Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eulogy by Jamie Murphy

"Hi Everyone,
When Jaci first talked to me about doing this, my biggest fear was standing up here before you and not being able to get these words out. But after Erica passed, my fear changed. I wasn’t nervous anymore about standing here and crying, I was nervous about finding the right words. It’s enough pressure for anyone to eulogize their friend, but to do it for a woman who always had the right words – whose eloquence, creativity and wit were evident to everyone she came in contact with – is a truly daunting task. Whenever I was at a loss for words, whenever I needed help with grammar and punctuation, whenever I needed a Scrabble triple-word-score worthy word, I always turned to Erica. And here I am now, left to my own devices, so E . . . let’s hope you taught me well. Here it goes.
Erica, E, EJ, Murray 1, Reekie, Beek and always her favorite . . . Erica…names for an extraordinary woman who I have always been, and will forever be, so honored to call my best friend. [Note from Jamie: The former “Erica” is pronounced the way Erica pronounced her name (with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable), while the ladder “Erica” is pronounced the traditional way (with the emphasis on the 1st syllable). Clearly, the joke loses something when reduced to writing!] I could stand here before you today and talk about Erica’s compassion, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her smile, her sparkling eyes, her incredible love for her family and friends. But these are things you all already know. So my job now is to tell you a few things about Erica you may not know.
Like how Erica’s closest friends throughout her life were just the right combination of alike and different. Erica was one of those very rare and special people who enjoyed the company and friendship of people who didn’t always share her views or who said things she would never say herself. For instance she often times left it to me to make an inappropriate, politically incorrect joke while she laughed and shook her head at me all at the same time.
Or how, before her days of hob-knobbing with other over-achieving, international do-gooders at Fletcher, Erica was a rugby-playing English major at Oxy. And before that, she graced the halls of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Santa Maria where she swam, was homecoming princess, and worked at Hot Dog on a Stick . . . oh that’s right . . . Hot Dog on a Stick . . . sorry E.
Or how she’s a canuck! That’s right, she was born in Canada. Her Mom Judy lovingly described Erica’s birth on the blog that Erica kept as a way of sharing her journey over the past few years. In the post written on Erica’s 29th birthday, Judy wrote of her baby girl:
“At precisely 7:47, 29 years ago, the sweetest most beautiful baby girl arrived in West Vancouver British Columbia. She was the cutest little baby weighing in at 6lbs 10 oz with the most engaging smile ever. Today, this same lovely little baby has metamorphosized into a wonderfully strong, intelligent, inspiring and beautiful young woman.”
Another thing you may have not known about Erica is that her favorite city in the world was Paris. Up until about a year ago, she always said that she didn’t have a favorite city, but sometime recently (and I think I know why), that changed, and she said she knew that she would always feel at home there. So, the next time you are in Paris, please think of Erica. Visit a museum for her. Sit at an outdoor café, sip espresso, and people watch for her. Try speaking French at the risk of being laughed at . . . and when that happens, laugh too because you know Erica would have been proud of you.
Erica once said to me that she felt like she was a jack of all trades but a master of none. She knew she was talented and creative but didn’t feel like she excelled at any one thing. But I beg to differ. Erica was truly a master of human relationships. She had the most amazing ability to make everyone she came in contact with feel like her best friend. And she made friends to the very end. She was naturally the most welcoming and friendly person I have ever known, and she brought together people from around the world as her friends. Very shortly after Erica was first diagnosed she created a top ten list of the best things about having cancer . . . leave it to Erica to find the bright side of having cancer ;) The number one thing on her list was bringing her loved ones together. She said: “I love it when people from different segments of my life have the opportunity to meet and get to know one another. Jamie called it my ‘elf on the wall’ trick (the joke sort of deriving from me being the obvious elephant in the room, but trying to be like a fly on the wall), but many hours of each day were spent in a semi-snooze listening to my Mom get to know my friends, or my sister get to know my graduate school colleagues, or a friend from Japan getting to know a friend from high school. I loved just listening to their precious voices and knowing they were there.” And Erica has accomplished this more than she will ever know. I realized yesterday that while I may have lost my best friend, I have gained another mother and another sister in Judy and Jaci.
To my Chinese mother Judy, thank you from everyone else who loved Erica for not only caring for her, but for us too. You shared your little girl with so many people, and we will forever be thankful to you for that gift.
