I remember the first time I met him. Nearly shaking in my ten-year old boots and hiding behind my mother’s skirt, I beheld the man Mom had called Daddy. He wore a cap and a woolen coat, a pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth. He was rugged, a fisherman who delighted to steal away to a cabin, where he could throw a line off a rickety pier to his heart’s content. A loner of sorts. An old man everyone seemed to love. Yet, I had never sat on his lap. Felt his arms around me or looked into his eyes. I stared at the man who had been sort of an enigma to me all my life.
Mom had decided to take me with her to meet him. She hadn’t seen her father in over twenty years. We were on a three-month adventure to the family farm in Sweden.
But it wasn’t only my grandfather I remember from that trip.
Uncle Jon and Aunt Alma ran the farm where my grandfather lived. Their newly married son, Ola, helped till the soil and manage the livestock. Their youngest child, Mary, was close to my age, so we spent the whole summer riding bikes through the rural paths of northern Sweden. That farm was where I learned to milk a cow by hand and ride a horse named Jim. Those were magical days for me, a city child who had never heard a live rooster crow or smelled the magnificent scent of freshly bailed hay.
I’d walk into the barn every morning so I could watch Ola and his dad milk cows by hand. The freshness of the air and the feeling of being so close to nature left me euphoric. I loved that farm. Certain outdoor smells today take me back to that summer I’ll never forget.
Ola helped his dad every day, while Mary and I tagged along on the wagon Jim pulled. We’d return to the summer stuga for lunch, where home grown potatoes were a staple. We also snacked on a raw variety of turnips. No potato or turnip has ever met its match with the taste of those farm grown treasures. Afternoon coffee breaks, affectionately called “Fika,” were a daily social gathering of family and friends. Mom and her aunts talked, prayed and laughed together most every day. I loved sitting there listening to my mother speaking Swedish with her family. That’s where I picked up a variety of words to get me by that summer. While I didn’t drink coffee, I devoured the homemade pastries and cookies to my heart’s content.
Some of my fondest memories are of Ola. When he was around, he took time for Mary and me. Not only did he invite us to ride on the hay wagon, but he often asked us to join in a rousing game of badminton. My eyes would light up every time I saw Ola. His eyes twinkled when he saw me, taking time to bring me into the conversation and teasing the living daylights out of a kid like me. It was one of the reasons I liked him so much.
I’ll never forget the day we said our emotional good byes to our loved ones. We didn’t know if we’d see each other again. Even Grandpa had tears in his eyes. I never saw him again, as he died a few years later. And one by one my mom’s aunts and uncles passed away, as did she. Today only her cousins and their families remain. So it was a great delight for me and my husband to visit Sweden for our fiftieth wedding anniversary.
It was a spiritual experience walking the land of my ancestors again. Revisiting the farm, that had been sold and changed way too much to my liking. Strolling among the gravestones, where names of my ancestors were engraved, reminded me of who I was. And the people who had gone before me to shape my destiny.
Reuniting with my Swedish family was a gift from God. I met new cousins and got reacquainted with those Mom and I had spent time with so many years before. Mary and I couldn’t get enough hugs. And when Ola joined us for the family reunion, his face was drenched in tears. Even though the Swedish I had learned as a child had long departed, the love we felt united us. Mom’s Swedish family treated me and my husband like royalty. And again there were lots of tears as we departed. Thankfully, we have Facebook to keep us connected this time.
I recently learned that Ola passed away from Covid-19. I was stunned. Even though we weren’t in each other’s lives every day, my heart ached. I wondered why it hit me so hard until my new “daughter-in-love” made a comment that hit the nail on the head. “He saw you,” she said. “That’s why it hurts so much.”
That was it! OLA SAW ME! He paid attention to that ten year old girl. He noticed when I was around and made me feel valued. I was only a child and he was newly married. But to him, I mattered.
How important it is for each of us to be seen! To be noticed by the people around us. We know God sees us. The Bible tells us the name Hagar gave to God when He appeared to her fleeing in the desert. She called Him. “The God Who Sees Me.”
Hagar gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her.
“You are the God Who Sees Me. I have now seen the One Who Sees Me.”
Isn’t that beautiful? THE GOD WHO SEES ME means He’s watching every detail of my life. Your life, too. But what about us? Are we reflecting the heart of our Father by “seeing” others as He does?
Without knowing it, Ola exemplified the value of being seen. He showed me that looking into the eyes of a child lets them know how important they are. Take time to notice the children in your life. Look them in the eye and give them your time. See them as God does. What a difference we all can make when others know YOU SEE THEM, too.
Keep an eye on me like You would a child,
reflected in the twinkling of Your eye. Psalm 17:8 TPT