Grieving brother’s 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.

Daniel Miller, a writer who shared the touching obituary to Karen Ann Sydow from the Los Angeles Times, posted the column on Twitter.

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

It was evident that Erik loved his sister with such love and affection. Many people who read the column were moved to tears.

Karen died on September 5, at the age of 61. Erik, Karen’s brother, began writing letters to pay tribute to his sister.

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. The day would be their last together before Karen’s death.

The happiness was matched by a remarkable moment for Erik. Karen suddenly placed her head on Erik’s shoulder and began to cry, indicating that she is grieving the loss of their mother, who had died 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.

Daniel’s tweet had just over 208K likeds and 21.2K replies at the time of writing.

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.”

Lake Balboa Beilenson Park where the pair enjoyed some of Karen's final days
Lake Balboa Beilenson Park where the pair enjoyed some of Karen’s final days

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 reached out to the 64 year-old cabinetmaker, asking if Erik knew that his piece was a success.

Erik was surprised to learn that his words were being shared so widely and celebrated. But he was much more interested sharing information about his little sibling with Daniel.

Karen Ann Sydow, born December 9, 1959 in Newburgh (New York), was the daughter of Shirley and Eugene Sydow. She was the child of Shirley Sydow 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. Karen would begin clapping her hands once they reached their destination.

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 times, he recalls a special memory of a time ten year ago, when he visited Karen to say goodbye.

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”.

Erik said the following about the moment: “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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