special sister."

Erik Sydow remembered his sister Karen with a 189-word obituary published in the Los Angeles Times this week after she died on Sept. 5 at the age of 61. The brief yet poignant tribute described Karen as someone "who never had wants or misgivings."

Karen was born with cerebral palsy and, because of her diagnosis, could only speak three words: mom, Donalds (because she loved McDonalds) and piano (because she loved music).

Erik wrote that he had recently been able to get "back to normal" with his sister after almost two years of restricting visits due to COVID-19.

"On my last outing with Karen, we took a sunny bike ride; she laughed and clapped her hands. When we stopped by the lake for picnic lunch, Karen said 'Mom, mom.' I held her and told her 'mom is not here anymore,' " Erik remembered. "Karen totally out of the norm put her head on my shoulder and tears ran down her cheek. Yes she understood."

Karen died two weeks after that visit, her brother said.

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"I think she really wanted to be with mom," he concluded. "Karen, I wish I could have made you laugh one more time. I needed you too. Love your brother Erik."

After the obituary's publication, LA Times reporter Daniel Miller shared a photo of the print piece on Twitter, calling it "remarkable." The tweet quickly went viral. At the time of publication, the post had nearly 250,000 likes and over 27,000 retweets.

So, one day later Miller called Erik to talk more about his sister and share the online support Miller had received on his behalf.

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"He had no idea that his tribute had been widely shared, and he was touched by the outpouring of support. But he was more interested in talking about his little sister," Miller wrote in a piece published on Monday.

"My sister was my father's No. 1 priority," Erik said. Their father died in 2007, and their mother earlier this year.

He continued, "He left me very few instructions when he passed but.... he just wanted her to continue to be happy."

So, Erik did whatever he could to make Karen happy. He recalled once again that sunny visit when they took a bike ride around Lake Balboa — Karen laughing as the wind hit her face and the bell rang.

"I'd do anything I could to make her laugh," he said.

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