My Friend Horatio

I became familiar with Horatio Spafford when I was in high school, working on an idea that I believed would take flight.  There I was, a freshman, working on a radio drama (a what?) that I was pitching to stations in Chicago and Charlotte.  A handful of people believed in this vision (Jaime being one of them) and for over a year we collaborated, recorded, prayed, raised money, and waited to hear whether the drama would be picked up.  But let’s get back to my friend Horatio.  Without using his name as one of the characters, his life and reaction to tragedy became the backdrop of the story I wrote.  Horatio Spafford and his wife had lost a son prior to the great Chicago fire.  The loss of his investments wiped them out financially and then an “economic downturn” made matters even worse.  Attempting to regroup from their losses and begin again, Spafford planned a vacation to Europe for the entire family.  He sent his wife and four daughters ahead while he tended to business in Chicago.  Soon thereafter, Spafford learned from a heart-wrenching telegram that the ship carrying his wife and four daughters had collided with another vessel.  His wife sent word, “saved alone.”  All four girls died in the shipwreck.  Spafford immediately set sail to meet his wife and it was when he passed over the site of the shipwreck that he wrote the words to the hymn, “It is Well.”  Spafford’s loss was sudden.  Definitely not the six months I had to say good-bye to Jaime.  However, a loss is a loss, isn’t it?

Horatio’s response to his tremendous loss was what is so amazing.  Think of what he could have written while sailing past the location where his daughters had died.  His poetry could have been full of anger, asking why he hadn’t been taken as well, and hoping the captain of the wayward vessel had died in a cruel manner.  But instead, he wrote about “peace like a river” and then he focused on his own humanity, his need for forgiveness, and the glorious promise that this life is not the end!  When I wrote about a widow whose own life was full of pain, and then found herself seated beside her son who had been in a horrible car accident, I had no idea of the story that would eventually unfold in my own life.  In one of the final scenes, this woman is seated beside her son, who is hooked up to those infamous beeping hospital monitors.  Through the noise, she realizes what Horatio Spafford and later James Hilton would realize – it is in those dark moments that God calls upon us to trust, love, and remember what we believed about Him in the light.

In a previous life, before Felicity, a doctorate, and cancer, one of my joys was playing and composing music.  For this dramatic presentation, I had the privilege of working with two talented accompanists who helped me record my arrangements.  Through the magic of audio cables, I am sharing my arrangement of Horatio Spafford’s, “It is Well.”  I apologize for the quality.  It was recorded on a cassette tape in 1999 and this particular version does not have the right channel coming through clear.  Take a look at Spafford’s words.  Remember that he wrote them in the aftermath of tremendous loss.  I too share my heart with you after tremendous loss.  However, I join my friend Horatio in declaring, “whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with soul.”

“It is Well” with “Thematic Reprise”

Original Composition: Phillip Bliss / Arrangement & Thematic Reprise: Hilton

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