On 1 March 1904, Alton Glenn Miller was born in the small town of Clarinda, Iowa. During his youth, he would also call home the states of Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado.
During his high school years spent in Fort Morgan, Colorado, Miller concentrated on the horn and played in the school band. After graduating in 1921, he played as a professional musician for two years until enrolling at the University of Colorado in 1923. After just one year, however, Miller dropped out of college to return to the music business. For the balance of the 1920s and early 1930s, he freelanced as a trombonist and arranger. Eventually, he became the musical director for Tommy Dorsey’s band.
In 1935, however, it was time to strike out on his own. In the years that followed, The Glenn Miller Orchestra played to sell-out crowds, and his hits dominated the airwaves, among them: Moonlight Serenade; In the Mood; Tuxedo Junction; Pennsylvania 6-5000; and Chattanooga Choo Choo.
By 1942, Miller was called to serve in the war effort. From 1942-44, Major Glenn Miller entertained the troops while heading up the U.S. Army Air Force Band. On 15 December 1944, while preparing to take off in a single-engine plane to precede his band to Paris, Miller is said to have been noticeably worried about worsening weather, so much so that he questioned the pilot regarding the possibility of calling off the flight. After listening to Miller, the flight officer then ribbed Miller about his fear of flying: “Do you want to live forever?” As it turned out, Miller’s fear was justified, for his plane disappeared over the English Channel, and Miller and the crew were lost to history. (Adapted from The Biography Channel and website of The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra)
The point is that we won’t live forever. But rather having this reality lead us to despair, our faith provides us with the roadmap to eternal life, a life of incomprehensible peace and joy.
Jesus tells us: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) In his conversation with Martha as she mourns the death of her brother [Lazarus], Jesus makes a declaration and then asks her a question: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Elsewhere in the scriptures we find these passages of comfort:
And this is what he has promised us, eternal life. (1 John 2:25)
Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:51-55)
In recalling the question posed to Major Alton Glenn Miller on that fateful day, we come to understand that it is the same question Jesus asks us today at each moment of our lives: “Do you want to live forever?” If we say yes, then Jesus has the means: “Follow me.” It is an invitation not to be ignored.