FlourishAnyway believes there is a playlist for just about any situation and is on a mission to unite and entertain the world through song.
Dying Is Part of the Circle of Life
If you've ever had a weighty health diagnosis like cancer, then you know what it's like to have difficult medical news punch you square in the gut. Pow! Your head spins, and for a minute you're abso-effing-lutely breathless. There's a feeling a panic, a wave of nausea, denial, unreality. "How can this be happening?" you may wonder. "Are you addressing me?"
As you undergo more testing, make difficult choices, and share the news, your life and death battle includes anxiety about both your own pain and suffering and concerns about the fate of loved ones. You consider your odds of survival, how you'll be remembered, and what happens in the afterlife. (Heaven better be worth it.)
The truth, however, is that we are all dying as an essential part of the circle of life. Some of us just have more time to reflect on the process of death itself.
Make a playlist of pop, rock, country, and R&B songs about dying. Whereas most death and dying playlists focus on those who are grieving, this playlist's songs prioritize the person who is ill and struggling.
1. "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw
When your days suddenly become numbered by illness, a sense of clarity sets in like the morning dew. A crisp new perspective on life takes hold.
This 2004 Grammy Award-winning country song features a man in his early forties whose father receives devastating medical news. Learning that he may not live to see another year, the father shares advice on how to live life to its fullest (because when you have little time, then time is all that matters).
The son then follows his dad's recommendations by going bull riding, climbing the Rocky Mountains, and fishing with his dad. He also finally reads the Bible, connects more deeply with friends and loved ones, and tries to become a better human being. The experience is transformational.
This deeply moving tune was inspired by the experience of several family and friends of the songwriting team. Their life priorities changed dramatically upon learning they had cancer. "Live Like You Were Dying" is often associated with Tim McGraw's father, Tug McGraw. The MLB pitcher died of a glioblastoma brain tumor in 2004.
2. "I'll Find You" by Lecrae (Featuring Tori Kelly)
Here you are in the battle of your life against against a malevolent force that threatens to take you down. The fear, pain, and exhaustion of the fight feel isolating and overwhelming at times. You seek uncertainty, peace of mind, and a return to normalcy. (Oh, if only there were an "undo" key!)
Christian hip hop artist Lecrae and gosel singer Tori Kelly channel these desperate emotions, encouraging cancer patients and others to keep fighting. They let them know that they are not alone in their battle:
Just fight a little longer, my friend
It's all worth it in the end
But when you've got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I'll find you.
Read More From Spinditty
3. "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe
At some point, each of us will exhale one last time before fading away into the light. What happens after that depends upon an individual's beliefs.
The man in this 2001 contemporary Christian/pop song envisions entering heaven and standing before God. The narrator wonders how he will react, and he imagines a number of scenarios. Will he dance with elation, fall to his knees, or perhaps sing "Hallelujah"? Will he instead be gobsmacked and stand there frozen, mouth agape, unable to speak from the everlasting glory? Only time will tell.
This dying song of hope was inspired by the passing of the songwriter's father. He penned the lyrics in only 10 minutes. "I Can Only Imagine" has become MercyMe's signature song as well as the most-played song on Christian radio. This Dove Award-winning Song of the Year crossed over to country, mainstream pop, and adult contemporary charts and became the basis for the 2018 faith-based film by the same name.
4. "Listen Before I Go" by Billie Eilish
The world's leading cause of disability is depression. Particularly if left untreated, depression can make you feel like you're dying (or as if you want to). Billie Eilish has been forthright about her struggle with depression, and this 2019 indie rock tune highlights the anguish of a fictional girl who is so dejected that she is perched atop a building, planning to die by suicide. Eilish wanted to bring attention to depression and the risk of suicide. (Note that she is NOT advocating suicide.)
Every 11 minutes in the US, someone takes their own lives, and this song's narrator will be adding to the tragic epidemic. She is a "jumper." Suffering flat affect, she complains to the listener that she has had a "year-long headache" and cries that she is "not okay."
The troubled young woman then denotes that she'll be gone soon (red flag alert), cannot be saved, and asks for her last words to be conveyed to friends. Shortly thereafter a thud reverberates below, and police sirens follow. This didn't have to happen. If you are having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7: 800-273-8255.
5. "When I'm Gone" by Joey + Rory
As the flicker of life dwindles in the narrator of this tearjerking 2012 country song, what she is most focused on is not herself but the partner she will leave behind. She uses nature imagery to lovingly reassure him that he will be okay after she passes:
But life will call with daffodils
And morning glorious blue skies
You'll think of me, some memory
And softly smile to your surprise
And even though you love me still
You will know where you belong
Just give it time, we'll both be fine
When I'm gone.
