Bless her heart, young Mary Ann just couldn’t sing a lick. Even the tune of Happy Birthday gave her trouble. She tried to sing like all the other kids, but somehow, she just couldn’t hit the notes. Mary Ann prayed that God would help her learn to sing, but it just didn’t happen.

Soon, she forgot all about her prayer.

But God remembered. He never forgets. Our sighs and longings are not hidden from Him (Ps. 38:9).

Seventy years later, my Aunt Mary Ann lived her last day with her children gathered close by her side. She was wrapped in a bright blue cotton blanket, so weakened from her cancer that it was hard to talk. When she finally summoned the strength to speak, her children listened intently. She said:

“I wish I could have sung like your father, it’s one of my biggest disappointments. He sang so beautifully. I can even hear him singing now, if I close my eyes and remember, even though he has been gone for a long time. God has promised me that I will be singing in heaven, soon. I can’t wait.”

Maybe it was the heavy medication.

Drugs make people say some crazy things, but everything else she said that day made sense. Her children were confused. Even though she had joked about not being able to sing, they had no idea it really bothered her. Of all the things Mary Ann might have said on her deathbed, why did she say that?

The ability to sing must have been something she valued far more than anyone realized.

A few months after Mary Ann died, Bobby, a distant acquaintance of the family, was also suffering through chemo and nearing the end. One afternoon, he fell asleep and experienced a vivid dream. As soon as he woke up, he told his wife about it. He could not get the exquisite scenes and sounds out of his head. He talked about it for days. Finally, his wife decided to share the dream with Mary Ann’s children:

“I don’t want to add to your pain or make you sad, but we need to share something with you. A few days ago, Bobby dreamed about walking toward heaven’s gate. He experienced heaven’s beauty–a beauty that could somehow be seen and felt. A clear, pure voice sang out from the gate to welcome him. He was startled when he realized the voice belonged to your mother, Mary Ann. He didn’t really know she was such a great singer. He saw her standing at the gate, singing joyfully. Bobby uses the word “magnificent” to describe the sound of her voice; he can’t stop talking about it. It’s given him great peace about going there. We hope it gives you peace, too.”

And it did. Mary Ann’s children still tear up thinking about their mother singing in heaven, just as she said she would. They wonder how they will feel when they first hear her magnificent song welcoming them to eternity–the song of a saint, the song of a mother, the song of home.

Whether we’ve prayed about something today or 70 years ago, as Mary Ann did, God remembers our prayers. Since some requests are denied and others aren’t readily answered, we tend to forget that each prayer is eternal and precious. (Rev. 5:8)

Not one prayer is wasted. Not one prayer is forgotten.

Sometimes, we can see that God used His silence to teach us about Himself or build our faith. Other times, we may never understand why a prayer isn’t answered. We may live our entire life enduring a bad relationship, a bad habit or a disappointment, with prayers for deliverance met only with silence.

But this life is not all there is.

I believe Mary Ann received just what she asked for. Maybe our unmet desires and longings don’t die with us—perhaps they remain so that they can be satisfied in eternity. Yet, sometimes I think of my regrets and disappointments dismally, as if this life is all there is. I want to gain a better perspective.

I want to learn to live as if this life is just a beginning, a mere preface to eternity. This verse helps me:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:4-5)

The Lord will wipe away every tear, including tears of:
regret
disappointment
failure
illness
loneliness
parents & children
Mary Ann
yours & mine

When I am tempted to despair, when painful prayers are met only with silence, it helps me to picture a past prayer now answered: my Aunt Mary Ann singing in heaven. God answered her prayer with a heavenly answer. Her voice is pure. Beautiful. Magnificent. She smiles as she sings, as if it is one of the greatest pleasures she has ever known, and perhaps it is.

If you are disappointed in prayer and struggling to understand, I hope my Aunt Mary Ann’s story might give you a renewed perspective, encouragement and hope. Remember, this life is not all there is–God has so much more in store for us. Perhaps our greatest pain now might become the foundation of our greatest joy in the future.

 

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This post is written in loving memory of Mary Ann Mercer, one of the most positive and caring people that I’ve ever known. Her unwavering faith still inspires me. Many thanks to her children Jerry, Gwyn and Nancy for sharing this story!