Brother Dewey’s rich baritone blended beautifully with the sound of our church choir, yet a careful listener could pick out the warm, mellow tones of his voice. Standing a row in front of him, I was always in a prime spot to do just that. I loved listening to him sing. And, oh, he did love to sing! Rarely ever missing a Wednesday night practice or a Sunday morning service, he seemed to have such a heart for worship and for the choir.
Then an illness became serious for him, requiring a surgery that left him without a voice, without the chance of ever having a voice again.
I know for myself – if it were me with no voice – that would be a devastating thing to face. I cannot NOT sing. I could never NOT sing. Singing is as necessary to me as speaking or eye contact. This was heartbreaking. Yes, we all prayed for his healing and recovery, but those of us who knew how much singing in the choir meant to him also prayed for all he would grieve in the loss of his voice.
News came that he was making progress and doing well. One Sunday morning several weeks later, I saw him in a church pew about halfway back. A buzz of excited whispers whipped around the choir loft. “Look! Dewey’s here!” Although he appeared a bit thinner and a little pale, that sweet smile was just the same.
Everyone stood for the first hymn. It was easy to keep an eye on him because of his height, that crown of white hair catching the light from the tall windows. I don’t remember which hymn we sang; I was completely unable to get beyond a few opening notes. I could only watch Brother Dewey.
His face lifted up, he sang every word, knowing them all by heart, every harsh and rasping note sounding no different than the one before. His eyes shone with emotion, and his face was radiant with more than just light.
Holding nothing back, he sang.
With no voice, he sang.
It was the most beautiful music I have ever heard. Or maybe I should say have ever seen.
In that moment, I knew with a deep certainty, that this was the song that heaven heard. His was the song that the angels must have bent low to hear. His was the song that would bring a smile to our Father’s heart.
This is the way I want to sing.