The Healing Power of Song

After a serious lung infection, Rick Hamlin gets an early Christmas gift.

Posted in , Nov 21, 2015

The healing power of song. Rick Hamlin will be singing a song a day during Advent.

I wasn’t sure I’d have much of a singing voice when I came out of the hospital in late September. I was grateful enough–eternally grateful–to be well enough to function on my own. Thanks to a zillion prayers and the good care of the staff at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, I was able to breathe again and the fevers were gone, but would I be able to sing?My voice still felt hoarse, not tuneful at all.

As many of you know, I’d been in the hospital for two weeks with a serious lung infection. That I was well enough to go home seemed miracle enough and praying to be able to sing again seemed like asking a lot. It was one of those prayers I don’t think I ever fully verbalized, just part of an inner yearning, Make me whole again, God.

Could I function without singing? Yes, but I hated to consider life without it. There was also a promise I’d made. I’d written in our Guideposts special publication The Joys of Christmas that I’d sing a song a day for Advent and post them online. How could I do that now?

I convalesced at home, getting my strength back a little bit at a time, going for walks, sleeping a lot, eating to regain the weight I’d lost. Every now and then I’d wander over to the piano to play a song composer Alisa Bair had introduced to me, “Immanuel” by Michael Card. I was going to record it with her when I saw her in November and it would be one of the 26 songs for Advent.

“I’ll learn this song as part of my healing,” I told myself. The words themselves were comforting:

Immanuel, our God is with us. And if God is with us, who could stand against us, our God is with us, Immanuel.

I wrote the verse and chorus on a slip of paper and would practice them to myself, standing outside in the park in the autumnal sun.

But my voice still sounded scratchy and hollow, not fully supported. “Don’t worry about it,” Alisa wrote in an email. “Give what you have. It will be beautiful raspy, breathy or whatever. People will be thrilled to hear you sing again and love it no matter.” I appreciated her confidence even if I didn’t share it.

The date came for us to get together. I could carry a tune okay but I still didn’t sound like me. Too hesitant, too wobbly. She set up her piano and played a few chords, launching into “Immanuel.” The sound of the music filled me with joy. I opened my mouth, willing to risk sounding like a croaking frog. But no. It was as if my voice walked back into the room with the piano. I could sing again

We recorded the song and I’d like to give you a preview of it here. If I seem goofy with smiles it’s because I was giddy with gratitude. God gave me a gift, and he gave it right back to me when I thought it had gone away. An early Christmas present.

Join me for Advent. A song a day. You can find them here.

Here’s “Immanuel”:

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