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The Four Most Remarkable Obituaries of 2018

Forest Lawn / Legacy Guest Book

These regular people's online tributes touched our hearts this year

Most of the year-end retrospectives you'll see this year will focus on celebrities, politicians, and other big newsmakers. But many of the best and most notable moments of the year, for most people, didn't have anything to do with TV stars or senators. Here at Legacy, some of the high points of our 2018 came from obituaries for people who could have been your next door neighbors — and whom nonetheless received hundreds or even thousands of condolence messages. Here are four of the obituaries that stuck with us this year.

Janice Miller was from La Grange Park, Illinois, but people all over the world — most of whom didn't even know her and were only familiar with her voice — were saddened to hear of her death. That's because Miller was a regular caller to Sirius XM's comedy hit The Bennington Show, where listeners knew her as "Janice from Chicago." When the show's host learned she had died, he shared her obituary with his followers on Twitter — and they rushed to the Legacy Guest Book to express their condolences to Miller's family. More than 600 people, mostly strangers to the family, signed her Guest Book, and almost all of them commented on Miller's joyful laugh, which they looked forward to hearing whenever she'd call the show:

"Never met Janice but every time I heard her laugh it made my day better and I knew if she was laughing things couldn't be that bad. She touched more people's hearts than she ever knew, and she will be missed literally the world over. Rest in peace." (San Francisco, California)

"When I heard Janice it would make my day. I am a stage 4 cancer patient at home and hearing all the interesting stories and jovial interactions really helped me on my well being, she will sadly be missed." (Newbury, Ohio)

"I live across the ocean so many miles away but when I close my eyes and think of Janice I can hear her laugh. We never met but you made me smile countless times!" (Germany)

Terry Ward charmed people all over with his humor, too — but it was his obituary itself that was so hilarious. It was funny from the first sentence, noting that Ward left behind "32 jars of Miracle Whip, 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper and multitudes of other random items that would prove helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse." Almost the whole obituary is just as irreverent, such as when it lists Ward's favorite things: "hunting, fishing, golfing, snorkeling, ABBA, hiking Turkey Run, chopping wood, shooting guns, Bed Bath & Beyond, starlight mints, cold beer, free beer, The History Channel, CCR, war movies, discussing who makes the best pizza, The Chicago White Sox, old Buicks, and above all, his family." But it also includes a sweet tribute to the nurses who cared for Ward in his last days. The obituary went viral, and folks from all over wished they could have known this funny guy. They added messages to his Guest Book to say so.

"Terry, I never knew you, but I wish I did. Your obituary (which is becoming the stuff of internet legend) says it all. A life lived Wow. I hope that when I pass similar memories are left trailing behind me." (Toronto, Ontario)

"This man will forever be a legend. He will never be replaced here in this mortal realm, and the world is a little emptier without him. We should all aspire to live a life full of family, the best pizza, and old Buick's." (Turlock, California)

"I didn't know your Dad. I saw this on FB and felt like I had to sign his guest book. He did it. All we can hope for is to fill our dash (born date DASH death date) with memories and making sure the people we love know us and love us. Way to live your Dash Sir. RIP" (Wallace, North Carolina)

Madelyn Linsenmeir's obituary went viral for a very different reason than Ward's. Hers was heartbreaking, an open and honest look at a life ended by drug addiction. At a time when our country is grappling with ever-increasing overdose rates, Linsenmeir's obituary touched a chord. It was quickly shared all over social media, and the sharing increased after a local police chief's Facebook post about it gained attention. The obituary, and the chief's post, gave people an opening to discuss the thorny subject of the opioid epidemic in America. The conversation it prompted wasn't easy, but it was desperately necessary. And it inspired hundreds of strangers to sign Linsenmeir's Guest Book with words of encouragement for her family.

"To the friends and family members of Madelyn, I am so sorry for your loss. This obituary was beautifully written. It has the power to change lives and maybe that is Madelyn's legacy? I hope people around the world find the hope and the help they need whether or not they have the disease or they love someone who is suffering from it." (Janesville, Wisconsin)

"Thank you for sharing your loved one's story; it has made me re-evaluate how I see addicts on the street (which I do regularly). I have resolved to endeavor to see them with more compassion and empathy than I have in the past. Very sorry for your family's loss." (Boston, Massachusetts)

"Thoughts and prayers being sent to all who love Maddie. In my career, I meet so many wonderful, loving, witty, sons and daughters who also fight against addiction. I feel your loss. I will see Maddie in those I do my best to help. And on the days that I'm not sure I can continue because the struggle is so difficult to watch, I'll think of her son. And I'll go back." (Independence, Kentucky)

Pilar Cuenta Ayson was born in the Philippines and lived a long life, dying at 94 in her adopted home of La Palma, California. Her obituary might have seemed unremarkable — but its Guest Book became something profoundly special. After Ayson's death, her family created a beautiful chronicle of her many years in her Guest Book, sharing hundreds of photos of Ayson and her family and descendants. We see Ayson as a young woman and at one of her last birthdays, and at many stages in between.

For the strangers who may happen upon the Guest Book, it's a fascinating and detailed portrait of a life. For Ayson's family, it's an immensely meaningful tribute to a loved one that they can all share, no matter where they are.