“How can you understand him?”
This is what my friends used to say about my grandfather when I was a teenager. My grandfather, or “Papa,” as we affectionately called him spoke several different languages. He was a self-taught linguist. When he spoke, sometimes he used English, German, and Russian all in the same sentence. This is why my friends often asked me,
“What did he say?”
I was accustomed to it and I really didn’t even notice. I could understand him perfectly when he spoke to me. After all he was my Papa.
My Papa left me more than his secret language only family members at times could understand.
He gave me a legacy. A godly heritage in which I have awfully big shoes to fill with my own grandchildren.
From the time I can remember the name Jesus fell off my Papa’s lips like an old friend he saw everyday. He brought God to life for me.
I saw God as my helper as he told stories of the hardship in communist Russia that his family experienced before they immigrated. He described with every detail what it looked like escaping soldiers that were chasing him, or waiting in long lines for bread to feed his starving family.
I saw God as provider when I watched Papa pull out of his pockets whatever money he had to share with someone who needed a tangible reminder of God’s provision.
I saw Jesus as a great listener when I heard my Papa pray. He prayed as though Jesus was sitting at the table next to him sharing a cup of coffee and a favorite donut my Papa loved.
I saw God’s heart through my Papa when he played his favorite hymns on his pump organ bellowing out his love for Jesus from his soul.
He introduced Jesus to me as a friend, a companion and a God I could trust with my deepest needs and desires. Papa often told me that the best decision I could make in my life is to follow Jesus.
Today marks my Papa’s birthday and I am remembering his life and legacy as I see his face in my mind. I remember his broken English speaking of the faithfulness of God and encouraging me to do the same. I am certain he is celebrating in heaven telling stories of the goodness of God. I believe he is watching along with my grandmother, as Hebrews 12:1 says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
I know have big shoes to fill. And yet I know by following my grandparents example I will continue the legacy they started. I believe they are cheering me on to run the race to the finish line!
Happy Birthday Papa, I miss you.