Name at birth: Lennart Ekstrand Date of birth: 10/2/1933 Place of birth: Stockholm, Sweden Date of death: 26/11/1995 Place of death: Stockholm, Sweden Place of burial: Memorial site (Minneslunden), Kungsholms kyrka, Stockholm, Sweden
Submitted by: Maria L. Ekstrand (MEkstrand@gmail.com)
It was very hard for my father to tell me that he had received a terminal diagnosis. One of his favorite sayings was: “Nothing is impossible”. Yet in September of 1995, he had to admit that, this time, that was not the case. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer 9 months earlier, gone through surgery and had been told that there was no trace of his cancer, when he suddenly developed pneumonia and had to be admitted to the hospital. They found the tumor in his remaining lung during that visit. Characteristically, my father’s first response was “OK, let’s remove it too”. It was not until his doctors told him that it would be impossible to perform any additional surgery that he resigned himself to his prognosis. I have never heard him sound so sad, or so resigned, before in my life. His voice broke as he told me that what hurt him the most was that he would not get to watch his five grandchildren grow up. After about two months of home hospice care, provided primarily by my mother, Berit Ekstrand, he died in the morning of Sunday, November 26, holding the hand of the woman he had loved for more than 41 years.
My dad grew up in the 30s and 40s in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the fourth of six siblings and the first extrovert in the family. He had an irrepressible optimism, sometimes reminiscent of the “Bobo doll” that gets back up, however hard the children hit it. He always managed to see opportunities and challenges, where other people saw only problems and hopelessness. Many liked to come and tell him their problems. Even if he couldn’t solve them, he always managed to give people some hope. What a great gift!
He also had a great sense of humor and laughed just as much at his own idiosyncracies as at those of others. He forced me to learn how to laugh at myself, not an easy task, especially during my teens, when I had the tendency to take myself way too seriously. It wasn’t that he made fun of us. Quite the opposite, he was a great supporter and cheer leader for both my sister and I. He always taught us to believe in ourselves, to think critically and to trust our “guts” and our brains. His sense of humor just followed from his positive outlook on life. It was so contagious that people loved to be around him.
My father’s ashes were scattered in the “Minneslund” (a park- like memorial site) of Kungsholms kyrka (church) near the all the sites he loved and where he grew up, played and went to school. He never wanted a grave, because he didn’t want family members to have to feel bound to visit and to maintain it. He used to say “If you want to remember me, just look at a picture. You can take that with you anywhere”. I don’t know where he is right now, but his ashes are in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I look forward to going back and visiting it to think about my dad, meditate and to admire the scenery. If I were there now I would say:
The world feels like a much darker and emptier place without you. I would give anything to see you again, or even to be able to call you on the phone and discuss our days, or the world’s problems. Even though we often didn’t agree on topics such as religion or politics, it never mattered. We both knew that those topics were not part of the glue that kept us together. I loved you and respected you as a person and I felt the same unconditional love and respect coming from you. You helped me keep things in perspective and you taught me how to be a compassionate person.
I will never forget the last time I saw you, standing on your balcony and waving goodbye. I had to return to San Francisco the next day and we both knew it would be the last time we ever saw each other. To this day I don’t know how I managed to get into the car and drive away.
I am so very grateful for the years we had, everything you taught me, and all you were to Jessica, Matthew and I. We miss you terribly!
Love forever, Maria