Like I said on a recent radio episode (Conversation Pieces-Listen Here), I really suck at the grieving process. I’m not sure why that is. It’s a subject that is relevant to me and possibly you as well because we all face the inevitable reality of having to say goodbye to friends and family, often without being ready to.
In 2003 my grandfather passed away and I wasn’t ready for it. I was in college, going through some rough personal stuff and made a long drive to Mississippi after getting a call that this might be the end. I arrived and spent some time with him at the hospital where he seemed full of life and vigor. I shook off the death warning, hugged him and told him I’d see him the next day. He said “Sure thing my buddy.” Those were the last words I’d hear him say. The next day he went into a coma and died two days later. He was one of my favorite people in my whole world. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
Since then I’ve had to say an early and unexpected goodbye to a few good friends and family. Recently a good friend of Mrs. Smith and I’s departed us far too early. That hasn’t sunk in yet even though it’s been several months since her death. I don’t know why it still doesn’t seem real, but I do know that I have to come to terms with whatever death is.
Over the years my beliefs and views on the afterlife have shifted from the super-religious upbringing of my childhood to be more open minded. I don’t wish to dive into the waters of religion here but I will say that some very powerful music has helped to give me hope and peace, love and comfort in something that none of us truly know much about. Music provides the comfort for losing a loved one in a way that few things can compare to. Here’s one example:
“This train carries saints and sinners, carries losers and winners. This train carries whores and gamblers, carries lost souls…This train dreams will not be thrwarted, this train faith will be rewarded. This train hear the steel wheel singing. Bells of freedom ring.”
-Bruce Springsteen on Land Of Hope And Dreams (Wrecking Ball)
If the afterlife is restricted to only some people who follow a limited creed or belief, it’s hard for me to have peace. I know that flies in the face of the religious upbringing I mentioned, but I know a lot of good people who were honorable and loving yet never fit into a religious box. Surely there’s a heaven for them too.
“Throw away your misconception. There’s no walls around heaven. No code you gotta know to get in. No minutemen or border patrol. You’ve got to lose your earthly possessions. Leave behind your weapons. You can’t buy your salvation and there is no pot of gold. Heaven, what the hell is Heaven? Is there a home for the homeless? Is there hope for the hopeless?
-Brett Dennen (with Natalie Merchant) on Heaven (Hope For The Hopeless)
I dream of a place where creation keeps growing, where truth is a discovery we make every day, like living here but without the confines of time and the limitations of selfishness. I dream of a place that is governed by love and not the threat of punishment. A place where peace is the atmosphere and air we breath, where any concept of limitation or pain does not exist. I dream of the land spoken by the man in his song:
“There is a road far beyond, far beyond the streets and the cars, far beyond the clouds and the stars. Far beyond what you call God. I heard of a house where death cannot enter anymore, many rooms in this mansion all covered in gold. Sits upon a land where misery has lost its grip and the rains they shower all fear away.”
-Trevor Hall on House (Trevor Hall)
Or a place that feels like this:
“What if every living soul could be upright and strong? That I do imagine. There will be sorrow no more. Where all soldiers lay their weapons down. Where kings and queens relinquish their crowns. When the only true messiah rescues us from ourselves.”
-Bad Religion on Sorrow (The Process Of Belief)
“Where the sun never dies, I’ll shine away my shadow. Where the sun never dies, I’ll drink until I’m not thirsty. Where the sun never dies just waiting to rise. I’ll see you on that day when I walk those last steps your way.”
-Blindside on Where The Sun Never Dies (About A Burning Fire)
“And all these bad dreams, I wake up to the light. And when I can’t see I wake up to your eyes. Wake me up. There’s a light up ahead.”
-Further Seems Forever on Light Up Ahead (How To Start A Fire)
This is just a tiny bit of musical comfort for thoughts on heaven and the afterlife, subjects that are wrought with heaviness and hope, tears of both sorrow and joy. Do you know other great songs in this vein? Please share them with me in the comments below.