Published in the Fellowship News/Infolettre UUFO
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa
Summer Issue, June 2019

“Sing me a song of love,”
The dying man whispered low
He who allowed not the love of his friends
Through music, sweet music, bid love enter in.
I sang of love’s tenderness, songs for his heart
And the music opened him slowly

—From Sing Me a Song, by Pamela Holm
Pamela Holm

Poetry erupts from emotion. Intentionally or not, the poet uses metaphor and image to distill and present one salient moment, which gives the reader a brief glimpse of what it means to be human. Sound, whether hard or soft, whether whispered or wailed, enters the craft on multiple levels, especially in song.

Recently I spent a couple of hours in Pamela Holm’s cheery apartment, shoulder to shoulder with books, singing bowls, artworks, and a pot of lemon ginger tea. She spoke of professional choices and personal trauma, and of how she writes songs in response. She told me that her mother and father sang while doing the dishes, her father harmonizing to her mother’s melody. And still they divorced.

“Sing me a song of love,”
The dying man beckoned me near
I carried him back to his fisherman’s days
With songs of the ocean being rocked on the waves;
With pebbles and seashells again in his gaze,
The music opened him wider.

—Holm, verse 2

We are always trying to make sense of our emotional lives, often from near the edge, ready to fall. Or to hang on. Pamela’s dysfunctional family gives her a front row seat on how people struggle. As a toddler, she suffered a sexual assault by a babysitter. Pre-verbal, no voice to tell the story, and anyway, who will listen?

She leaned into music, prevailing upon her older sister to teach her songs until she was old enough to go to choir herself. Learning (also from her sister) to play the ukulele and recorder. And then the guitar, the piano, the flute. At one point her school tested for musical intelligence and Pamela was found to be the most gifted in her class.

“Sing to me of love,” and amid angel’s wings
We pondered together the deepest of things;
Remembering losses and fears of the night
Passions of living when spirit takes flight.

—Holm, verse 3

A fusion of physical/emotional trauma, the discipline of studying health, and brilliant engagement with music.

Trained in spiritual practices and Shamanic forces from around the world—singing bowls, sound-medicine, chakra techniques, imagery, and music therapy, Pamela has learned to be open to life-changing moments. Having experienced co-counseling in her early twenties, she knows that difficulties can be overcome with knowledge and self-expression. Using her own trauma and healing as a guide, she helps clients see their own life patterns and understand cycles of abuse. In teaching how to name and explore the cracks, in allowing music to support healing, Pamela nudges us all towards health.

“Sing me a song, one more song of love,”
The dying man rattled on.
A song of hope from a mother’s breast,
A beacon that drew his soul to its rest
As the sun of his living reclined in the west
The song of his life echoed softly

—Holm, verse 4