MINNEAPOLIS - A year ago last August, Emily Hofher stretched out on the grass of Oak Hill Cemetery in south Minneapolis and struck a sassy pose, propped on an elbow, long legs crossed. She wore a blue dress printed with sailboats, and a jaunty white cap covering where she'd once had hair. Her husband, Rob Raub, snapped a photo.
Emily had just picked out the spot where she would soon be interred, when cancer took her life. And she smiled, big and wide, even though she was far from ready to go, being the 44-year-old, newly married mother of a toddler.
Emily's irreverent sense of humor showed up early in her relationship with Rob - specifically, their third date, when he invited her to his work holiday party. Not wanting to tell Rob's boss how they'd actually met (via a dating app), Emily spun a tale involving a water aerobics class full of elderly folks and pool noodles.
Emily was quite the storyteller. Some of her wackiest ones were made up. But a lot were true. She'd worked on a cruise ship, as a diving instructor. She'd taught English in Turkey, Thailand and Taiwan. And, by the way, she told Rob, on that memorable third date: She was in the process of adopting a child, who could arrive at any time.
Emily eschewed well-trod paths to seek what was right for her, in both how she lived and planned her death. Yet it was the little things about her, perhaps more than the big ones, that most influenced those around her.
"More important than the facts of her life was how she lived and moved through the world, with a unique and inspiring sparkle," was how her obituary, published last October, put it.
The narrative of Emily's time on this planet isn't particularly linear or long. But her life and death dramatically affected the lives of her husband and young daughter who coped with her illness, grieved her loss, and, a year later, carry on her legacy.
It's not the life they would have expected, nor the happily ever after of storybook tales. But it's a testament to human resilience and capacity for complexity, a life rich with meaning and depth.
PARTNERSHIP AND PARENTHOOD
Before he met Emily, in late 2013, Rob Raub led a fairly regimented life. He worked as a software project manager at 3M and trained for marathons and triathlons like it was a part-time job. His social circle was mostly other endurance athletes who obsessed about shaving seconds off their race times and curtailed late nights out to be fresh for 5 a.m. workouts.