A Valentine’s Day Tribute


A woman who changed my life died this week.

My husband’s grandmother was 92 years old when she drew her final breath. The last several years of her life, Herdis was confined to her home and later nursing home because of chronic health and pain problems, but she kept her mental clarity almost until the end.

She lived a simple life, and spent much of it alone in a small one-bedroom apartment. She worked briefly during her youth, mostly as help in private households and shops, but worldly distinctions and riches were never her lot. Then again, she didn’t strive for those anyway. Partly because of her mother’s childhood poverty, Herdis thought more about achieving universal equality than acquiring personal wealth.

To most people, Herdis is just another kind old sick person who finally died.

To me, however, she is a big part of who I am.

See, Herdis is one of the major reasons I became a writer. Her stories about life as a young woman in German-occupied Denmark during World War II captivated me.

Someone ought to write about this, I remember thinking.

And later: Maybe that someone ought to be me.

Almost seven years ago, I embarked on the project I still call The Big Book. It’s fiction, but it does take place in Denmark during the Second World War.

It’s nowhere near done, by the way. Fairly early on, I realized I needed to develop my writing skills significantly before The Big Book became something worth reading.

One day, I hope to finish The Big Book. Maybe it will be my crowning masterpiece. In the meantime, I write novel after novel, hoping I’m improving with every painful page.

Writing has changed my life. It infuses me with more anxiety and joy than I can sometimes handle. By now, writing is tied to my identity. If someone forcibly stripped me of the title Writer – the title I’ve finally dared adopt – I would feel lost. Useless, even.

In other words, Herdis didn’t only point me to writing: she helped shape my identity. She changed my life.

During the past few years, Herdis harbored one main desire: to leave this life. Day after day after day of miserable pain, of spending all day in bed with closed eyes, of waiting for sleep that doesn’t refresh…it’s demoralizing, to say the least. And because her health declined even further in the past few weeks, her whole family has prayed and fasted that her desire would finally be granted.

On Saturday, three days before Herdis passed, I spent some time in the temple, praying for and thinking about her. It was a very special time, and I brimmed with gratitude for this woman who means so much to me. Even as I prayed for her healthy heart to stop beating, I wanted her there with me.

I will miss her warm, caring way. I will miss her food, especially her Danske bøffer and apelsinfromage.

And oh, how I will miss her stories.

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” (Alma 37:6)

And now a personal message to Herdis:

Tillykke med Valentinsdag! – Grattis på Alla Hjärtans Dag! – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thank you. I love you. I wish I could have given you one last hug.

Also, please help me finish The Big Book someday. I already know who to dedicate it to.


  1. What a beautiful tribute, Angelica. I know you and Jonas will miss her. I know you’ll finish The Big Book. :)

  2. Jonas Hagman says:

    Tack – det här var väldigt vackert och den bästa Valentines gåvan!!

  3. Hej Angelica!
    Jag är glad och rörd över att Eivor lät mig läsa detta!
    Det är värdefullt för henne att veta att hennes mamma betytt/betyder så mycket för dig!
    Lycka till med boken, jag vill ha ett signerat exemplar!

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