And to Jaci…I know Erica told you constantly just how she felt about you, and I could go on and on about her love for you, which was clear to anyone who ever saw the two of you together. But I’m not going to, because it was SO evident to everyone in this room and because, honestly, I don’t think either of us could handle it. So all I am going to say, one last time for Erica, is “big wing.”
A few days before Erica passed, an anonymous Oxy staff member wrote one of the most beautiful posts I have read so far. The part that touched me the most was about Erica’s smile. The post read: “Her ability to take us along on the tragic and cruelly unfair journey she has been on these past few years, with grace, dignity, intelligence and humor is truly amazing. It speaks volumes about her strength, and her inner beauty that is matched so completely by that radiant smile she so often beams. I think it is her smile, immediately engaging, immediately inviting and immediately warm that radiates and gives you a sense of comfort in her presence. In Oxy staff meetings I would often look across the table and see that smile, matched equally by her intelligence and enthusiasm, and I would think to myself - wow, she is something.” I don't think I have ever known a more beautiful smile. I hope that none of us will ever forget that smile…I know I never will.
A week before Erica went into the hospital for the last time she asked me what I thought would happen to her after she passed away. At the time I gave a basic and reassuring answer in an effort to calm her and ease her fears. But when I think about it now, I like to think that Erica is now forever enjoying what would have been her ideal day here on Earth. She is with her Mom, Dad, Jaci, and Linda. She is surrounded by her aunts, uncles, cousins, and countless friends. Her days consist of a rotating schedule of crossword puzzles, card games, group reads, yoga, political debates and dim sum. Barak Obama is President for eternity, and not recycling is a crime punishable at law.
It was clear to me from very early in our friendship that Erica had a special combination of compassion, integrity, sense of humor, strength, morality, and world consciousness that very few people have. She made an immediate and lasting impact on whomever she met and encouraged those around her to strive to live life to the fullest.
Erica taught us all many things over the past few years. One of the things that I am most thankful to her for is teaching me the true meaning of the word “selfless”. I saw it everyday that I was with Erica. She was by far the most selfless person I have every known. She would do things for other people no matter how badly she didn’t want to just because she knew it would make them feel better.
One last thing that I want to mention was her sense of humor. The girl knew how to tell a joke, was always quick with a great come-back, and could find humor in just about anything in life. This was evident in most of Erica’s blog posts. The blog was created to give Erica’s loved ones updates on her health and treatment but quickly took on a life of it’s own. Some of her more creative and humorous posts over the past two years were her December 2007 “12 Days of Cancer” post and, my own personal favorite, her October 2008 missing I-phone post. My favorite part of that post being: “The search for the missing iPhone has been conducted in a professional and thorough manner. Amber alerts have been issued on the 101 and 280 freeways. Digital Voicemail-sniffing dogs scoured the patient units, the 3rd floor VIP room, the cafeteria, and the radiology ward, places EJ's Mobile's owner has frequented lately. As each hour passes, the owner has less hope that the mobile device will be found intact. ‘I have had it for about a year and half,’ the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. ‘I'm not sure how I will be able to fill the hole its absence has left in my purse.” The girl was funny!
Over the past few days I have been looking over old blog posts, e-mails, and letters from Erica, searching for some of her words. As you can imagine, I had an endless supply of poetic passages from Erica that I could have shared with you. But the words that I have chosen aren’t necessarily the most poetic, but the most poignant. In an e-mail from her to some of her closest friends on January 13th of this year (two weeks before she relapsed) she said:
“The first year of treatment was awful, the only specks of sunlight being the love you all showered on me. 2007 was a year marked by growing strength, growing hair, growing happiness. While undergoing treatment, I completed one year of my master's degree and managed, despite my family's and doctor's worries, to still do some of things I love, like traveling. Still, I'm not sure I can remember what it's like to be 100% pain free, to not be anticipating the next invasive needle, to not know which of the cocktail of drugs I'm on is causing today's particular pain. My optimism for 2008 is severely hedged by cautious anticipation of lingering side effects and, of course, relapse concern, but I still think that getting this far is worth a bit of a celebration.”
So that is what we will do for you today, my dear. We will celebrate your life, our love for you, and your love for us. We will laugh and smile and cry in your honor, and we will do it knowing how much fun you are having watching us. We love you, we miss you, and we will forever be better because of you. I love you E!"


