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