Sunday, May 04, 2008

Emily Jones Shrader -- 1975-2008

My daughter died Friday.

Those are the hardest four words I have uttered in my whole life.

Emily Jones Shrader was 32 years old and died at 7:40 Friday morning seven weeks after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Emily was a remarkable person. She was vivacious, exhuberant and charismatic.

She seemed to make every room that she entered a little brighter and crackling with energy.

She believed earnestly in karma and the cause and effect of putting good out into the world with no expectation in return.

She believed passionately in social causes like feminism, human rights, justice and equality.

She also believed convincingly that all things have a purpose, and in the midst of turmoil or an ordeal, she could always tell us how something positive would come from it.

But most of all, Emily believed in Memphis. She loved this crazy, gritty city with all her heart. She could tolerate almost anything, except someone running down her city or her University of Memphis.

Several years ago, somone asked me why I was so passionate about this city and why it mattered so much to me. I said: “Two reasons – my daughters Emily and Adrienne.”

As so many in their age group left Memphis, they stayed, and there was not a day that passed that I did not know how lucky I was to have them here. But so was the city itself, because like so many of her generation, she was not interested in anyone’s race, sexual orientation or background. She was only interested in working with them to make Memphis better, so that more young people would choose to stay here for their career and that fewer children would grow up in poverty.

Emily also believed in symmetry. Because of it, she would have found meaning in the fact that the same doctor who delivered her into the world 32 years ago watched over her as she made her transition out of it.

Also, her funeral tomorrow takes place on Cinco de Mayo – which is the date of her first date with her husband, Jeremy, and tomorrow would have been their first wedding anniversary.

Emily loved quotations, maxims and sayings, and we keep three in mind as we honor her in our lives.

The magnet on her refrigerator shouted: “Follow your bliss.”

On her MySpace page, Emily highlighted this quote by Emerson:

“This quote sums it up nicely: ‘To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children, to earn the approbation of honest critics; to appreciate beauty; to give of one's self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived--that is to have succeeded.’”

Finally, the paperweight on her bedroom dresser bore a quotation by Helen Keller. It said: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."

That seems the perfect thought for us today.

Normally, we don’t write about our personal lives on this blog, so I hope you will allow me this one indulgence. It just hard not to mention the loss of someone as special as my daughter, but also, there is a kind of immortality with the Internet, and she deserves it.

Like so many unsung people in our city, she worked with the simple nobility that seems to characterize the real heroes of Memphis – the people without titles and without celebrity – who, without regard for recognition or for headlines, day in and day out simply try to make this a better place.

Tom Jones


Anonymous said...

Emily was a gift to the world and those in it. Even those who only met her for a second noted her contribution. I pray that her family will be guided by her spirit as they continue forward. May you follow her steps on her journey in the search of bliss. Thank you for your beautiful daughters.

Anonymous said...

The quote I remember from her work at University of Memphis Alumni Association was: What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

David Loomis said...

Emily's personality could more than just fill up a room. It could knock down the walls and build a newer, happier room that was more to her liking. What a rare spirit and those of us who knew her even a little bit were honored and privileged. I pray that her memory will be as full of joy as her life was. I wish God's blessing on the Jones family.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you, Tom. My prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

I have posted on your blog for over a year; I'm very sorry for your personal loss and for our city's loss as well. God Bless you.

Smart City Consulting said...

Thank you to all of you for your concern and support and for all of you who emailed directly. Your words mean so much to all of us in Emily's family.

Tom Jones

Freedonian said...

Tom, my heart goes out to you and your family. I know this has to be a troubling time for you.

God bless.

Smart City Consulting said...

Freedonian: Thanks so much for the kind words.

Stephanie Hite said...

That is the perfect description of Emily. I'm just glad that I was lucky enough to have her in my life. I don't know if Robert has emailed you, but he said something the other day, and I think that you would truly appreciate it. "Many of us search for happiness all of our lives, Emily found it in one year. That's why God took her away from us."(yes, that came from my brother) It might not make it any easier for her family and those of us who loved her, but knowing her, she would want all of us to go in search of our dreams and be happy.
I love you,

Tracy said...

This news knocked the breath from me. Tom, though I never knew Emily personally, you introduced us through your delightful stories and the shining love she put in your eyes. I am so sorry about this devastating loss for you, your family and for the world at large who will be so much poorer without her here.

Anonymous said...

She was a wonderful person full of love and insight. I am blessed to have met her.
- Portland, OR

Anonymous said...

I never met Emily, but after hearing stories about what a brilliant shining light she was, I am very inspired. Whenever we think of her, we are strengthened by her example. She lives on in our hearts! May God continue to comfort you and bring you complete peace and joy. You and your family continue to inspire us all. Emily must be so proud up there telling all her fellow angels, "See, look! Aren't they amazing!?"

Louise M. Moore said...

I offer my most sincere condolences to Emily's family. I live in Atlanta now but worked with Emily at Hilton for more than three years and I remember very vividly what a vivacious, perky person she was. She was always smiling and was so thoughtful. She, along with another co-worker, was the first to visit me at the hospital after the birth of my second child. She was snapping pictures and beaming with that smile we all remember. When I found this blog yesterday, I was in disbelief and dismayed because people like Emily leave such an impact. And, she did make such an impact on everyone she met. Emily was a JEWEL and is greatly missed.

Smart City Consulting said...

To anonymous and Louise:

You'll never know fully how much your comments mean to all of us who were blessed enough to share Emily's all too brief life. Thank you for taking the time to share your comfort and your memories.