The Holy Spirit's Gift to a Dying Man
It happened in the 1920s before the days of satellites, televisions or rock music. Retirement centers, nursing homes and the American welfare system had not been set up yet either. In my town elderly men who were poor and bedridden were housed in the basement of the county hospital.
As a young, junior-high schoolteacher, I shared my convictions about the poor and lonely conditions these older people had to live in. What a dreary place it was for these forlorn people to spend their last days of life.
"Let us give them a party once a month," one of my students suggested. The idea caught on quickly. The girls brought the men cookies, little jars of jam, and party favors. The boys furnished songs and stunts for entertainment. It was hard to tell who enjoyed the party more, the students or the men.
One day, unexpectedly, my faith was tested. The nurse called me aside and said, "You are the wife of the Adventist intern, are you not?"
"Yes, I am," I answered.
"Good," she said, "then you can help me. Do you know the hymn 'Redeemed'? There is an elderly man near death in one of the rooms back there who keeps begging for someone to sing that song for him. I do not attend church, and I do not know the song. Could you sing it for him?" I had grown up in Adventist church school and knew well all the words of all the stanzas of that hymn.
When she led the way to the room and opened the door, tears came to my eyes as I viewed the pitiful sight. The man was thin and frail. His hands were trembling and his lips were quivering. I wanted with all my heart to sing for him, but never in all my life had I been able to carry a tune! The students had followed me to the room. I turned to them and asked, "Do any of you know the hymn 'Redeemed'?" No one did! I felt desperate! I saw that I would have to sing that hymn for him, but how could I?
Suddenly across my mind flashed the words of promises I had memorized: "He (Christ) longs to have you reach after Him by faith. He longs to have you expect great things from Him." "As surely as the oak is in the acorn, so surely is the gift of God in His promise."
Silently but quickly I prayed, "Dear Father, I desperately need Your help; I claim Your promises." With that silent prayer, I opened my mouth and tried to sing:
"Redeemed! How I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed by His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am."
I could hardly believe it was real. My voice sounded clear and melodious! As I sang, the young people who knew I had never been able to sing even "America" in school stood in silent disbelief. I continued:
"I know there's a crown that is waiting
In yonder bright mansion for me;
And soon, with the spirits made perfect,
At home with the Lord I shall be."
The poor old man closed his eyes. As he rested his head on the pillow, an expression of such peace and joy came over his face that I knew the Holy Spirit had touched his heart and answered my prayer.
As we closed the door and moved away, the nurse remarked, "What a beautiful hymn, and you sang it so well."
"No," I replied, "I cannot sing a note. It must have been an angel singing."
The old man died that night, but I have never forgotten that day. The scene and the song have remained vividly in my mind and heart for nearly fifty years. I feel confident that the God who loved him so much that He gave me the gift of song in answer to his plea will take him home on the resurrection morning to hear the angels sing.