MIAMI -- Many Miami Herald readers couldn't help but notice a half-page obituary notice that ran Tuesday.
The sheer size of it and its large photo made it hard to miss.
Also grabbing attention, the age. Eric Peter Verbeeck was only 17 when she died on March 6. The smiling, bespectacled boy who grew up in Key Biscayne was a month shy of her18th birthday, which would have been April 14.
The obituary begins, as so many do, by recounting the individual's loves and accomplishments. Eric loved the theater. She had a nearly perfect "A" record and was excited about high school graduation in June. Eric, who was on the Student Council at the MCA Academy in Coconut Grove and a 2016 honoree by the National Society of High School Scholars, had been accepted by 11 colleges with several scholarship offers. She planned to study theater and arts management.
Eric, the obituary noted, was "pure love and joy with a unique innocence about life."
Those who kept reading would learn that Eric committed what some might say is the most private of acts. Her parents made it public in the obit:
"While Eric lived life to the fullest, he had his own personal struggle. He was in the process of transitioning to his identity as a girl. It simply became too much for him and he sought relief from his suffering. He left a beautiful letter letting his parents know that he knew he had been loved unconditionally, but he needed to move on."
In her letter, Eric left explicit instructions on how she wanted to be remembered:
"I would like to be remembered as a transgender pansexual teenage girl named Hope. Being transgender is my gender identity. My sexual orientation, or sexual identity, is being pansexual, meaning that I do not care about what the person is; I care about who they are. Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with and gender identity is who you go to bed as."
On Tuesday, Eric's mother, Patricia McKay Verbeeck, agreed to speak with a Herald reporter. "Eric would have wanted to do this when he was a little older," said Verbeeck, who continues to refer to Eric with male pronouns. "He could have called up a reporter to say, 'I think we have to get the message out there about sexual identity issues. I want to tell my story."