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Social media users share ‘heartwarming, sometimes very raw’ responses to viral obituary

A 1990s photograph of Karen Sydow.
(Erik Sydow)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 22. I’m Justin Ray.

Get ready to cry.

Reporter Daniel Miller read a moving obituary in the Los Angeles Times about a man who recently lost his sister. He shared a photo of it on social media, and it went viral.

“Thousands of people, some typing through tears, had shared condolences, from anonymous users to major TV personalities,” Miller wrote in his story about the unexpected phenomenon.

The obituary was a 189-word tribute titled “A Special Sister,” dedicated to Karen Ann Sydow who died Sept. 5 at the age of 61. It was penned by her brother, Erik Sydow. The grief, sorrow, and honesty of the short piece resonated with scores of people.

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“The response to the story has been humbling and overwhelming,” Miller told me. “The obituary he wrote for his sister was so personal — you felt like you got a real sense of her — but it also touched on universal themes.”

Miller says his original tweet has been seen by nearly 13 million users, which has garnered replies that are “heartwarming, sometimes very raw, and pretty unique.”

“No big deal, just bawling over my morning coffee with the feels from this story,” one user wrote. “Cried like a man should when reading stuff like this,” said another.

Anyway, I wanted to keep this one short because you absolutely must read Miller’s piece.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Chill, Seth Rogen. L.A. health officials say Emmys didn’t violate COVID-19 rules. Sunday’s unmasked, socially un-distanced, indoor Emmys ceremony prompted many — including presenter Seth Rogen — to wonder if awards shows are somehow exempt from COVID-19 mandates. Well, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has spoken, and the answer is: Actually, yeah, kinda. Health officials released a statement Monday absolving participants of their alleged pandemic crimes. Los Angeles Times

Images from this year's Emmys.
Images from the red carpet of Sunday’s Emmys.
(Los Angeles Times Staff)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

The state’s water crisis. In California, there will always be droughts. But what can we do about them? Well, there are many different solutions proposed, but some issues aren’t fixed with only money. New water infrastructure would need better management of new and existing water supplies. Any solution would also need to be combined with agricultural compliance, which is easier said than done. Capital and Main

Police shootings in California could soon become easier to investigate. Legislation sparked by the Pasadena Police Department shooting of Anthony McClain and the 2019 Poway synagogue shooting is on the way to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Pasadena’s state Sen. Anthony Portantino introduced Senate Bill 715 in February to allow state prosecutors the chance to look into police shootings that end in a civilian’s death as long as there is a reasonable dispute as to whether that civilian was armed. Santa Cruz Sentinel

CRIME AND COURTS

A grand jury has indicted two central California police officers on felony assault charges in the alleged beating of a Black teenager. San Joaquin County Dist. Atty. Tori Verber Salazar said former Stockton Police Department Officers Michael Stiles and Omar Villapudua were each indicted on felony counts of assault by a public officer and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. They were fired in March after a police investigation found both had used excessive force on Devin Carter, 17, at the time. “This grand jury indictment reminds us all that when police use unlawful force, they undermine community trust,” she said in a statement. Associated Press

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The bold firefighting strategies that saved some of the world’s largest sequoias. When wildfires raced toward Sequoia National Park’s largest concentration of giant sequoias, officials went to work. Crews cleared vegetation from their bases, and lighted low-intensity fires to burn off duff and litter. Firefighters wrapped protective foil around the trunks of some monarchs — a tactic that is typically used to guard buildings against flames. Los Angeles Times

California officially has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any state, federal figures show, underscoring the progress made in the ongoing battle against the highly infectious Delta variant. The state has been among the national leaders in that metric for the last week, as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus infections continues to tumble from a peak earlier this summer. California’s new case rate per 100,000 people is less than half of neighboring states, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has landed. And it has added an unmistakable silhouette to the landscape of Los Angeles. Its most dramatic feature, the new David Geffen Theater, a spherical building — known colloquially as “the Death Star” — is absolutely inescapable. “Its circular form is visible from the ramps of LACMA’s Pavilion for Japanese Art and over the sawtooth roof of the Resnick. Even if you leave the LACMA-Academy Museum complex to visit the independent art galleries a block west at 6150 Wilshire, well, the Death Star will follow you there too,” Carolina Miranda writes. Los Angeles Times

George Holliday, man who filmed the Rodney King video that forever changed L.A., dies. A video that was less than nine minutes dragged George Holliday into a life he never bargained for. Shot with a bulky Sony Handycam, the video of the King beating in 1991 tore open a city already heaving with racial tension. It was “an era when the Los Angeles Police Department was all but an occupying force in the city’s Black neighborhoods, arriving with tanks, battering rams and brute force.” As for Holliday, reporters lurked outside his apartment, death threats arrived in the mail, and his efforts to receive just compensation vaporized again and again. Los Angeles Times

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: 90 San Diego: Be supportive like these folks! 83 San Francisco: Have a party this weekend! 70 San Jose: You can have lemonade and grenadine! 84. Fresno: OK, I’ll stop with the pink lemonade. Haha 99 Sacramento: 92.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Leslie Delehanty Monteath:

In the 1980s, my mother Betty and I often went to Padres games in the old Jack Murphy stadium in Mission Valley, San Diego. She had her game sheet and scored the plays as she listened on her radio set to Ted Leitner’s play-by-play coverage. When the Padres’ defensive inning ended, she would look out to the outfield. She always watched Dave Winfield walk back in because she said, “Winfield’s walk is something.” My Mother died in 1985, but not before the Padres gave her a trophy with her name on it as “Best Padres Fan.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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