“It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away.”
These are the first words of the moving, self-written obituary of Emily Fisher Phillips ’68, originally of Hazelwood. Her obituary — which had the perfect touch of sass and humor— was first published in The Florida Times Union and in The (Waynesville) Mountaineer. Since it was published, Phillips’ obituary has been featured on NBC’s “Today” show and ABC news and in the New York Daily News and TIME magazine…the list goes on.
“It has reached so many people,” said Emily’s older sister, Mary Ann Enloe. “And Emily would be so overjoyed. I’m so glad for that. I just wish she knew it, and maybe she does know it.”
Enloe was not at all surprised when the obituary, which she said reflected her sister’s intelligence and humor so perfectly, went viral. “Charlie (Emily’s husband) can’t believe what all has happened,” she said. “But I believe it. It just resonated with people.”
On Feb. 24, Phillips was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after having already known she had cancer in her liver and lungs. She was living in Florida at her winter home in Orange Park at the time. She was very pragmatic when she called,” Enloe said. “She’s a take-charge person. She sees a situation and looks at how it’s going to turn out and what her part in it is.”
Phillips told Enloe that day that it wasn’t looking good, and that she was making lists of what she had to do before her time came. She called Enloe again on March 14, the day she went to hospice. That was when Phillips said she had written her own obituary.
“It had begun to sink in on her. She told me she had written the obituary. I did not ask her to read it to me. I knew it was private between her and her family,” Enloe said. But the sisters were able to laugh, because Enloe revealed that she, too, had written her own obituary two years ago. “It will not go viral,” Enloe said. “I’m not funny. Emily and (younger sister) Betsy were funny. It doesn’t say I did anything well. It just says I did it.”
Enloe said Phillips had hoped she could come home from hospice and come back to the mountains one more time, but Enloe knew it would not happen. “I felt in my heart of hearts that she would not be back,” she said. “I was glad she thought she could. That was important to her. She loved her mountain house.”
After that, Enloe knew it wouldn’t be long. Then, on March 24 – exactly one month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – Phillips’ husband called Enloe, and she knew immediately. “I’ve been expecting this call,” she told him on the phone. He told her that Phillips had passed peacefully and painlessly.
“Charlie is a saint,” Enloe said. “He was with her at the end, never left her side day and night. He was holding her hand, and they were listening to Nat King Cole, which they had danced to as students at Western Carolina University.”
Enloe was glad that people all over have had the chance to see her sister’s talent and creativity. “Emily was true to herself until the end,” she said. “I have great admiration of that.”
Reprinted in edited format with permission of The Mountaineer of Waynesville.
To read the obituary in its entirety, visit