Every Sunday morning, contrary to my natural physiological inclination, I almost bound out of bed before the sunrise to get to the Tabernacle at Temple Square to hold a short orientation meeting with a group of the sisters serving in The Temple Square Mission before we unlock the doors to the Tabernacle and invite early rising guests to enter. Eclectic groups of visitors from all over the world eagerly pour through those pioneer doors all year round to attend the weekly broadcast of “Music & the Spoken Word.”

Some of the guests who come almost every week include husbands and wives of Choir or Orchestra members who both love the music and love their spouses and are eager to delight in the musical worship and to demonstrate their affectionate support. There is also a regularly attending young music-loving fellow who is nonverbal but demonstrably enthusiastic about what he hears. He always assumes his seat near the front. When the conductor raises his baton, that young enthusiast scoots to the edge of his bench, raises both his hands, and begins to lead the music himself with wild and joyful enthusiasm as if he were Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas”. Two slender men dressed very simply but with their hair carefully parted and combed make their way from the homeless shelter almost every week to attend. They rarely miss.

Especially in the summer, there are always scores of visitors who come in large groups as they cross the country on bus tours. Those guests are easy to recognize by their dominant age demographic and the lanyards they wear conspicuously around their necks. They often boast that they never miss listening to the Choir at Temple Square on Sundays on their radios, and that attending the program in person is for them a Bucket List dream come true.

Some visitors come alone seeking solace or answers or peace as they wrestle with the complexities of life. There are also grand family groups of assorted ages who include Temple Square and the Choir on their family reunion itinerary. Those groups often include small guests that fill to overflowing the special Observation Room at the back of the Tabernacle prepared especially for them. In that customized room, those budding music lovers and their caregivers may close the door to the soundproof room, stand the young guests on the chairs at the window facing the grand organ pipes, and enjoy the show in whatever noisy way they feel to without disturbing the recording.

The whole congregation of attendees is a glorious conglomerate of fellow travelers from all over the world assembled in a come-as-you-are, joyful group of assorted people bound together for that blessed thirty minutes by heavenly music in a sacred, historic place. It’s all very unifying and quite wonderful. We all draw near to each other and to heaven.

Almost without exception, my weekly interaction with those initiative-taking people who make their way to the Tabernacle on Sunday mornings sends me home with a heart full of gratitude for the privilege of the shoulder-rubbing with people who feel very much like brothers and sisters in important ways. Perhaps it’s the power of the hallowed music and the power of the historic place that makes us all willing and even eager to drop boundaries and join hands in that cocooned setting for that precious time.

Recently, after the Choir and Orchestra had sung their customary, “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” and the visitors were courteously making their way to the exits, I spotted a group that intrigued me. It included a woman about my age, four younger women who looked like her daughters, a young fellow, and four teenaged girls. The genetic similarities of the reverent group caused me to conclude they were likely related to each other. As I spoke to them, they eagerly explained that they were in fact a family assembled to bid a final farewell to the fellow who was the husband, father, and grandfather to the group. His funeral had been held just the day before. They were eager to share the details of what had felt to them all like a very personal miracle that occurred during the performance.

Talking almost all at once, the daughters told me that just days before their dad passed away, he told them that he had only one essential request for his imminent funeral. He wanted them to be sure that his favorite song, “This Is The Christ,” written by President James E. Faust, would be sung. They eagerly promised him that they would make sure that happened, until he added, “And I want the Tabernacle Choir to sing it.” That was harder to promise. He remained firm with his desire. I suspect that the family did the best they could to honor his request, but the Tabernacle Choir didn’t attend the funeral.

The next day, that family group attended Music and the Spoken Word together as a final, binding event before they all returned to their homes. Mid-way through the program, the Choir sang the Dad’s requested song. As if that weren’t enough, at the conclusion of the program, the audience was asked to remain in their seats while the Choir re-recorded one of the songs. Lest that family had not received the heavenly memo the first time around, the Choir sang their dad’s song again. “Of course,” they said. “Dad was determined to have that song sung for him and for us. He pulled some strings.” A heavenly love note that felt composed and delivered especially for them. They shared their final embraces then left to return to their homes with a fortified sense of the nearness of heaven and the personalized love of God.

