I have one grandparent still living. The other three plus one step- grandma have gone to be with Jesus years ago. Lately, all of them have been on my mind and heart. I find myself weeping over how much I miss them, and remembering the things that made each of them unique and precious to me. I've also been sitting back and watching my siblings have children, watching as my parents become grandparents, watching how my nieces and nephews interact with my parents - and longing for our children to be part of this family soon. Here are some of the things that stand out in my memory about my grandparents who have gone before me to heaven:
Grandpa - my mama's dad. He had a fun and unique sense of humor - always making jokes. He and my Grandma Edith always came to visit us and never failed to bring a bug box of doughnuts. He was my first grandparent to pass away and sometimes I feel scared that I will forget the sound of his voice, the way he smiled, the way his eyes twinkled when he joked with my mom. He loved his children and grandchildren and was always ready with a hug. My favorite thing he used to do was go to orchards in Eastern Washington and ask the farmers if he could glean the leftover fruit at the end of the season. Then he would load up his orange Dodge truck and bring boxes and boxes of fresh apples, peaches, tomatoes, cherries, apricots to us. I remember eating the best apple I have ever had when I was about 11 years old - it was pink inside and deep red outside, and I loved my Grandpa for bringing it to me! I edited (and produced!) a family newspaper called "The Hagen Herald" when I was about 12 to 14. Grandpa loved getting his monthly edition and he would send me fun facts and articles that I could use in the paper. I looked forward to every envelope addressed: "To the editor of the Hagen Herald". I don't know if I appreciated his individual attention as much as I should have at the time - I was shy and sometimes his jovial joking intimidated me. But he found a way to reach out to me through encouraging my writing. I'll always remember his eyes that were perpetually laughing. I see him when I look at my brother Nathanael - who ended up with Grandpa's eyes. Grandpa had gone through a lot in his life and made some big mistakes, but I never questioned his belief in God.
Grampy - daddy's dad. My Grampy was a gentleman. I always remember him being so gentle and quiet - washing dishes in the kitchen on Christmas Eve. I remember that once he let me help mow the lawn (with an old fashioned push mower!) - I felt so very proud to be "helping". My cousin William and I used to put on his big work boots. I loved seeing his art studio in the basement (the same basement that is now my home!). I can still see him playing the harmonica his hands and mouth working together perfectly to make the cheerful yet melancholy tunes. I remember him praying in Norwegian to bless our holiday meals. I watched him bounce my little sister and brothers on his knee singing "Ride a Little Pony through the town" in Norwegian. When I was in my mid teens I remember one Christmas Eve I wore a cream floral dress and for some reason I was feeling unsure of myself and self-conscious. I wanted to be a lovely lady - but that awkward teen thing hit me hard. As we got ready to leave I went over to the white sofa that Grampy was sitting on and kissed him good-bye. He took my hands in his and said: "You look pretty tonight", then paused and said: "beautiful". It's the first time I remember being called beautiful as a young woman, and I think somehow Grampy knew that I wanted to be more grown up than just "pretty". I know that Grampy believed in God even though he wasn't a deeply religious man. He knew that Jesus was the way and I think he spent a lot of his last days seeking what he had believed in his youth - as I sang softly to him as he lay dying I saw the peace that only Jesus can bring in his face, and I believe he found what he was looking for.
Grandma - mama's mom. Grandma lived upstairs from us in the first childhood home that I have clear memories of. We lived in the basement. I remember going upstairs and eating sugared cereal (which was taboo in our granola only household ;) ) I loved her children's records and watching things like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with her. She loved root beer floats and sugar free chocolate. Once I spent an afternoon visiting her and we made Christmas tree ornaments using foam balls and glittery sequins and pins and ribbon. She taught me how to cross stitch and I remember her and mama talking about making Easter dresses and my hot pink overalls - I had such wonderful seamstresses in my life! She loved her grandchildren and I remember looking at her long hallway and seeing pictures us kids had drawn for her - we felt famous being on her wall! I became her caregiver when she needed someone to be with her as she struggled with memory loss. Those years were a deep blessing even when it was hard at times. She had such great stories of her childhood that she shared with me. She deeply loved music and was always sure to listen to hymns on Sunday. She and I would watch Ballet and Opera. Once she fell beside the bed and she wasn't hurt but neither of us could get her back on her feet. I called 911 and then sat down on the floor beside her and we just laughed and laughed that the firemen were coming to help pick her up. Living with her was a changing time in my life; for the first time I was "on my own" living away from my parents. I enjoyed cooking for her and she always loved what I made. Grandma had a faith in God that I would call childlike - she knew he loved her and she accepted what He had done for her. Even though her life held some heart break she had faith.
Grandma Edith - mama's step mother. For my whole life Grandma Edith belonged with Grandpa. She was always by his side. I remember how she would always bring sugar free pink chewing gum and give it to my little sister who loved it. She was always cheerful yet quiet. She always seemed like such an adventurer as she traveled with Grandpa and she had a cute little cap that she would wear. Her hair was pink and I always thought that was pretty cool. When Grandpa died I felt like I needed to help take care of Grandma Edith and I went and spent a couple weeks with her one summer. I helped her with the garden and she was so loving to me. I remember going to the grocery store with her and all the yummy food she had for us to eat! Grandma Edith and I would write letters and cards back and forth and in those letters we talked about all kinds of things and especially we talked about God. Her faith was evident in what she wrote. She was lonely missing my Grandpa - and I was so grieved to have him gone. I think we comforted each other through those letters and I will always treasure them and her.
All of these grandparents have gone before - and I miss each of them at time so deeply it takes my breath away. Our time on this earth is fleeting - and I just wonder what those who come after me will remember about my life? I want to leave a beautiful legacy like my grandparents have left for me.