Monday, March 22, 2010

Until You Hear the Music

Now that I am happily and gratefully retired from the practice of law, I have much more time to spend doing enjoyable things that I previously could not do. These days my life is filled with woodworking (you can never be good enough), swimming (you can never be fast enough), and playing music on my guitar (you can always improve). I have also been able to spend much time with the love of my life, the Lynne, who has never been anything other than a delight.

We were driving somewhere the other day, listening to a book-on-tape by one of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke. He writes a lot like Robert Penn Warren, who writes, not so much prose, as he does poetry. Lynne almost instantly commented that Burke's writing was wonderful. She had not listened to more than two minutes before making her learned pronouncement. The fact that Burke was describing a particularly grisly murder made her assessment even more surprising to me as this is not her usual genre.

These days, I have been able to spend much more time reading. At any particular time, I am reading at least four or five books. Which one I choose to read at any given time is based on nothing more than my mood at the moment. I try to spend time in bookstores because that is where the books are and you just never know what interesting book is going to reach out and grab you.

I was browsing in an Indianapolis bookstore a few weeks ago when I came upon a book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, written by Pastor Don Piper. He had been involved in a horrific automobile accident. He was thrown from the car. Paramedics found him a distance from the crash site. Emergency personnel thought he was dead. They slid him into a body bag and deposited him in the morgue where he remained sometime before regaining consciousness.

We have all heard stories like this before, of near death experiences. Such stories are usually accompanied by the narrator remembering that he saw a light and/or that he floated in a state of serene peace. Often, the teller claims that he saw people who had previously died, greeting him.

I am not knocking these stories or the tellers. How can I argue with what they say they experienced?

However, the pastor tells a similar story with a fascinating addition. He, also saw a bright light and people he knew that had previously died. We have all heard such tales. But what he said next was what got me.

He said he heard music. Music that was indescribable. He said it was like it came from the universe. It was ethereal. It was unlike anything he had ever heard. And it enveloped him completely. He said it was as if he was a part of the sound and that it went through him and around him and washed over him like water. He described it as similar to hearing rolling thunder, but continuously, not just a few claps.

I told Lynne about what I had read. She has always had an open mind and is insightful about most things. She is also one to cut to the chase immediately. This time was no exception. She simply said that if the pastor was in Heaven, why shouldn't there be music, and glorious music, at that? She then reminded me that the Bible talks about music in Heaven, which features an eternal choir. (Personally, I would prefer a kind of angelic Jimmy Page playing heavenly riffs on a Gibson Les Paul. The guitar's namesake, Les Paul, I'm sure, is already playing.)

That night as Lynne and I cuddled up with each other, as we do every night, I told her I loved her and appreciated her sticking around during my illness. She responded by telling me that she loved me and that "you just never know, maybe the Lord will let you beat this." And the she said that she would be with me until I heard the music. What a gift she is!

One of James Lee Burke's characters is an alcoholic detective named Dave Robacheaux. One of the best lines Burke ever gave to the character was when Dave says of his wife (and probably true of all wives) that "deep down he knew that he was not worthy of her." Absolutely, 100 percent true.

Mike out.


  1. Hi Mike,
    I remember reading that book. My wife and I both said the same thing about the music as we shared our thoughts to each other. I loved how he described it as well. I seem to remember it as he talked about the angel's wings and such a holy sound that he had never heard anything like that. We both said that book changed how we looked at heaven and our lives.
    I agree with you on the different "type" of music. :) Maybe there is a heavenly "jukebox" that we get to pick?

  2. Mike, I had that book jump out at me several years ago and was totally enthralled while reading it! I couldn't put it down, and then I passed it on to my mother about 8 months before she suddenly died. It really made her feel better about her own mother's death many many years earlier.
    I always imagine people in my life who have died have a role in heaven. My mother was an artist so she is in charge of the beautiful color in the early and late day sky. Mike I imagine you will be involved in some of that incredible music! Lauri H