I have lived on signs… and impulses…

Many years ago, in 1998/1999 I wrote a book about a group of artists, living in a block of old buildings in Stockholm, Sweden.

They were mostly painters and musicians, born between 1907 – 1930, and they lived there because they wanted to be with like minded people that they could share company with, and they all wanted to continue working.

They practiced on their pianos, they went to their ateliers if they had one, or stayed at home and painted and painted. They had one thing in common as they grew older, and that was that they had very little understanding for their bodies, when it let them down.

I am there now, as I have turned 70. I have a very strong desire to write, but everything goes slower and slower. The Pandemic, and not being able to travel and meet like minded people has not helped at all.

One can say that I have lived on and been inspired by signs and impulses, sometimes from posts in the AIDS Memorial, and from sudden messages.

Some of you, who have read things I have written here before, may remember a piece called ”There was a man called John…” and a piece I called ”Ashes”.

I wrote about John LoCoco, and about a tile I have placed at the Commemorative Wall & Fountain in Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco, in memory of John and everyone I met in San Francisco that have died of AIDS.


One of the people I wrote about in ”Ashes” was Charles, a public spokesperson that I met at The AIDS Project of the East Bay in Oakland in 1987.

After his death, in 1989, I got in touch with his mother, and when I asked where he is buried, she told me he wasn´t buried, that she saved his ashes, so they could be buried together.

I recently found out that she has passed away, so I tried to contact the family through the Funeral Home to send my condolences, and ask if they are now buried together, Charles and his mother, after all these years. But I received no answer, and thought that I may never know what happened.

But, suddenly, I received two messages at the same time.

A relative of John LoCoco´s had been thinking about him for several days, and in the end she just wrote his name on the Internet, and found my text about him. Not the interview and all, (that is yet to come), only about how we had met in San Francisco and about Most Holy Redeemer.

She was very pleased to find him here, and wrote that John was much loved by the family and that they all miss him. The family was very pleased to hear about our contact, and we will be in touch again.

The other mail came from a brother of Charles.

As he was going through his mother´s papers, he found one of my letters. We had lost contact, but I kept on writing, and was in the process of sending her a new letter, when I found out that she had passed away.  It seems like the family had not seen the condolences I had sent through the Funeral Home.

He told me that she passed away in 2020, at 93 years of age, from Covid-19.

I sent him the piece I had written about ”Ashes”, where this photo of Charles is shown. He wrote back and told me that it was taken in 1987 when Charles was visiting, and that their mother always kept that photo displayed in her dining room until she passed away.

And, he could tell me that Charles is now buried beside his mother and father.

It feels peaceful, and I am most grateful for the messages.


I have written a lot on impulses, but I will write more in a chronological order from now on, as I have a lot of notes and much to tell.

This is a new beginning, and I hope some people will follow my work.

I have previously written about my work in Sweden, about some tough meetings in New York City, and some about what happened when I arrived in San Francisco. I will start somewhere there.

Let me add something!

When the brother of Charles, contacted me, I was very excited and I contacted a friend in San Francisco. We had been communicating about Charles and the ashes, and the fact that I may never know.

But now I knew, so I was very pleased and wrote to her. But she wrote back that she couldn´t answer, because she was sitting with a friend of hers that had died.

  • I´m sitting here with Irene…

A few days later I found out that it was Irene Smith, that I had once interviewed in San Francisco.

I had seen an article about her in a magazine, in 1986 or 1987.

I have found a (blurry) photo from that time.

She had been a drug addict who had turned her life around, and was one of the few people that touched people with AIDS.  She volunteered at San Francisco General Hospital.

I really wanted to meet her, and Dr Elisabeth Kübler Ross (that I was in contact with after the death of my mother), who was a close friend of Irene arranged for me to see her in San Francisco. We met in her  apartment.

She was dressed in white, and everything around her was white, She offered me water to drink.

The only words I can think about are serene… serenity.

She told me about how she touched the sick and the dying, and how she related to them.

I have moved a lot, and at the moment I can not find her interview, but when I do, I will write more.

I understand that she passed away in the apartment where I met her, surrounded by people that helped her on her way, as she had helped so many others.

Here is her story:



















Författare: Pia-Kristina Garde

Born 1951, in Stockholm. Actress, author and libraryassistent. Retired from all, but Writing. In 1977 I published two books, one of them was a lay persons book on dying patients at a hospital in Stockholm, and at S:t Christopher´s Hospice, outside London. I have since then written one book about survivors from the concentration camps that came to Sweden in 1945, and several books about a Swedish author, Karin Boye (1900-1941).