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Amy Carmichael :: Ponnamal—Chapter XV: Her Music

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It was in that same Christmas week that Ponnamal heard for the first time what she always described as her music. She was at that time taking aspirin, a drug which up till a little later was sufficient to keep the worst pain under. She took it every six hours, and when the time drew near for taking it could hardly wait for it, though she disciplined herself to wait with a will that never faltered. But when her music began she entirely forgot it. She described the music variously: sometimes she seemed to recognize voices singing familiar words; then at other times it was only music, but such melodious sound that she wanted to lie awake all night and listen to it. This she could never do. Within ten minutes of its beginning she was asleep, and she would sleep the whole night through, and wake refreshed, not having touched medicine. There was never any need for her to tell us when she had heard this music: her face told us; the old beaming smile would return, and we would hear again the merry care‐free laugh. It was as if she had bathed in the night in the waters of immortality, and been renewed.

The good thing wrought in her was so apparent that a guest of the time doubted the correctness of the sentence of death that had been passed upon her. There was no outward sign of illness; was it credible that anyone in the grip of such a disease could be like this? A few minutes' 'music,' a single night's reprieve from pain, could hardly account for such exaltation of spirit, and above all such a sense of health; and it seemed as if Ponnamal began to think so too.

One morning, after a night of restful sleep, she felt so well that we walked round the compound together, and she noticed as usual things that should be put right. A heavy branch in the great tamarind tree was not safe, and she suggested a way by which it might be propped up. While we were considering it, the church‐bell began to toll, and she remarked calmly, 'The village people will think it is for me.' The word caught at something in me, and she knew it. 'Don't be troubled,' she said, and stopped to pour loving, reassuring words upon me; 'perhaps we shall go together; not now, but when the work for the children is finished.' But severe suffering followed upon this; and her hope faded.

Once, after a long silent interval, she heard her music in the afternoon, which was unusual. She fell asleep as she listened to it, and woke after two hours, feeling, as she said, quite well. And she got up at once and dressed eagerly, hardly daring to believe in her reprieve. Then, as it still continued, she walked to the upper part of the compound, where some new nurseries were being built. There, charmed afresh by the beauty of it, she stood gazing across to the mountains and then round about her at the flowers. For our compound enclosed in its walls is like a great garden; all manner of lovely things grow happily in it, its trees are always green. People coming into it from the dried‐up land beyond have wondered at its greenness; and so, indeed, did we, till, a few days ago, some workmen sinking an artesian well struck a river flowing fifty feet below the surface. Back in the far ages that river had been caused to flow from the western mountains, through the heart of the wide field, that was set apart for us; and now its streams make glad our little city of God.

'It is like a new world to me,' said Ponnamal, as she walked slowly round the big circle reserved for a playground, and looked at the nurseries grouped about it; and behind them to the mountains, lighted now in sunset colours. She had spent many days in her room, and though it was kept like a little bower, this was different; she did not know how to enjoy it enough. And the thought that must have passed through a thousand minds shaped afresh in ours: If earth can be so beautiful, what must the heavenly places be?

The next night she heard her music again. She told the girls who were with her at the time, and who heard nothing, to be quiet that she might listen; and as usual she left her medicine untouched. She woke next morning saying, 'Why do the cocks crow so soon?' a remark which amused her immensely when she was awake enough to understand what she had said; for the most welcome of all sounds to her through those months was the crowing of the cocks that told the long night was nearly over.

I have thought sometimes that, if we had only our recollection to depend upon, we might doubt now, lest our imagination were painting the grey facts of that painful time-and to colour facts is criminal. But this note, one of several, is sufficiently definite; it is dated January 21, 1915. 'Ponnamal had a wonderful night. Music and singing, then sleep, from 9 p.m. till 5 a.m. She woke so happy that involuntarily she clapped her hands for joy. She thinks that Lulla "a five‐year‐old child who left us for Paradise, clapping her hands with unmistakable delight" must have had some such experience of happiness when she clapped her hands.'

Another entry of about the same date records how she had herself wondered if it could be imagination; but after it had been frequently repeated, and each time so effectually banished her pain that she had no need of medicine, she came to believe it was something real, and after listening to the words of a hymn "'How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds'", sung, as she thought, by ten or fifteen voices, she gave up all question, and took it to be the kindness of her Lord that allowed her to overhear a little of the music of the Land of Song, to whose borders she had come.

For ourselves, we accepted it as among the many things of life which we may only know in part until for us too the curtain of sense wears thin; and we had long since learned to set no limits to the dealings of the Lord with His beloved. But we began to wonder if things as yet hidden from us were contained in this illness; and when one came to the house who was earnest about following the primitive Church custom of anointing the sick, Ponnamal being desirous, she was anointed. We could not be sure that the answer to our prayers would be health restored. We should have felt it unchildlike, unbecoming, to be peremptory with our most loving Father, or even perpetually insistent. Not 'Thy will be changed,' but 'Thy will, be done,' was the prayer given to us to pray. And we laid a palm branch across her bed as she lay waiting, in token that either way it would be victory.

From that day forward, Ponnamal grew rapidly worse, and we knew that we were answered: 'What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.'

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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