For My Grandma

Dear Ryder,

Today, January 13 2014, was the last day you will see your great grandmother.

Like me, you will have no memories of your great grandmother or great grandfather.

So let me tell you about her.

She was born in Utah to Petersens—descendants of LDS pioneers who migrated from Denmark to the United States.

Her childhood was described to me as difficult—besides working on a farm raising turkeys, as the oldest of nine children, she was a surrogate mother to so many that she was ready to leave home when the opportunity presented itself. That opportunity was my grandpa, 21 years old to her almost 16 when they married.

They settled in Magna, home to the Utah copper mine.

old family hansen

She and grandpa had very traditional roles. He was a hard-working blue collar miner who loved country music. She kept an immaculate house, sewed, cooked, and raised 5 children. After the children were raised she and grandpa continued their LDS service, from serving a proselyting mission in Texas to working in the temple.

Everything didn’t come easy for my grandma. At times she struggled with debilitating physical and mental pain. Her arthritis eventually made it impossible for her to use her hands. And the loss of her husband five years ago she never fully recovered from. She spent much of the last few years so lonely from missing him..

But that doesn’t tell you who grandma was, really. Those are just the facts of her life.

Vonda Hansen had a truly kind heart. There wasn’t sharpness in her. You’ll learn that there aren’t many people in the world like that.

When she came to your baby blessing when you were two and a half months old, she said to me, “He is such a blessing.” And I know she saw children that way.


family photo blessing

Her final words to me were about you. She said, “I love Ryder so much. He is such a special boy.”

grandma and debbie

grandma hansen

That was grandma. She was the kind of person who could make every person feel equally special and loved. Everyone thought they were grandma’s favorite.

She truly did love your father. I think he reminded her of grandpa, who was a larrikin too. She said Jacob was just who she would have picked for me. Jacob teased her about cheating in dominoes, and it became their joke that she remembered even on her deathbed.

When she saw me she said, “Where are you off to next?” She always said that her dream destination was Israel. She was able to visit London with my dad—her one big overseas trip of her life.

Your grandpa loved his mother very much. He was her baby and he has gone to visit her as often as he could from Texas. I know that her loss he will feel deeply especially since his father is already gone.

Much of my grandma’s life in the last few years was spent in and out of hospitals. When I would visit her, I would sing to her. She came to my senior recital in college.

At one point during these visits I told her that she and grandpa’s relationship was an example to me of older love, what I would love to have one day.

They looked after each other. They were everything to each other. When grandpa died of Alzheimer’s, I never had a conversation with grandma where she didn’t start on the subject of what a horrible disease that was. She was never the same without him. She is going to be with him now, and that’s what I know we are all remembering in this difficult time of saying goodbye to someone who’s been such a solid and loving part of our lives for so long.

You were there, Ryder, playing with Cole, my cousin’s son, and Elayna, your cousin. You gave grandma a kiss on her hand goodbye.

You were a light in the room, one proof of grandma’s contribution to the world, the gift of life that continues on.


Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 371 awesome articles for us.

Previous post:

Next post: