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EPISODE 5: Holly sings a new hymn

Host Todd Boss talks with Holly, a mother of eight, about the tragic loss of her son Killian. Her changing relationship and communion with God and His will for her life inspire a graceful, grateful new hymn.

A note from Todd:

Holly's compounded series of family tragedies seemed insurmountable to me as the poet called upon to address them. But Holly had already addressed them in her way, in terms of her tremendous faith, and that served as an invitation to partner.

Her evolving relationship with “god’s will” called a Nick Flynn poem to mind, and resulted in this hymn of praise. Some swim where others drown, and there’s a grace in that. I thank Holly for opening her heart to me and bringing to the podcast so powerful a testament. This podcast is dedicated to the memory of Killian.


The Poem


It’s weird where


track versus where

they go


If creeks, if

rivers flowed so


there’d be no


place to tent,

let alone

build and settle


Give us instead

a headwater.

A valley

for the lily. A


filled bed.

Praise Him

who bids us swim


we might drown.

—for Holly


Holly’s response:

After a busy season, in which I left the poem behind for a while, I recently revisited Hymn by listening to the audio file several times over. I enjoy seeing it written, the space it takes on the page, but I have always loved it more when listening to it being read. It was like a memory rematerializing to hear those words again, and it was interesting to see them form into a new image, to see them develop so in line with some of my recent reflections.

What struck me this time was the desire for a ‘headwater’. I immediately thought, this time, of an image I had been recently reflecting on in prayer as I meditated on the crucifix: the blood and water flowing forth from the side of Christ as he hung, dead on the cross. It’s a fascinating image. It is a sanctifying headwater.

This may be my headwater: Jesus, my faith, from which life flows, from which water flows. Into a green valley, regularly filled. I have been blessed with an ever reliable headwater. Praise Him indeed!


Special music for this episode, entitled Holly’s Repemption, was composed by Pedro Osuna, with vocals by Hila Plitmann. Click to give it a listen on SoundCloud.

If you think there's a poem in your story, leave us a message on our Haiku, Hawaii, guest line, at 808-300-0449.

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