Wife Joey and husband Rory Feek formed the Grammy Award-winning country and bluegrass duo, Joey + Rory. They first rose to prominence when they placed third in CMT's reality singing 2008 competition, Can You Duet.
In 2014, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer three months after the birth of their only child. She died two years later at age 40. It's uncanny how prophetic this sad song was for Joey + Rory.
6. "Carry You" by Ruelle (Featuring Fleurie)
When you are reeling from physical and emotional pain and your will to continue the fight falters, rely on the circle of support around you. Reach out rather than suffering alone. Family and friends, clergy, your hospital care team or hospice care workers, and neighbors can be a powerful source of strength and soothing.
This ethereal 2019 pop song calms the spirit with a message of support. When you are in a dark place, lean on others to help carry you into the light.
7. "When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley (Featuring Dolly Parton)
Although some critics have panned Brad Paisley as a "Bob Saget with a cowboy hat" type, his performance here is uplifting and serene. Thoughts of what lie beyond the gates of life and death often fill the weary minds of those who struggle with life-threatening conditions. The guy in this 2005 country single looks forward to his heavenly reward. Instead of fearing death, he rejoices in the hope of shedding his earthly burden, reuniting with lost loved ones in a place where only happy tears are cried, and standing before God. His spirit will finally be free.
8. "My Way" by Frank Sinatra
Say it ain't so. Ole Blue Eyes actually loathed this signature song of his, although it has become a perennial favorite for funerals. The 1969 pop tune features an individual's retrospective upon his life that is by and large positive. The narrator is a man whose time in the spotlight is drawing down, and as the curtain closes he reflects on his self-reliance and go-getter spirit.
The irreverent man has lived a happy, adventurous life on his own terms, and he's leaving it all on the stage as he prepares to take a final bow. He has taken risks, has faced a few regrets, has risen to meet challenges, and has certainly accepted the consequences of his actions. The showman has lived his life his way, in a manner that doesn't compromise his values or integrity.
Curiously, the song bookended the presidency of Donald Trump, having been used at both his inaugural ball and aboard Air Force One as he left Washington D.C. at the end of his term. Additionally, it was a favorite of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (known as "The Butcher of the Balkans"). As the dictator awaited trial for crimes against humanity, he played it on repeat in his jail cell. The tune is also associated with a series of fatal karaoke bar disputes in the Philippines, resulting in the song being removed from many of the karaoke bar playlists in that country.
9. "Live Like We're Dying" by Kris Allen
If your life suddenly flashed before you, what would you wish you would have done? Odds are you wouldn't wish you had spent more time at work. The heartfelt relationships in our lives ultimately matter most.
This 2009 pop rock ditty is a song with a meaningful message: make the most of the limited time you that you have. With specific emphasis on verbalizing "I love you" to people who are important in your life, the song urges the listener to make moments count. There may never be another chance to tell them how you feel. With only 86,400 seconds in each day, you can either welcome the opportunity to communicate your feelings or retreat into silence. Which will it be?
10. "Clouds" by Zach Sobiech
Only 14 years old when he was diagnosed with the deadly bond cancer osteosarcoma, singer-songwriter Zach Sobiech lived with the disease for several years before being told by doctors that his case was terminal. As a senior in high school, he had less than a year to live.
Sobriech wrote this 2012 indie-pop tune to say farewell to loved ones. The song describes how his end is near and soon he'll be watching from the clouds. After this song went viral on YouTube and entered the Billboard Top 40, "Clouds" inspired a 2020 Disney biographic film of the same name.
11. "Don't Forget About Me" by CLOVES
Although we each cling to the desire to be remembered fondly by those whose lives we have touched, the somber reality is that in 100 years will all be forgotten. At least, that's the case if you believe the old saying.
In this hauntingly beautiful 2016 ballad from the Me Before You motion picture soundtrack, a woman addresses a loved one she has been separated from. Wondering about her beloved's whereabouts and welfare, she reminds them not to forget about her. Lucky are those who have the time to settle relationship loose ends before dying.
12. "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts
A sense of foreboding fills this 2009 country crossover ditty. The hit describes a relationship on the cusp of ending painfully. Goodbye will usher in sleepless nights, tears, and loneliness for the one left behind just as the death of a partner does.
13. "Leave Out All the Rest" by Linkin Park
How will you be remembered after you have slipped from the bonds of this earth? In this poignant 2007 rock ballad is an imperfect man who recognizes that he has inflicted pain on those around him.
Having made some choices that he regrets, the narrator is wiser now. He faces his own mortality and seeks their forgiveness in wanting to be remembered in a positive light:
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
And don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest.