On a different occasion, I was the grateful beneficiary of another ringside seat in the Tabernacle as heaven customized solace for seeking souls. I had been asked in advance to save seats for a family who was gathered for a very difficult funeral. A young man had died in a terrible construction accident. The large family was understandably reeling from the shock and loss. Responsive to a request from the family involved, I will share their names as a tell their story.

I stood at Door 18 watching for the McFadden family to show them to their reserved seats. The sober faces of small individual groups of visitors approaching that door were easy to recognize as members of the family assembled for Walker McFadden’s funeral. I was not surprised when they introduced themselves. When Tamara and Rob McFadden arrived, however, I didn’t need them to introduce themselves. The slump of their shoulders, the deep pain in their eyes, and the tender way they clung to each other identified them clearly as the grieving parents. I led them to the bench with their awaiting family members.

After the program, I returned to where Tamara and Rob were sitting and assumed a seat on the vacant bench in front of them. There was nothing to say that was adequate to express my sympathy for their loss. I simply took Tamara’s hands and told her, mom to mom, that I was so very sorry. She hesitated before she looked at me quizzically and said, “I know you.” She explained, “You and your husband were on assignment traveling around Australia some years ago. My husband and I were asked to serve as your drivers and transport you to the meetings you were assigned to speak at.”

She refreshed my memory with stories I had shared with members and missionaries. I looked at that sorrowful but faith-filled mother’s face and felt a longtime and lasting bond with her. We embraced in reunion and love. She said, “Since Walker died, I have felt cold and grief stricken. I believe, but I am so very sad.” She continued, “I have prayed that heaven would assure me that I had not been forgotten. Seeing you today has reminded me that I am known and loved by God. The cold has dissipated.” We hugged and wept, both feeling more sure still of the nearness and tenderness of a perfect Father.

As I stood to leave, Rob leaned forward to whisper in my ear. He said, “Tamara has received the love note from heaven that she sought. I am Walker’s dad. I could really use a love note, too. Walker and I loved the hymn, ‘I Know That My Redeemer Lives.’ It sounds like the Choir is going to continue rehearsing a little longer. Could you please ask them to sing that song for a grieving daddy?”

I looked at the man sitting at my side who serves as Ensemble Manager for the Choir and I whispered to him, “Could we ask Mack Wilberg to have the Choir sing that song for this sorrowful dad?” Randy Gailey tentatively shook his head and replied, “It would be wonderful, but we really can’t approach the conductor during rehearsal and ask for special requests.” He was right, but I hesitated, not knowing how exactly to respond sensitively to that seeking dad.

I didn’t need to have worried. Before I even had time to turn back around, Mac stopped the Choir and said, “Let’s change our rehearsal plans a bit.” We weren’t able to hear the specifics of his direction to the Choir, but we heard with deep clarity the result. He raised his baton and, reverently, they all began to sing in unison, “I know that my Redeemer lives. What comfort this sweet sentence gives!” And it did. The comfort was real and profound. It seemed heaven had sent that request from that dad’s heart directly to the conductor who had had the spiritual sensitivity to change course and initiate the answer to a longing, pleading prayer. A heavenly love note, composed and delivered to the McFaddens. The miracle was gracious and timely and personal.

Now, one year after Walker’s death, those faithful parents press on, fortified and reassured by the evidences of heaven that keep their faith grounded and solid. Tamara writes, “Since the passing of my sixteen-year-old son, I have come not just to believe this powerful truth, but to know it. Because of Jesus Christ and the incredible gift of His Atonement, His indescribable suffering on the cross, and His glorious resurrection, my son Walker lives. And I will live, and you will live, and those you love will live. Because of Him, we will all live. I know that my Redeemer lives.”

Love notes from heaven. Delivered unexpectedly, blessedly, by a perfect Father who wants us to know and to remember who and whose we are now and forever. Heaven is near.