One year ago today I lost a dear friend when Marit Greve, Odd Nansen’s eldest child, passed away in her sleep, age 92. Marit was a such a delightful person. Quite apart from the immense help she provided me while I was editing Odd Nansen’s WWII concentration camp diary, the Marit I came to know was smart and funny, low-key about her famous father and grandfather, diplomatic at times, and at others unafraid to say exactly what was on her mind.
I still cherish my visits to Norway, beginning in 2011, and her two trips to America as my houseguest. Our very first meeting was at Polhøgda, the home built by Fridtjof Nansen. It was later occupied by Odd Nansen and his family until after WWII, when Odd constructed his own home nearby (which I’ve written about here). After a tour of Fridtjof’s famous home, my wife Tara and I sat outside with Marit and I quizzed her with countless questions. We had been told that Norwegians could be very formal and reserved, especially with strangers, so we were surprised when Marit then invited us back to her own home, located close by. She showed me a photo taken of the Nansen family upon her father’s return from captivity in the summer of 1945. When I gushed over it, Marit simply removed it from the frame it was in and handed the picture to me—she was that kind of person. [The photo can be found on page 567 of From Day to Day]. Each succeeding trip to Norway showcased her hospitality, her patience (with my unending questions) and her charm. Each one was a delight.
During my research on all things Nansen, I once came across a passage that Fridtjof Nansen had written while aboard the Fram during his polar expedition, on the subject of death. Here is how he envisioned it:
“It will come one day vast and silent, opening the heavy portal of Nirvana, and you will be washed away on the sea of eternity.”
It is comforting to think that your grandfather’s vision is correct, Marit. Until I too am washed away on the sea of eternity I will continue to miss you.