You can imagine how interesting our conversation went as I struggled with my Swedish language and Anita with her English. She was impressed that I understood (and could interpret to English) the few lines that I'd read to her from a book written in Swedish. In subsequent years we spoke in Swedish only as my command of the language had improved but at 80+ she cherished the challenge to always impress with her English. She spoke well of her English teacher.
Anita was a jovial old lady. She radiated warmth and gladness in her family and to the people that she knew. She was a good and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She had a good heart, was compassionate and always wanted everyone to be happy. This was not just in her old age. As I understood it, that was her life-that everyone that she knew or got acquainted with should be happy.
While she was alive, Anita and her equally wonderful living 86 year-old husband Rune Westlund prayed for their entire family every morning at the breakfast table. They are philanthropists and they support homeless people in their local council. Through their life-long dedicated involvement in church activities, they accommodated foreigners in their home and helped them to settle to life in Sweden. They are also paying for the school fees of a certain adopted child living in India. They longed for the good of all and to see smiles on faces of other people. Last year, they won an award for their seflless service to humanity.
It came to us as a rude shock when Anita was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer of the liver on the 11th of July 2008. Three months ago at the ripe age of 84, Anita could still ride her bicycle to the shopping mall and she could walk briskly to the swimming hall for her swimming exercises. No one could have suspected that she was living with such an illness because she was looking healthy and vibrant as usual until when she took ill at the end of June.
Anita took her situation in good fate and she cracked wonderful jokes until the last day that she lived on earth. She spent the last 2 weeks of July visiting her entire family both near and far. As the end approached, she did everything that she wanted to do-travelling, talking, laughing, eating good food, drinking wine and most of all-giving.
When the phone rang so early at 0844am on Sunday the 10th of August 2008, the only thing on my mind was "Anita may be dead". So it turned out to be. Five minutes before the phone rang; I'd woken up partially but still lying on the bed and having Anita on my mind. Some of the moments we spent together were being relayed in my mind and then the news of her death revealed to me that I was very well connected to her. She was the great-grandmother to my daughter but she also treated me as one of her grandchildren.
I'm going to miss Anita just the same way that I'd missed my biological grandparents in Nigeria. One of my Christmas presents this year will not read "From Rune and Anita". It will most likely read "From Rune". During her farewell visit to us on the 21st of July, she wanted us to remember her and all the good times we had together. Surely, I will never forget you Anita. It will not be because your name will be missing from the Christmas and birthday gifts. I will miss you because you were a wonderful person. I will miss you because you showed me love as much as you did to your children. Far away from home, I felt very special because of you.
I cannot write everything about your life history but I know that you came into this world on the 30th of May 1924. I know some of your views about life. I've heard very exciting and wonderful stories about you. I know that one of your main characteristics was openness of mind and heart. You were not afraid of what you didn't know like many other people are. It was your open heart that made you and your husband such great friends and helpers of the immigrants in Sandviken, Sweden. I am very sure that the Burmese refugees in Sandviken will never forget you as well.
You completed your race and journey the best way possible. I completely understand and respect your wish not to make this journey again because I can only imagine the pain when you made that comment just 48 hours to the end of the race. You will always be in my heart.
Rest in peace Anita!