Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
I was being homeschooled and I’d been left at my grandparents’ house for the day when my mom ran errands. It was Grandpa’s job to help me memorize my Bible verse, psalm 139 that week. I can still remember him and I sitting by the window in the living room, him patiently reading me the psalm over and over again, or more reciting than reading, because, as I believed, Grandpa had the entire Bible memorized. He didn’t move, wasn’t distracted, until I had memorized the entire psalm to his liking. On the way home, Mom told me “Grandpa said you picked that psalm up fast. You must have gotten your mind from him.” And at that moment, my seven-year-old heart swelled with pride, because what greater compliment could I get than that I could be like him in any way.
I couldn’t have asked for a better grandfather growing up. I have countless memories of him coming sledding with us, building a snowman, sliding down the children’s slide at Fairwoods, and most of all reading. Every grandchild spent countless hours on Grandpa’s lap, listening, attention arrested as his voice resonated deep into our hearts and memories. It didn’t matter what he was reading, only that he was reading with us. His voice, used to commanding the attention of the church, made every story magic. When I did have to read to myself, however, I tried to do it in my grandpa’s study. In my mind, Grandpa and Jesus were best friends, and the study is where the two of them would visit with each other. To me, there was no more soothing room in the house. When I would stay with my grandparents and sleep in the study, I never feared nightmares, because how could bad dreams come to a room where God practically lived?
As I grew up, I began to appreciate new things about him. I listened as he punned his way through so many family conversations, and watched in awe as he showed slideshows of his time in Paterson, every photo the story of a new person whose life he had been a part of. I giggled when he told me funny stories about messing up the lyrics to church songs or reminisced about his childhood. And most of all I cherished those times when I would get my grandfather all to myself, when he would sit down with me and discuss the Bible, my religion classes, and his own Bible studies and work at the church. Other times he would bring me up to his study and show me photos of his most recent trips, naming every new person he had met. One of the last times I visited with him, I remember thinking, “I am so excited to be getting to the point in my life when I can enjoy my grandpa as much for his brain as I already do for his heart.”
But that was my grandfather. A man who was beautiful inside and out for the love he showed other people, the faith with which he walked with God, and the way that he adored his family. Psalm 139 is all about how well God knows us, how we cannot escape his love for us. But right now, verses 7-10 mostly remind me of my grandfather. He isn’t really gone. He lives in all of us, in our memories, and in the way he touched all of our lives, and I am so grateful to God for giving me the time that I had with him.