She took my little hand in hers and before I knew what was happening we were skipping ... right down the center of a busy mall! She was so happy and free and didn't care that everyone was looking at us. When I think of my sweet Grammie, Suzanne Marie Hagen, memories like this one flood my heart and mind. How can my words give tribute to a true lady and the Grammie that I called: "My Kindred Spirit"?
She used to play for hours with us, and everything was fun of childhood wonder and magic when she was there! The old green shaggy carpet-covered stairs became a railroad car as we went of journeys far into the countryside. The bathtub became a beauty parlor where we were transformed into princesses and Grammie would style the billowy bubbles into gorgeous gowns with puffed sleeves. Because of course every princess needs puffed sleeves when going to a formal ball!
She would read to us on the cozy white couch and the stories of Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and the Three Little Kittens came to life with her perfect story-telling voice. On slumber party nights we would snuggle under the sweetest smelling sheets (which she had hung to dry) as she would sing to us songs that will stay in my memory forever: "Sweetest Little Fella", "I've Been Working on the Railroad", "Would you Like to Swing on a Star", and "Sleep Kentucky Babe". I can still see her graceful silhouette in the nursery doorway as she sang "just one more song" until we drifted off to dreamland.
All of us Grandkids used to play for hours in the summer in the little creek that still runs along the back of Grampy and Grammie's house. We would fish for crawdads and pan for gold. More than once I have to admit that I "accidentally" slipped into the water so that I would get an extra bath and Grammie would let me wear one of Grampy's soft white T-shirts. I loved those shirts so much that one Christmas Eve Grammie took one and decorated it with coral lace and little flowers. I wore it as a night shirt and still have it in my hope chest.
Grammie and Grampy's house was the embodiment of Christmas Eve to me. Every year Grammie would be there to open the door in her long shirt and delicate lace top. She always looked like the perfect lady and hostess. Every corner of the house would be decorated: the glowing Christmas tree (that was always perfect to lay under and see the lights), the white angel choir peeking over the brick wall, the many nativity scenes and even the mischievous looking elves behind the tree. We would enjoy a meal of Swedish meatball and shrimp curry with white rice and soft dinner rolls. I can still hear my Grampy saying the blessing in Norwegian. After dinner us kids would scurry around finding sheets and towels to use as costumes for our Christmas skit. Grammie always wanted to sing carols and I can almost see her face with tears glistening on her cheeks as we ended with "Silent Night" every year...
Grammie used to take me on birthday shopping trips (which began because I disliked shoes!) we would shop and Grammie would make me feel so grown up. Over lunch we would talk about anything and everything. She gave me dating advise, and told me stories of when Grampy and her fell in love. We talked about books and the Bible and faith. I'll never forget how she made a grumpy lady at Payless shoes smile and laugh one day. When we went to the car she told me that she tries to never judge people who may be cross or gumpy because you never know what they might be going through. She said that she always tries to make the sad people smile. Every time she heard a siren she would stop and pray for the people involved. She has such intense compassion and kindness.
I was so blessed that my Farmer Boy and I had the privilege of living in her lovely home with her over the past three years. She told me over and over how happy she was that we had each other and she adored my Joshua so much. We spent hours singing hymns and watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune with her. Grammie and I sang in the Senior Singers choir, and went everywhere together. I will never regret those three years spent with Grammie. I learned such valuable lessons, and was challenged and inspired by walking by her side while she made this last journey through life on earth.
No matter how "ready" someone is to go to heaven, it just doesn't seem right to say good-bye. No matter how much you want them to be free, you don't stop wanting to hold them for one more moment. Grammie passed into the everlasting arms of her Savior on July 13, 2013. She was 87 years old. Those last 23 hours will be in my mind forever. They were sacred moments.
Even now over a month later I find myself wanting to write her a letter or call her up, I can't get used to her not being with me after spending those three years almost inseparable. I miss laughing with her until we both cried, I miss singing with her "You'll never walk alone" while we got ready for bed, I miss making strong strong coffee for her and watching her take that first sip, I miss baking lemon squares and hearing her joke about eating them all herself, I miss her stories and quotes, I miss watching the birds with her ...
But I know I'll see her again. And maybe, just maybe she'll take my hand in hers and we'll skip together down the streets of Heaven.