Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Grandfather - a Testimony

My Grandparents with our family in the mid 1970's (that's me in the yellow dress)

A young girl sits awkwardly at the harmonium in her grandfather's basement.  Her short little legs are barely long enough to reach the foot-pedals.   The smell of stale dust blows out of the dry leather bellows and adds an odd whiff of history to that distinct aroma which always pervades the home of the aged.  The whining drone of the reeds, hauntingly similar to the sound of badly tuned bag pipes, puff out an old Genevan tune that immediately bring a river of tears to her eyes.  She only knows 3 chords but she is ever so thankful to the cousin who showed her how to play them one rainy afternoon.  Those 3 chords opened up a world of opportunity to sing in a church choir of her own making.  Transported by the beauty of the harmonies and the power of the words she is half standing and half sitting on the bench looking as if she is riding a bike far too large for her tiny frame.  Her little legs pedal furiously to keep the music flowing.

"As the hart, about to falter,
In its trembling agony,
Longs for flowing streams of water,
So, O God, I long for Thee.
Yes, athirst for Thee I cry;
God of life, O when shall I
Come again to stand before Thee
In Thy temple, and adore Thee?"

Staying with her grandparents for extended visits had become a usual occurrence.  Her Mother and Father were struggling to keep their marriage together.  Her days at school brought rest from the trauma of a tattered marriage bond however many a late night argument violently woke the children from their peaceful sleep.  They huddled together for comfort in their shared bedrooms, awaiting the storms abatement.  Grandfather wanted the children kept from the chaos as much as possible and provided a calm and quiet place of refuge that ensured  stability for the little girl and her siblings.  His was a home where tea time was always at 10 am, the old grandfather clock was wound with perfect precision every evening at 8 pm, and the Bible was read with the regularity of a rooster's crow.

As the Vox Jubilante belts out the sweet refrain, the little girl sings along with a sorrow too deep for her tender age.  

"Bitter tears of lamentation
Are my food by night and day.
In my deep humiliation
“Where is now your God?” they say.
Oh, my soul’s poured out in me,
When I bring to memory
How the throngs I would assemble,
Shouting praises in Thy temple."

Psalm 42 is her favourite psalm. The words contain her inmost thoughts even though they were written thousands of years before by an adult King in a foreign land.  She too, like David, felt deep humiliation.  All the other families in her tightly knit dutch immigrant community lived normal lives together, going to church twice on Sunday, having happy family dinners where they gathered around the table to read and pray with each other.  But she was not like them.  Her family looked very different.  She did not fit in with all the other little girls who had a warm safe place to sleep at night without a care or worry of what the dark night ahead might hold.  No, she slept with one leg dangling over the edge of the bed and one foot firmly planted on the floor, ready to escape at a moments notice.  How she longed for things to be the way they used to be!

Her breathing begins to become laboured and her body to tire as she feeds the old bellows with enough wind to keep up the sad refrain.  There in her Grandfather's basement as the music drones on, she imagines his gnarled hands lovingly holding his tattered Bible, pages scarred by pencil gashes and red ink.  She recalls how after a quiet lunch of white bread and gouda cheese  he humbly dropped to his knees to pray with her, giving thanks for all his blessings.  His head bowed, hair thin and white with age, he spoke quietly of the faithfulness of his Heavenly Father in his own life and those of the generations before and those yet to come.  His God was a faithful God.  His God was her God. 

"O my soul, why are you grieving,
Why disquieted in me?
Hope in God, your faith retrieving:
He will still your refuge be.
I again shall laud His grace
For the comfort of His face:
He will show His help and favour,
For He is my God and Saviour."

As the words fly from her heart and her voice soars above the groaning pipes, she pedals faster.  The bellows huff and puff, the piccolo joins in, the angels pause for a moment to listen.

"But the LORD will send salvation,
And by day His love provide.
He shall be my exultation,
And my song at eventide.
On His praise e’en in the night
I will ponder with delight,
And in prayer, transcending distance,
Seek the God of my existence."

The little girl lies spent, arms stretched out across the quiet keyboard as the last bits of wind escape like a whisper from the empty bellows.  Her heart is beating fast from so much exertion.  She feels that she is not alone in the quiet basement full of old framed photos and antique cupboards bursting with delicate china handed down from an older generation.  She feels the presence of her grandfather and his grandfather before him who faithfully lived lives that testified to something much greater than themselves.  Their testimony was of a faithful God of the Covenant who sent His own Son to die for us that they all might live.  A Father who makes good things out of bad, strong men out of weak, and Saints out of sinners.  


10 Comments »

10 Responses to “My Grandfather - a Testimony”

Tara said...

I love this Psalm .. it reminds me always of Opa. I especially remember the tea time and Speculaas cookies we got with it! Thanks for sharing your heart Tamara.

rosa veldkamp said...

Okay that made me cry again, even though I already read it. ;D

Nancy-Mom said...

Um, ya, that and the picture from so long ago is enough to make me want to cry as well. Where did you get that picture Tam? I don't have many pictures of mom and dad.

rosa veldkamp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leo Wattel said...

Beautifully written, It to filled my eyes with tears. He was a loving caring grandfather indeed. As I look at your life I see he has never left you to yourself. May the God of Heaven and Earth, OUR GOD be forever praised.

Ineke Huttema said...

0k so like last Friday night when the mens choir sang this psalm I also had tears in my eyes remembering my dad and now seeing this picture and your comments, it brings it closer yet. Thanks Tammy, may the Lord be our comfort for all our days!!!!

momofcrt said...

So many similar memories of Opa. I recently received one of the rug hook owls he made each of his children. My love of playing the organ came from him as well. Love this tribute.

Ruth Van Velzen said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of our wonderful Opa. You sure have a talent with words, my dear cousin. You and Rosa have got to get a storybook written one day. Although, I guess you both are doing so with your blogs.

Love you, Ruth

Coosje Helder said...

Thank you for your tender and honest story. Out of the ashes of a broken world, even within the covenant community, comes something beautiful-something redeemed. Isn't it ever thus? We wait with eager groaning when God will make all things new.

TBH said...

What a beautifully written post, Tamara. You moved me to tears. How thankful we can be that although our friends and loved ones may hurt us or even leave us, God is always faithful and loving! Praise Him! He is our Rock and our Salvation.