Fr. Tolley and I had the privilege to be at Sallye Graves’ bedside hours before she passed into glory. We were blessed to offer last rites to this long-time Christian and faithful Saint John’s member. In addition to singing in the choir at Saint John’s, Sallye performed with radio and television personality Fred Waring, trained with Jack Metz, and sang with the San Diego Orchestra. Yet, on her last day, I took her hand and told her that she was about to join the best choir, the one she’s been preparing for her whole life, the choir that sings praises to God in heaven.
The Bible mentions a heavenly choir in Isaiah, chapter 6. The prophet saw and heard the choir singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” In Revelation, John saw a vast multitude from every nation, tribe and language crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The angels, elders and four living creatures sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev 7) Through faith in the Bible, we believe there is a choir in heaven. I, however, have a little more information about this than you might expect which did not come from seminary.
I had a dream-like experience when I was in my junior year of high school. I say dream-like because unlike most dreams that fade way, this event was just as vivid as my memories of visiting Yellowstone. In that junior year, I was in a symphonic band that was competing for perfect scores at the yearly state contest. Our center piece was Marche Slave by Tchaikovsky. Our director was pushing us to be perfect. I was the student-assistant director and lead chair so I felt some of the pressure. Privately, he told me, “There is no perfect performance. We have sixty students in this band. There will be mistakes. We just have to strive for our best.”
The week prior, I had this dream. I was in an extraordinary orchestra. We were in gorgeous black and white outfits. The brass of my trombone shined like pearl. Our “audience” was a stunning array of white and gold light that had substance – not like a beautiful sunset – but more like life itself. This full orchestra had a giant choir behind it. The music we played I had never heard before. It was perfect. Every note, every singer, every instrument was on pitch and on time. There was no director; neither was there music. We listened to one another and simply played from our hearts.
I told my director (who is a Christian) the following day of my dream. He said I had been blessed to see the orchestra of heaven. Later that week we played the best we could. Because of our initial high scores, we ended up playing our final piece, Marche Slave, at the end. Most of the other high school bands were in attendance – partially because of the timing, partially because we were playing a difficult and well-known piece. We weren’t perfect but we certainly played our best. We were rewarded with the top score.
I believe that Sallye is now a part of the giant choir of my dream, singing praise to God who is love, light and life. There is a perfect performance awaiting us. And through God’s grace, when we arrive, you’ll know someone in the choir.