Ashley said...

It makes me sad to hear about Erica's passing. I just found out yesterday. I was always amazed at the constant love and support from her family and friends. I read through her blogs today and I myself really enjoyed the missing iphone story. Please tell her family and friends that they are all in my thoughts and prayers. Ashley Lauderman,RN E1 Stanford

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I was thinking the other day, when I heard about Erica's passing, that she truly was the most compassionate and selfless person I have ever met. Now that you have said those words too, I just want to tell a quick story.

About a year after Erica was diagnosed with ALL, my 14 year old brother was diagnosed with ALL. When Erica found out, even in the middle of her own painful treatment, she called me and talked for an hour about all of the emotions, the fear, and the logistics of being a cancer patient and what I could expect as my brother went through the same thing she was going through. After that initial phone call and throughout the last two years, she has offered her friendship and support to me during the most difficult time in her life. I could never thank her enough for her kindness, her spirit, her compassion for me and my family. I will miss her so much and I am blessed for knowing her.

David and I so wish we could have been there to say good bye one last time, but we are grateful to have the eulogy to read.

All of my love,
Melissa Thuma

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and perfect. Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...

I never knew Erica personally...but had our paths crossed, I'm sure we would have been good friends. Through her writing, she radiated the type of intelligence, wit, grace, and kindred spirit that I - and clearly hundreds of others - gravitate towards.

I was visiting Paris last week when I read of her passing, and lit a candle in the St-Germain-des-Prés church in her name.

May you find comfort in the fact that Erica has left her mark on the hearts of many anonymous readers around this world.
- Cousin of a Fletcher grad

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for posting this. Beautiful words to remember an extraordinary woman.


artineh said...

Jamie, the eulogy was beautiful and right on. As I heard you talk, I thought your words spoke so well to how I feel about Erica. Most of all, I loved when you said "Erica once said to me that she felt like she was a jack of all trades but a master of none... But I beg to differ. Erica was truly a master of human relationships. She had the most amazing ability to make everyone she came in contact with feel like her best friend." She said something similar to me a while back too. And I, too, begged to differ. Life isn’t just about the years one lives. Life is about the relationships we’re able to foster. It’s knowing that we’ve touched others’ lives in ways that have changed them and the course of their lives forever. Erica did just that for so many of us. In this difficult time, I find solace in knowing that Erica has left her mark and will forever live in our hearts and memories because she touched them ever so sincerely.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, Jaci and Judy,

Thank you so much for posting this absolutely beautiful eulogy. Although I didn't know Erica as personally as any of you, reading this eulogy only reinforces in my mind how much admiration I have for her. How fortunate all of you are to have shared so intimately in her journey. Peace always be with you.

Stacie Quintanilla Miller
Oxy '01 '04

Anonymous said...

Jamie - You gave such a beautiful eulogy on Tuesday. I could not stop the tears from streaming down my face (and I think I speak for pretty much everyone there). The whole day was painfully beautiful. One of the things I took away from Tuesday was how Erica made an impact in just about every life she touched; how she just knew how to make people feel important and loved. One of the most important ways in which one can find peace in the midst of tragedy is to learn something from it all. She will be a constant reminder to me of that incredible quality.
Tina Giannini

Janet (Oxy) said...

Thank you for sharing your very touching and heartfelt words with those of us who wanted to be there on Tuesday but couldn't be. Erica was fortunate to have such a loving, compassionate friend like you by her side all this time.

One Mother with Cancer said...

What a wonderful post... I'm sure Erica would be very proud. I continue to think about, and pray for your family during this difficult time.

Claire (Bonnie's Nannie) said...

Dear Jamie

My sincere condolences for the loss of your best friend - treasured memories of Dear Erica will remain with you forever. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful words, written for such a beautiful soul, with all of us.

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you all, Claire (Bonnie's Nannie) x

Clif said...

You read it beautifully on Tuesday.

Areeka would have been beaming with pride.

