Dear Thatha: A Letter to my Grandfather

Roshni Mathew   |   June 19, 2017 

Dear Thatha (a tamil word meaning grandfather),

One of my earliest memories of you is how you used to tell me stories to put me to sleep at 1 am when my parents were too tired to deal with me. You also used to take me for walks especially when Patti (a tamil word meaning grandmother) was trying to force me to have some herbal concoctions that I didn't like. I was your first grandchild so I know that I was special to you. You are also very special to me. No one had as much as patience as you did with me (not even my own parents).

We used to live with you and Patti and I liked that very much. I think it was you and Patti who taught me to pray at an early age. I used what you taught me to ask God to give me a baby brother which he did. You told me many stories and took me for walks. You listened to everything I had to say even when it didn't make sense. You showered me with love and many gifts. You were someone who taught me to look to God through your actions.

You and Patti brought me a Casio keyboard from the US when I was little! No one had ever gotten me such an expensive gift before. It was only recently I realised how much it must have cost Patti and you to buy me that gift. Thank you for all the priceless gifts Patti and you showered your grandchildren and me with.

When I was in 2nd grade all I wanted was to follow in your footsteps and become a missionary. You had left your home in Tamil Nadu and moved to Bangalore to pursue God’s call upon your life. You had served in various ministries including children’s ministries. Well, you were very good with children for sure, because all your children and grandchildren loved you immensely. When you went back to your home town, you continued to serve God by helping out in various capacities at Church and other local organisations. I won’t forget how many people used to come and meet you to vent out their issues and ask you for prayer. You were always such a good listener and such a valiant prayer warrior.

When your grandchildren were born, you became our favourite grandparent. We enjoyed spending our summers with you and Patti. You loved us for each of our unique personalities (despite our mischievousness and quirks). One of my fondest memories is when you took me and my brother and 2 cousin-brothers out fishing. You taught us how to find worms to put on the hook of the fishing rod (Patti was so angry that we destroyed many of her pots doing this, but you so sweetly defended us). You taught us how to fish! You didn't let the fact that I was a girl stop you from taking me. When I caught more fish than all the boys, you did not let it surprise you.

I loved the summers we spent with you and Patti. You were the only one who understood what summer vacations were meant to be and you stopped Patti from waking us up early in the morning.

Recently, my brother told me that the first person who encouraged him to learn to drive was you. You even took my brother to an empty field and let him drive the car, way before he got his driver's licence. Today my brother is an excellent driver – thanks to you!

Thatha, I remember that you had a unique habit. You woke up early every morning and spent time reading the Bible and praying. I think you would be gone 1-2 hours in your study room reading and praying. I don't know what prayers you must've prayed. But I know that you prayed for your grandchildren who you loved so much.

I remember hearing you preach one day at church. Your personality drastically changed. Six feet tall, you were a gentle giant, towering over us in height but facing each of us in humility. I have seen you be kind to Patti, your children and grandchildren even when they were being naughty. It was rare to see you get angry. So when I saw you stand on that pulpit and speak, I was surprised to hear you preach from the Bible with such authority and conviction. No wonder the people around you respected and admired you so much!

Then I heard from your children that you had a wild past! I could never imagine you with a wild past because of how much you’ve been transformed. Yet, despite your past, you never condemned anyone still stuck in theirs. Once at an engagement party a really drunk relative approached you. You smiled so sweetly at him and were so gentle with him. You didn’t condemn him, nor did you try to escape his presence. All I saw was amusement in your eyes, no condemnation. How could a missionary be that way I wondered? But that was the type of missional heart you had – loving, caring and never judgmental.

Your faith stood tall in the way you related to others, when you preached and when you prayed.

I know you aren't perfect, but to me you were faithful. That is what I admire most about you – how you faithfully served God despite many challenges you faced. Even through diabetes and Parkinson's you continued to serve God faithfully to the best of your physical ability.

Thank you Thatha for being my unsung hero of faith! You may not be an Ambani or a Birla, but you have been one of the best role models of what it means to be faithful to the end. How could I ever thank you enough for being such a blessing and a marvellous example to me? I hope through my life, I can follow in your footsteps.

Love, your granddaughter,



My grandfather, Mr. J. G. Arnold passed away in September 2014. I loved him so much. But I never got a chance to share with him how I really felt and how much I adored him. If he had been alive, I would have probably written him this letter. Unsung heroes pass on silently, their life impacting many people through their humility and servitude. My grandfather is an unsung hero to me. His life models what I hope I can achieve as a parent and as a believer. If you know someone in your life who is your unsung hero, a role model whose life is impacting you – tell them! Share with them how much you love them, before they leave this earth and we see them again in heaven.


Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Roshni Mathew

Roshni is a full time wife and mother who lives in Mumbai with her husband and daughter. They are a part of New City Church, Mumbai where they worship and serve. Roshni loves cooking, the colour purple and travelling.

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