How Sweet the Sound

How Sweet the Sound

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

How Sweet the Sound

Take a harp, go about the city; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou may be remembered.

~Isaiah 23:16

The lead should have been mine. All my friends agreed with me. At least, it shouldn’t have been Helen’s, that strange new girl. She never had a word to say, always looking down at her feet as if her life was too heavy to bear. We thought she was just stuck-up. Things can’t be all that bad for her, we reasoned, not with all the great clothes she wears. She hadn’t worn the same thing more than twice in the two months she’d been at our school.

But the worst of it was when she showed up at our tryouts and sang for my part. Everyone knew the lead role was meant for me. After all, I had parts in all our high-school musicals, and this was our senior year.

My friends were waiting for me, so I didn’t hang around for Helen’s audition. The shock came two days later when we hurried to check the bulletin board for the cast list.

We scanned the sheets looking for my name. When we found it, I stood there in shock. Helen was picked to play the lead! I was to be her mother and her understudy. Understudy? Nobody could believe it.

Rehearsals seemed to go on forever. Helen didn’t seem to notice that we were going out of our way to ignore her. I’ll admit it, Helen did have a beautiful voice. She was different on stage somehow. Not so much happy as settled and content.

Opening night brought its fair share of jitters. Everyone was quietly bustling around backstage, waiting for the curtain to go up. Everyone but Helen, of course. She seemed contained in her own world

The performance was a hit. Our timing was perfect; our voices blended and soared. Helen and I flowed back and forth, weaving the story between us — I, the ailing mother praying for her wayward daughter, and Helen, the daughter who realizes as her mother dies that there is more to life than this life. The final scene reached its dramatic end. I was laying in the darkened bedroom. The prop bed I was on was uncomfortable, which made it hard to stay still. I was impatient, anxious for Helen’s big finish to be over.

She was spotlighted on stage, the grieving daughter beginning to understand the true meaning of the hymn she had been singing as her mother passed away.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” Her voice lifted over the pain of her mother’s death and the joy of God’s promises.

“…That saved a wretch like me…” Something real was happening to me as Helen sang. My impatience was gone.

“… I once was lost, but now I’m found…” I started to cry.

“…Was blind but now I see.” My spirit began to turn within me, and I turned to God. In that moment, I knew his love, his desire for me. Helen’s voice lingered in the prayer of the last note. The curtain dropped.

Complete silence. Not a sound. Helen stood behind the closed curtain, head bowed, gently weeping.

Suddenly, applause and cheers erupted, and when the curtain parted the entire audience was standing.

We all made our final bows. My hugs were genuine. My heart had been opened wide.

Then it was over. The costumes were hung up, makeup tissued off and the lights dimmed. Everyone went off in their usual groupings, congratulating each other.

Everyone but Helen. I stayed because I needed to tell her something.

“Helen, your song… it was so real for me,” I hesitated, my feelings intense. I suddenly felt shy. “You sang me into the heart of God.”

Helen’s eyes met mine.

“That’s what my mother said to me the night she died.” A tear slipped down her cheek. My heart leapt to hers. “My mother was in such pain. Singing ‘Amazing Grace’ always comforted her. She told me to remember God would always be good to me, and that his grace would lead her home.”

Her face lit up from the inside out, her mother’s love shining through. “Just before she died, she whispered, ‘Sing me into the heart of God, Helen.’ That night and tonight, I sang for my mother.”

~Cynthia M. Hamond

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