14. "Cups" by Anna Kendrick
Preparing for a solo journey that starts tomorrow, the woman in this catchy international hit from 2012 folk pop number wishes she had company. As with death, she will have to go it alone, however, so she tells her significant lover how much he will miss her when she's gone. She teases that he'll miss her by her walk, her talk, and her hair.
15. "If Tomorrow Never Comes" by Garth Brooks
If it's been too long since you've expressed how much you love relatives and friends, then now is the right time to do it again. It's too important to leave undone.
This wistful 1989 country ditty was Garth Brooks' first love ballad. He plays a narrator who wonders whether his partner would know how much he loves her if he didn't wake up in the morning. The narrator lives with the past regret of having lost loved ones who didn't know his true feelings. As a result, the man has made a solemn vow to himself to express every day to his partner through word and deed how much he loves her.
16. "If We Never Meet Again" by The Booth Brothers
As the calendar pages turn, eventually there will come holidays, family celebrations, and reunions that don't include you and I. This is part of the circle of life.
This Southern gospel hymn from 2001, however, provides a glorious reminder that there is a sweet heavenly gathering spot waiting on the other side. There we will leave the world's troubles behind and reunite by the riverside with loved ones from long ago.
The destination will be worth all the struggle of our difficult journey. Smell the scent of eternally blooming roses (without the thorns, of course) as bright skies forever celebrate your attendance and bliss fills your soul. If we never meet again this side of heaven, I'll see you there.
17. "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks
Canadian one-hit wonder Terry Jacks was inspired by a dear friend who was succumbing to acute leukemia when he reworked a morbid French song into something more appropriate. The original version was about an old man who was dying of a broken heart because his wife had cheated on him.
The result of Jacks' edits is this unusually cheerful 1974 soft rock song about a dying man who says goodbye to his best friend, his father, and his daughter or niece. He pays tribute to the roles that each of them played in his life and compares his passing to the seasons. In addition, he offers each of them solace that he will always be with them in small but emotionally significant ways that they will be able to recognize.
18. "Hard Days" by Brantley Gilbert
When you're facing the battle of your life, it's hard not become discouraged or overwhelmed. This 2020 country tune, however, attempts to show the value of being pushed to your limits, having hard days, suffering, and experiencing heartbreak and more than you can take. Although this difficult struggle is not the path that you would have chosen, it can give life purpose and make you appreciate strength you probably didn't know you had. Don't get discouraged.
19. "Fade to Black" by Metallica
Feeling as if nothing matters, the narrator in this heavy metal power ballad from 1984 has given up on life. He feels as if he's lost everything and wonders whether it is worthwhile to carry on.
Ready to accept death, the dispirited man fades into the darkness and doesn't even try to save himself. The song was written after Metallica's equipment was stolen and the band had been kicked out of their manager's house for causing damage.
20. "The Show Must Go On" by Queen
Freddie Mercury was at the end of his life with HIV/AIDS and was so ill when Queen recorded this song that bandmates worried that he may not have been able to pull it off. However, the legendary rocker took a swig of liquid courage (vodka), said "I'll f*cking do it, darling," and nailed this 1991 song in one take. About a month later Mercury first publicly confirmed he had contracted AIDS. He died the following day.
This inspiring song speaks directly to the need to face life squarely—regardless of the challenges one faces—and to make the most out of life while you can:
Show must go on.
Show must go on.
Inside my heart is breaking.
My make-up may be flaking,
But my smile still stays on.
Even More Songs About Dying
21. (Don't Fear) The Reaper
Blue Oyster Cult
22. Love, Me
23. How Can I Help You Say Goodbye
24. Almost Home
25. The Great Gig in the Sky
26. Cryin' for Me
27. Calling Me Home
28. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
29. If I Die Young
The Band Perry
31. If You're Reading This
Guns N' Roses
33. I'm Already There
34. I Will Follow You into the Dark
Death Cab for a Cutie
35. Going, Going, Gone
36. In My Time of Dying
37. Bad Moon Rising
Creedence Clearwater Revival
39. Die Young
40. Adam’s Song
41. Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Guns N' Roses
42. I'll Fly Away
43. If Something Should Happen
44. Wish You Were Here
45. Let It Be
46. Lead Me Home
47. In My Time of Dying
48. Better Dig Two
The Band Perry
49. See You on the Other Side
50. You'll Be There
51. I Was Here
52. Dust in the Wind
54. Dying Day
55. Keep Me in Your Heart
56. Try Not to Breathe
57. I Promise It's Not Goodbye
58. Coming Home
59. 100 Years
Five for Fighting
60. Deep Blue
61. Until It Sleeps
My Chemical Romance
63. It Was a Very Good Year
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