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I hadn’t seen Elinor Miller in decades, but we got connected through prayer.
Elinor Miller was a stalwart of the church choir back home in California. What a magnificent voice she had, a true mezzo, resonant, rich, filling out the alto section, giving every singer around her courage, making the pews tremble, rising to the rafters. Some people are called pillars of the church. She was an anchor.
I was a much less confident singer in my youth, but with a great love of music and a fondness for the limelight that inspired our choir director to ask me to sing solos. I always said yes, but when it came time to perform in church, I was invariably a bundle of nerves.
Mrs. Miller–that’s how I knew her–was a constant encourager. “Wow, that sounded great,” she said. “You really carried that line. What a natural tenor voice you have.” Of course, my parents said nice things and other people in the congregation would give me compliments, but hearing it from Mrs. Miller mattered. She knew her music, knew voices. If she said I was OK, I must have been OK.
I sang a few more solos and Mrs. Miller, still leading the alto section, was there with her compliments, all very specific, singer-to-singer sorts of things. She made me feel like we were on the same team, in the same league, an extraordinary compliment in itself.
The years went by and I lost touch, until recently. In early March, Mom called to say that Elinor Miller had just called her. Mrs. Miller was reading my book on prayer, 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without, and was really enjoying it.
The other part of Mrs. Miller’s news was more sobering. She’d been diagnosed with a tough case of pancreatic cancer. “But,” as Mom said, “she sounded so upbeat and positive.”
I promised I’d pray for Mrs. Miller and her family. I wished, not for the first time, that I lived closer and could visit Mrs. Miller, talk about old times, sing a little and be that person giving her encouraging words as she had once done for me.
Then, not long ago, I logged on to Facebook and read the message from Michael, her son. “Yesterday, my mom joined the most glorious heavenly choir...” I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me, and sent Michael a message. How I loved his mom, how grateful I was to her, how I wished I’d had a chance to see her.
In a matter of minutes he responded: “Rick, I was just thinking this morning that I needed to be in touch with you. I wanted to let you know how much joy she got from your prayer book. She kept saying that she’d let me read it as soon as she finished it. And then she’d read it again. She said it was as if you were speaking to her...”
Some kind words are so overwhelming that you can’t really take them in. I can’t completely absorb this one. But I tell myself that if the book, which was a joy to write, only had one reader, I would have wished it to be Mrs. Miller. Bless you, old friend. Heavenly choir indeed. Save a place for me.