Lillian Svensson’s Story



Coquitlam resident Lillian Svensson has spent the majority of her life caring for others. As a stay-at-home mom, she raised three children – Gregory, Christine, and Steven. When they were grown, she worked as a Community Health Worker for Fraser Health and volunteered with Crossroad Hospice in Coquitlam. In retirement, she volunteers at the Adult Day Program at Hawthorne Seniors Care Community in Port Coquitlam.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people,”,’ says Lilian. “The people you care for teach you a lot.”

In 2012, Lillian had to care for her husband John, who was suffering from emphysema and pulmonary hypertension. Hailing from Denmark, John had been a mechanic for the Royal Danish Air Force. After immigrating to Canada, he learned English by watching television and worked as a maritime mechanic. “He was always good with his hands,” Lillian recalls. “He built our first complete stereo from scratch, including the tuner and speakers. John could fix anything.”

John received treatment at Royal Columbian Hospital. Lillian credits the care he received there with extending his life. “He lived a year longer than he was expected to,” she says. “The nurses and doctors were excellent.” Sadly, John passed away on August 10th at the age of 75. Lillian was dealt another blow in 2016 when her son Steven was diagnosed with lymphoma at just 34. “Steven had a heart of gold,” says Lillian. “He adored his nieces and nephews.” He also had a talent for building and a sense of humour, both inherited from his father. “The two of them would laugh at the stupidest things,” Lillian remembers with a smile.

Steven was also cared for at Royal Columbian. Neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Lee discovered that he had six tumours on his spine. Lillian was crushed when Steven Passed away a week before his 35th birthday. “Part of my life ended when my son died,” she says. Rather than bitterness at two great losses, Lillian feels gratitude for the care John and Steven received. “I appreciate what RCH did. I can’t say thank you enough.”

When it was time to write her Will, Lillian wanted to express her gratitude with a gift to Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation. “I can’t give much in life,” she says, “but I can leave a legacy. I saw the care that was afforded to my family and it meant a lot to me. This is my way of saying thank you.” She continues, “I also don’t need much in life. But I want to know that after I’m gone, I’m still making a difference. I feel so positive knowing I’m leaving a legacy.” Lillian feels the act of giving helps with her grief. “Giving back helps to ease the pain,” says Lilian. “It gives me inner strength.”
So does caring for others. Lillian knows that because she has experienced loss, she has greater empathy for others. “You have to go through adversity. We are all on life’s journey. It helps to realize you’re not alone.”

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