As a loving wife she was always there for Joe. She worried often about the demands of his job and the tough schedule he kept in order to be an advocate for the children and the youth of Contra Costa County. Frequently, Elin would attend the evening events with Joe. She was always willing to share her opinion with him on an array of issues. And as Joe said, “Her comments were welcomed – most of the time …”
As a parent, Elin was always willing to go the extra mile for her two sons, Bjorn and Jon. At Halloween she would make the best costumes for the boys. She calmly gave advice and would have special moments with her sons on a regular basis. One year she attended over 275 baseball games – school and summer games of both of her boys and her much loved SF Giants.
Even as adults Bjorn and Jon would talk with their mom almost daily - often long conversations on the phone.
Marissa and Robin, her two daughter-in-laws, had a special relationship with Elin. She graciously welcomed them into her family.
She truly loved her grandchildren and was so pleased to be alive long enough to see them, hold them and be part of their young lives. The last several months of Elin’s life were particularly difficult and it was a delight for me to see the change in Elin when her grandchildren were brought to see her. Her eyes would brighten and she would have a beaming smile. She was very proud, and rightly so, of a wonderful book she made for them about her childhood and her life. I know that book will be treasured by them.
She enjoyed entertaining guests at her and Joe’s home. Before she became too ill she and Joe would host small dinner parties. She also thoroughly enjoyed their cabin at Blue Lake Springs. She made the cabin a special place for family and friends. At home or at the cabin she was happy if she could cook for family and friends … her specialties included lefsa, crab cioppino (chip-ee-no), and créme brulee.
Elin had a great sense of humor. It would often catch people off guard because they were not expecting it. On her first date with Joe she asked him if he could place the entire box of Jujube’s in his mouth. It left Joe speechless, and Elin laughing at his willingness to attempt it.
Elin was comfortable with her spirituality and she felt safe as she was transitioning from this life to the next. As you know, she had a long battle with cancer and not too long before she died I was talking to her and she said she was tired and it was ok to die and she said, “I’ll be safe.” Elin fought an amazing battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with lung cancer 4 1/2 years ago and given 2 to 3 years to live. To meet her for the first time you would probably not know the level of determination and strength she had. She underwent 10 different types of chemo therapy, received radiation treatment to her lungs and brain and underwent what is called the “cyber knife” procedure. She was truly remarkable, and as her friend Paul Bonnar said to me, “she never gave up, but she did become at Peace with her illness.”
Let me conclude by saying that for me I will always think of Elin as a teacher - teaching me, teaching all of us, about love of family and friends and life. Teaching about how the loving support of others can enable one to live a life of integrity and grace, and how your ability to love others is all part of that process. She taught about the unpredictable nature of this life we live and that many times it is terribly unfair. It was unfair she got cancer. But she taught me you go on. She had a difficult struggle with pain and discouragement. But she went on. Many times when I would visit with her there would be lots of tears, but also smiles and laughter. Isn’t that life? She reminded me that to be a good teacher one must be a good student. Elin and Joe have been coming to this church for over 8 years, but almost 2 years ago they decided to be confirmed/received in the Episcopal Church. So we would meet in my office in preparation. At the end of their first meeting they both said where is our homework. I just stared at them and they said, “Bruce … we’re teachers.” She was a student of life and so she taught us much because she faced it head on.
She taught me about faith – that it is never simple or easy. That it is ok to be angry and upset with God and what is happening in your life, and that by being honest and open to all of it one can encounter grace and peace. She taught me about God’s love – God’s love coming to her through all of you and God’s love coming to us through her.
Joe concluded his notes to me about Elin by writing “We will always remember Elin with love.” I agree, and I would simply preface that with, “Elin loved many people and taught us many things and as she said she was loved by many, and so we will always remember her with love.”