This picture of my great grandmother sits on my dresser. When my mother first gave it to me a few years ago, I put it there simply because the frame matched the one holding a family photo and it added a nice aesthetic balance to my bedroom. Lately though, the photo has taken on more meaning.
Ellen Blattman Olsen lived until she was 101. She was a widow for around 50 years and up until a week before her death she lived in her own apartment. Every time I went to visit her, which sadly wasn’t often enough, she remembered who I was even though I was one of many of her great grandchildren. I remember visiting her one time in particular when she was around 98 or 99 and we found her making cookies in anticipation of our visit. It was very difficult for my grandmother to persuade her to sit down and take it easy. The woman wasn’t very good at “taking it easy.” She must have told us “this Christmas will probably be my last” for 20 years, but she just kept on ticking.
Several years before her death, she wrote down her life history and gave one copy to each family. I was a teenager at the time and I remember pouring over the pages and being fascinated. To me, she’d always just been this nice old lady with white hair, but she’d lived a vibrant life growing up in Norway and then moving to the United States after converting to the LDS faith. She endured many trials, but also witnessed many miracles during her life. I remember thinking I would have felt lucky if I’d had only one of her many testimony building experiences.
She passed away February 16th, 2008. I’ve never been to such an enjoyable viewing. The room was filled with tons of pink flowers (pink was her favorite color), making the cold, snowy day feel like spring. Instead of being a somber experience, the evening was truly a celebration of life as the funeral home was filled with laughter and reminiscing relatives.
When we were coming up with names for our first kid, Cooper was the only one that ever seemed to work. We even tried to come up with other names since we feared contention from Noel’s relatives since we knew the name was coveted by more than a few. Still, nothing else fit. He was just supposed to be a Cooper. I’ve felt the same with this baby. Even before the 20 week ultrasound I’d told Noel a couple of times, “We’re going to have a girl and we’re going to name her Ellen.” For whatever reason, she’s supposed to be an Ellen. I honestly can’t think of a better, stronger name with a more inspiring namesake. I can’t wait to see what kind of spunk this new little Ellen brings into our lives.