My grandpa was born in England. At the age of nine, he began working long, difficult days in a soap factory to help support his mother and sisters. Eventually he immigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he and Grandma raised five children. My dad was the oldest. By the time I came along, Grandpa had retired from his job as a maintenance auto mechanic for a large dairy company.
He was not very refined or well educated. His big, round tummy and bald head were pretty intimidating to a skinny wisp of a girl like me, but I knew two things about Grandpa that made it easy to trust him and love him: I knew that he had a testimony of the gospel, and I knew that he thought that I was special.
I remember recognizing these two truths at the same time. Grandpa and Grandma had come to visit. Since we lived in different states, it was a special occasion and our daily routine changed. Sometimes we went on little day trips. Sometimes we looked up relatives I had never met before. But we always went to church.
One Sunday, I was sitting beside my grandpa when it was time to sing the opening hymn. I had just recently learned how to read well enough to follow the words in the hymnbook. I opened to the right page and offered to share the book with Grandpa. He held his half with his blunt fingers, which still showed the permanent stains of his years of working on truck engines. His hands were strong yet gentle.
When we started to sing, I forgot all about his hands. “‘Come, thou Fount of every blessing … ,” * he rumbled, with a surprisingly proper pronunciation. He was in perfect tune and sang with enthusiasm. I trebled along, and Grandpa smiled at me. After the song, he patted me on the knee.
We sang the sacrament song and the closing song, too, just as if we were the only two people in the room singing. I still remember the way it felt to sing with him. It was a warm, cozy peace that filled me up inside. I knew that Grandpa believed every word he sang.
Later, after we were home again and the dinner dishes were done, Grandpa called Grandma to the piano. “Will you please play ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,’ Margaret,” he asked her. “Linda and I are going to sing.”
He explained to me how much he loved that song. He said that it was one he had learned just after he and his family joined the Church in England, and he had loved it ever since.
Then he said, “And now I can sing it with my granddaughter, who sings as pretty as the song.” I could have burst with joy!
Many times over the years, Grandpa and I sang that hymn together, sometimes on our own, sometimes with other family members joining in. As I grew up, I came to appreciate my special heritage of testimony and music. They have always been connected.
Grandpa may not have been rich or famous or handsome, but he loved me. He loved the gospel, and when we sang the hymns of Zion, I learned to love it, too.