Ellen Marie Lundevall-Dawson
Lanexa, Va. — How do parents who lose a child put the words together to let people know who she was as a person and what she taught us? It isn't all their accomplishments that make them special.
On Father's Day, June 15, 2014, Ellen Marie Lundevall-Dawson died in Lanexa, Va. at her home with her husband at her side.
She was born Aug. 11, 1967, in Rockland to John Karl Lundevall and Priscilla A. Skinner Lundevall. She was the wife of Christopher E. Dawson, a sister to John K. Lundevall Jr. of La Nesta, Calif. and Kristi A. Lundevall Wyllie of Warren, and a special aunt to Megan A. Wyllie of Medford, Mass, in college.
Ellen was in control of her life, career and everything else before she was even born. She refused to come into the world until our doctor left his sailboat in Camden Harbor, where he was ready to have lunch, arrived and then she arrived at 12:01 p.m. He then could leave and finish his lunch.
When they put this chubby little infant in my arms, she had a head full of black hair, combed into a pompadour on top. She weighed 8 pounds and was 21-inches long. Her hair was her pride and joy all during her life.
Ellen was a feisty, determined, courageous, strong-willed, curious young child and she stayed that way right to the end. Her dad often wondered why I wanted another child, we had a son and a daughter. I said I wanted a soft gentle Shetland pony and we got a wild stallion. She was her own person, no frills, "what you saw is what you got."
She had a foot problem like my other two children and refused to wear orthopedic shoes. She was always burying them in the sandbox, growing them in the garden or tying them on the tree house. We had to warn the neighbors if they found any shoes they were Ellie's. We thought everything would change, but knowing Ellie, she would solve the problem, she refused to wear any shoes at all. So, she stayed barefooted until the first snowfall. So, then everyone called her a member of the Blackfoot Tribe. She ended up with bad feet (can you wonder why?). Another controlled situation.
Then she skipped school 42 times and I never knew it. They didn't let me know. She had learned to write my name better than me. She was the only student that had more sickness, more family members to die, more teeth appointments. Well she did get caught; her friend and her ordered pizza to be delivered to their room (indoor suspension) and the teachers got pizza to eat.
It took forever to get her confirmed in the Episcopal church. She always lost her way from home to church. She had more classes than the Bishop. Her priest was so exhausted and disappointed in her, that he put her confirmation papers in our mailbox.
She graduated from Rockland High School in 1985 and went off to college in Southern Maine. Still being in control and goofing off, her brother called her and she went to Norfolk, Va. and eventually went to Old Dominion College in Norfolk and graduated in 1994 with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. After that she went to work for Parsons and Brinckerhoff in Norfolk as a project manager for 10 years. She later passed her professional engineering license. Then she moved onto the Department of Transportation in Norfolk and Williamsburg, Va.
Here was Ellen with her life all mapped out. A great job, which she liked and was happy because she could travel, her two dogs, and a home. Then she met Christopher Dawson and her life turned upside down. A science teacher and single. She never saw marriage in her future and then she couldn't see life without him. They married Oct. 10, 2010 at 10 a.m. in the First Settlers Church in Jamestown, Va. Then here she was now, a home for two, two dogs became four, jobs, flower and vegetable gardens, hikes, backpacking, kayaking, etc. With what was in her future, not knowing, he was incredible and he was her best friend and made her laugh everyday.
In August 2011, Ellen was diagnosed with Metastatic Malignant Melanoma. She went to Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center at the University of Virginia. She had her lymph nodes removed under her right arm and went under radiation at the site. Her PET scan showed activity in the lungs and liver. She finally started Interleukin 2 treatments, grueling shots and it lasted for weeks. Chris and her two best friends, Terri and Agnes, and her sister Kristi were with her 24/7, taking turns. Terri set up a website on Caring Bridges so all of us were kept informed of her progress. She was very sick, but with her courage, strength and determination, she made it through, which took many months. So many days in the hospital and so many days at home. She was told what side effects to expect but, knowing Ellen, she shrugged them off. Those symptoms were for "other people," not her. She wasn't those "other people" and she would bounce back like a Super ball. What a humbling experience for her because she ended up having almost everything on the list.
Her next procedure for her to go through was at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md. for them to grow her cells in a dish, and put them back into her body. First chemo and she cut off her hair herself because she knew she would lose it all anyway. They injected 120 billion TIL cells into her body. There were times we didn't know if she would survive. But she did, showing us again, staying upbeat, courageous, strong, tenacious, tough and more.
After all she had been through for months, she was given two months to live. But what did Ellie do, she went off to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas (the largest melanoma center in the U.S.) hoping something else could be tried. There was none, no more trials, drugs, etc.
I told her it wasn't fair and she said to me, "Mom, all I have done did not help me, but if it helps someone else, I am proud of what I've done and what they have learned from me." Also "what isn't fair, is to see parents holding their babies, and they may never have a childhood, go to school, have their first beau, first kiss and prom, have a career, get married, have a family and live a long life." She told me no regrets, she had great parents, loving siblings, a great niece, one great husband and career (any many, many friends).
Chris was with her 24/7 after taking a leave of absence from teaching. He was incredible during this long ordeal. He was her best friend and could make her laugh and was her rock, picking her up mentally and literally. He showed his strength and courage along with Ellie and he is one person who lived up to his vow of "in sickness and in health. She always was saying, "I love you Chris Dawson."
She will be greatly missed by her mom, her husband, sister Kristi A. Wyllie, husband John and daughter Megan Amanda of Warren; her brother John K. Lundevall Jr. and wife Julie Cheney Lundevall of La Nesta, Calif.; her mother-in-law Elaine Dawson of Williamsburg, Va.; Chris' sister Jenny, husband Randy, children Dawson and Anna; brother Jeff, wife Kay and children Emily and Michael; her godmother Jean Jenkins of Machias; her special cousins, Jolene, Melody and T.J. of Maine; her special friends Agnes, Terri, Lori and Tory; special aunts, Ruth, Maxine, Judy, Carla, Alaide, Nancy and Jackie; special uncles, John, Wayne, Leslie, Fred, Richard, James and Will; many cousins (too many to mention) and Ellie's special dogs G.G., Boo-Boo and Stella, Chloe; and many friends.
She was predeceased by her dad, Chris' dad, Jerry Dawson, grandparents John and Celia Lundevall, Edna Skinner Steeves and John Skinner, godfather "Bud" Jenkins; and special dog Toby.
A special celebration of her life will be held Saturday, June 21 at Nelson Funeral Home, Williamsburg, Va. and a gathering at The Cove after the service for food, drinks and many stories.
After cremation, her ashes will be at Seven Tree Pond, Wyllie's cottage, where Ellie went for 23 summers and also will go with ashes mixed with her dad, at a later date and there will be a celebration of her life.
This was Ellie, a free spirit, love for all and many lives were touched by her presence. Love and memories of her will help us heal and we will never forget how she taught us to love, have courage, and strength to deal with whatever happens in our lives. Her suffering is over and she is in a much better place. She may not be here in body, but she will always be in our hearts and mind.
In lieu of flowers, make contributions in her memory to the Melanoma Research Foundation, to your Humane Society, the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge of NIH, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814
The sun is a beautiful thing. It keeps us warm, lifts our spirits, helps our food and plants to grow, but it is also a killer. That tan doesn't make us look beautiful or healthy. Ellie's doctor told her that a sun burn, even before age 2, can turn into melanoma. God speed Ellie and Dad is waiting. Don't forget your cards and cribbage board. She learned from her Dad, life deals you a hand of cards and you either fold or play them. Ellie was a player to the end. She won the battle, but lost the war.