When the Canary’s Song is Silent


When the canary’s song was gone, it meant death. In the darkest of places, the canary sang. Until, that is, he lost his song, until the gases he inhaled caused his death.

Canaries were used in coal mines to detect danger. When toxic gases became too strong, the canary died. When the canary’s song was silent, the miners knew it was time to come out of that shaft before they, too, succumbed.

The important thing  for the miners’ safety was that they didn’t become so used to hearing the canary’s song that they tuned it out and then didn’t recognize when it first stopped singing. To not recognize that fact was certain death. That is why caged canaries were carried down into the coal mines. If methane or carbon monoxide reached high levels, the canary died. At that point, the levels were high enough to endanger the men working in the mines. When the canary’s song was gone, it was their signal to get out or they would perish as well.

songThe death of the canary saved the lives of hundreds of men during those years.  Because of the ways and amounts of oxygen the canaries inhale, they are more vulnerable to air-borne poisons and therefore are more vulnerable to decreased oxygen levels than are humans. When the canary lost his song, it meant he was dead. It meant the miners needed to evacuate before they, too, lost their lives. 

There’s a life lesson in this phenomenon for me. When I’ve lost my song, it’s a warning that I’ve lost my lifeline to living. When I’ve lost my song, I’ve lost my peace.

There are so many things that can snuff out my joy (the chord beneath the song).

When the song is gone, I need to go back to the last place I had my song and find out what happened. When did the gases become so high that I succumbed? How did the poisons seep so stealthily into my system that I was not even aware?

When the song is gone, it’s past time that I find my song again.

How about your song? Are you still singing, or have you lost the song?

When the song is gone, it’s time to reconnect – with God.



To hear the Booth brothers sing God Gave the Song, click here.

You can also click here to hear it sung by Sharon Haygood on Allelujah! A Praise Gathering for Believers


How She Happened to Sing His Favorite Song


I had those days when I’d head to work, expecting to do my job and not expecting that God would show up in any special way.  Sure, I asked for His blessing, for wisdom and for protection.  And I asked Him to guide me through my shift.  And then sometimes, God showed up in such a way that I knew He was saying to me, “Watch this.”  This was one of those days.  Every time I hear the song Heavenly Sunlight, I am back in that hospital room.

nurse sunflowers

Heavenly Sunlight

It started out as just another ordinary hospital day for him, I suppose. After Herman’s bath, it was time to weigh him and change his bed.  We chattered as we came into his room, dressed in isolation gowns, masks, and gloves. Our garb was another reminder of his illness and infection.

“Okay, Herman babe, time to get weighed,” one of the girls said, wheeling the litter scale into his room.

He nodded, unable to speak because of his tracheotomy. He knew us all as well as we knew him; he had been in the hospital for over a year (372 days to be exact). Words like coma, pneumonia, infection, tracheotomy, oxygen, intravenous, isolation, suction, intensive care, catheter, and surgery were as much as part of his vocabulary as ours.


His open abdominal wound was as much a part of his life as the hospital, for he had lived there with it since his arrival from another hospital. He survived seven surgeries in all. Sometimes we wondered whether he would ever go home. It all represented a struggle and fight for health and life.

Four of us were in his room that day, preparing the litter scales to weigh him when we heard someone coming down the corridor. As she stopped outside the room to don her isolation garb, she was humming and singing to herself.  When she came into the room, I recognized her.

NURSE oxygen

Her name was Faye, and she worked in respiratory therapy. She had come to change his oxygen equipment.  Oblivious to all of us, she began busily exchanging the tubing and checking equipment. We were maneuvering tubing and catheters, getting ready to move Herman from his bed to the litter-scale.  She hadn’t stopped humming to herself.

Then she sang out in full voice the words to the chorus of her song: “Hallelujah, I am rejoicing, singing His praises, Jesus is mine!”

She turned to hand Herman his new oxygen piece to him, unaware that we were watching them both, for Herman was shaking with sobs. He ignored her attempt to hand his new oxygen tubing, and he reached instead for her hand.  Herman was trying to tell her something with his lips. She couldn’t understand.

“I’m sorry, Herman, I don’t know what you’re saying,” she spoke gently, as he gripped her hand tightly.

I understood, but could scarcely speak as I choked out the words, “He’s saying, ‘Sing it again!'”

Oblivious, she asked innocently, “What was I singing?”

“It’s ‘Heavenly Sunlight’,” I answered, hardly able to take my eyes from his face.

Something special was happening in the room just now.

An angel unaware, I thought to myself.

Time stood still.


nurse music sheet


The litter-scale sat and waited.

Dressed in yellow isolation gowns, we lined up on both sides of the bed and listened, each of us reaching out to touch him through our rubber-gloved hands. Behind those monotonous green masks, we tried unsuccessfully to swallow away the lumps in our throats as she took his hand in both of hers.

Then she sang it all the way through, from beginning to end, those words about sunshine and Jesus’ faithfulness.  Herman’s eyes seemed glued to her face as he drank it all in, tears sliding down his cheeks.

“It has been such a long time for Herman,” we had said to each other practically every day.

And that same day at a conference concerning his hospital care, his surgeon had told us, “This past year has literally been hell on earth for Herman.”nurse mountains mist

Ah, but could he have been there to see and feel the sunshine penetrating the walls of the room that day, he would perhaps have felt differently. I called that moment “heaven come to earth,” to room 5316 at WVU hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia.

No one moved as she sang.

As she finished, he cried and whispered through his tears and tracheotomy, “Thank you . . . thank you . . .” over and over again.

A kiss on the hand, one on his forehead as he continued crying, the promise of singing with him when he was able to talk again, and she was gone.

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It was just one moment in a day.

Just another ordinary day.

Yet she brought a cup of water and gave it in Christ’s name.

nurse cup of water 3

She was an ordinary person doing an ordinary task.

How can it be that she just happened to be humming his favorite song that day, at that particular moment in time?

nurse music notes


She came with a song and left me with a challenge. She brought a touch of God, leaving me with an indelible memory of a special moment in eternal time.

She came in the midst of the routine of her job, and she gave a cup of cool, refreshing water in His name.


nurse water cup


Lord, even so, use me!


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If you’d like to  hear this song, you can.  There are several groups listed here, and they each have their own rendition.   Take your pick, or listen to all of them.

The Thomas Brothers

Gaither (Live)

Trinity One Studio

George Beverly Shea and the Blackwood Brothers

nurse music sheet 2

This story was published in the book Southside Glimmers in April of 2000.  Herman went to be with Jesus quite a few years after this – and I am confident that he is experiencing the Sonlight of Heaven.