Thanks, Jamie.

Adria C. said...

Wonderfully, wonderfully said, Jamie. Erica was so lucky to have such a wonderful group of people surround her and a best friend like you.

(one of E's roomies during school)

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaime,
Thank you for sharing your beautiful words. You did Erica proud. It was nice to see it there. I really just keep expecting one last note from Erica..Please give Jaci a big hug for me. Tell her robbinbobbin sends her love

Anonymous said...

I think Erica would be very proud! She has taught you well!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing tribute, to someone who had an amazing exsistence. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I hope you find comfort in this poem, clearly the comments on this blog let you know that Erica touched so many and "If tears could build a staircase
and memories a lane,
we could walk all the way to Heaven,
and bring her back again."

A blog follower

Poem by Anon

I think of you often
and make no outward show,
But what it means to lose you,
no one will ever know
You were gone before I knew it,
and only God knows why.
You are not forgotten
nor will you ever be,
As long as life and memories last,
I will remember thee.
To some you may be forgotten,
to others a part of the past,
But to me who loved you dearly,
your memories will always last..
Nothing can be more beautiful
than the memories I have of you.
To me, you were someone special,
God must have thought so too!
If tears could build a staircase
and memories a lane,
I would walk all the way to Heaven,
and bring you back again.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, this was such a beautiful eulogy. I had to chuckle on Tuesday at the part of "not recycling should be a crime punishable by law". About a month before Erica's last relapse my family and I had breakfast with her and Judy. We got to talking about recycling, and I, too, am passionate about it. Erica asked me if I also recyle the toilet paper and paper towel tubes, which I do, and we just laughed about it because Judy and Carlos thought it was a little overboard.

I'm sorry that we ran out of time to get to know each other better, but I will truly treasure the few encounters I had with her.


Corinne said...

That was beautiful. It must not have been easy to write or say but thank you for posting such a loving tribute for all of us who couldn't make it on Tuesday to read and remember her by.

Anonymous said...

Jaci we only met briefly almost three years ago when you came to move Erica's stuff with Marcin and at the FWOY dinner for Erica but I am thinking of you a lot now. I feel for you: don't think I could be so brave if I lost my sister. Wish I could give you a hug when you need one but I trust you're surrounded by lots of people on standby for that and everything else.

Stay strong

(Tel Aviv)

Emily said...

That was a beautiful eulogy, it made me very sad I wasn't able to attend her service but definitely know that so many did and I felt like I was a part of it. Erica will truly be missed.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jamie,
yours were beautiful words, bringing E's spirit closer to those of us who didn't know her that well. Thanks for sharing them.
Jaci, I wanted to let you know that, yesterday, I took four of my girlfriends to get registered on the German Bone Marrow Register. Over here, cheek swabs seem to be mostly unheard of, and testing and registration still requires drawing two vials of blood. One great way of getting tested (for free) is to go to one of the blood drives organized by the German Red Cross in most cities at least every three months, where they are happy to provide bone marrow registration as a "by-product" on demand. So I convinced my four closest friends to come along - as a different kind of "girls day out" and as a way of reminding ourselves how lucky we are to have each other. We expressly did this in Erica's memory. All of them read through Erica's blog before we went and we discussed it over dinner later that evening. They loved her wit and humour, the iPhone story, her amazing courage, the idea of a wig wall and "that smile".
Registering four people is of course pathetic in light of the enormous challenges in fighting leukemia. It's also too late for Erica. But I have told myself that I will keep asking different people, from different walks of life, to sign up during future blood drives. And I imagine the "Erica Effect" multiplied across the world: 4 people here, 4 people there, 100s of people in Boston and California, in different countries and continents - all because of Erica. I hope that it can give you some kind of comfort, however small, to know that Erica continues to make an impact and continues to touch people who didn't even know her.
Much love from an 06 Fletcher grad

Raven said...

I consider the greatest success in life to be able to inspire other people to be better versions of themselves. I think Erica can consider herself having lived a very successful life in this regard. Her ability to face the incredible challenges put before her with humility, wit, grace, and such monumental courage is an inspiration to all of us to live each our days better. We can be grateful to her for inspiring us to make the most of our days and minutes. That takes a special kind of person and I hope that she knows that wherever she is. I feel blessed to have met her briefly and to have been touched by her story.
- Raven (Fletcher Grad)

Anonymous said...

