In 1845, Eliza R. Snow composed a hymn that would profoundly influence our family for many generations. Our story began in 1862 in Oslo, Norway. A young couple, David and Serena Jensen, took a walk one day shortly after the death of their young son. A faint melody stirred the air, and they were drawn toward the community hall.
“When I leave this frail existence …” The sweet words touched their hearts, and the two young people quietly slipped inside and sat down. “Father, Mother, may I meet you …” (“O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292). What did these words mean? they wondered. The sorrowing couple stayed to listen.
Two young men began speaking to the small congregation, and David and Serena listened hungrily to their message. The Jensens were soon baptized, and together with Serena’s sister Julia, they set sail for the United States. The family settled in Preston, Idaho, where children were born to them, including my grandfather Wilford.
From early childhood I knew that the hymn “O My Father” was special to our family. When I was nine, I began taking piano lessons from my grandmother. My goal was to play “O My Father.” Within three years she died, however, and I listened as someone else played the beloved hymn at her funeral. As it had touched Serena of old, the hymn gave me hope that I would one day see my grandmother again.
I soon found a new piano teacher and began practicing the hymn again. Ten years later my father was diagnosed with cancer. As he lay dying at age 53, he often requested that I play for him. The gentle melody of “O My Father” comforted him and eased his pain. On a bitter, dark day in February, my father died. Grief threatened to overwhelm me until I heard the hymn’s sweet, familiar strains sung at his funeral.
Today a teenage daughter enjoys playing “O My Father” on the piano, and a missionary son is learning to sing it in Portuguese. Eliza’s hymn of hope continues to reach out to our family’s next generation.