Jamie, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. Although I only met her towards the end of her life, I can tell what a wonderful person she was and how much love she had from all her family and friends. One thing I will always remember about Erica is how we wheeled her bed out to the garden on her last day so that she could enjoy some fresh California air on her last day and how all her loved ones were able to share that moment with her. She was a very lucky woman. To all her family and friends whom I have had the privilege to meet, I wish you all the best and you are all in my thoughts during this difficult time. - Stephanie, RN on F Ground

Oxy Alum said...

Wonderful and accurate tribute to one of the kindest, smartest women I've ever known.

Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you all. Praying that you will be carried through this Christmas. Let all the beautiful memories of Erica bring you peace, smiles, joy, laughter, strength to carry on but, most of all, love. She would want you to be happy. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaci, Judy, Josh, Jamie and all of the family and friends of Erica:

I find myself coming back to check this blog so often. Sometimes just to reread some wonderful passage Erica wrote. I find myself missing her presence still; that is how great her impact IS on this world. I just wanted to let you know that there are still people out here who miss her spirit -- and who know that she is an even greater spirit to the world now -- and who wonder and hope you are all coping with your loss as well as can be expected.

Erica truly impacted so many during her time with us and I just want to reassure you that people who check this blog are people who will honor her spirit and continue her mission(s).


P.S.: And thank you, Jamie, for posting such a moving tribute to someone so dear to you. You made all of us who couldn't be there feel the love and joy (and tears) that were shared.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you all as you approach your first "1st." Praying that this 1st Christmas without Erica will not be a difficult one and that you will talk about her MUCH and remember all the awesome things about her. Memories are good and are a good way to cope. May the memories of Erica carry you through this time of the year. God bless you all. Think about what Erica would want you to do.

Anonymous said...

Like Wendy, I find myself coming back to this site often. Sometimes it's just habit--I just go to my favorites and click on Erica's blog because I went so long checking regularly for updates. Now I find myself moved by something else--I don't want to forget this amazing person. Although I never met her, I don't even think that would be possible--but I like to have the constant reminder that such a great presence existed. She has given me something to live up to and strive to become.


Colleen said...

Dear family and friends of Erica,
Erica had a beautiful smile and a great sense of humor, one day at work (stanford hospital) Erica and Jaci put on the youtube video of "if i had a bane marrow donor..." i thought it was great and we laughed which is the best way to pass any time. Thank you, to all of you for demonstrating love, compassion and optimism on a daily basis, so much support came from everyone important in Erica's life. my thoughts and prayers to all, Colleen H. RN

Claire and Bonnie said...

We are still so sad that Dear Erica is no longer here to celebrate Christmas with you all in person, however we wish you all a Lovely Christmas - all the treasured memories that you share will keep you close to her. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you all and Dear Erica throughout this Christmas time. BIG LOVE & HUGS to everyone, Claire and Bonnie xx

Anonymous said...

I recently stumbled across Erica's blog and wanted to express my deepest condolences to Erica's family and friends. My mother passed away from cancer four months ago and I too am trying to find peace from such a tremendous loss. I will keep you all and Erica in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

i knew erica from MSI and she was the RA..she is really a beautiful person inside and out. i'm saddened to hear she passed away. she will always be loved...

Anonymous said...

Jaci and family,
Still thinking of you all and checking this blog. Hope you all are doing "okay...." considering all you have been through and praying that the holidays weren't too hard for you. Hope to hear something from you but do understand the need for some "time." Blessings and prayers to all of you.

Anonymous said...

I thought of all of you so many times during this holiday season. I thought of Erica and wondered what she's up to in her new reality. I'm a stranger to you all but I grieve for your loss and for the time that Erica missed out with all of you. My thoughts are with you during this painful time.

Anonymous said...

I feel sad when I think Erica gave me more than I gave her. I never realized that until now. She had encouraged me to write to her about my experiences in Iran.

I've gone through all the emails I sent her and revised, polished, updated, added to the material.

What I've got now is six chapters.

I wish she could read what I've written. She was such an inspiration.

Doug Roberts