Music to Accompany a Dying Soul

I know it sounds odd.  But.  If you were dying–and you knew it…and it wasn’t immediate–what music would you want in your ears when you left this earth?

It’s odd because I have a long list of funeral songs.  But this is a different question. 

I remember hearing about my friend’s brother, who listened almost exclusively to Michael Card’s music.  He wanted it cranked up loud.  His final breath was accompanied by soaring music that enveloped the room.

I think I would like to hear my loved ones singing to me.  When my dad died my siblings and I crowded around his hospital bed and sang until we couldn’t remember any more hymns to sing. The first night we didn’t have hymnbooks and mixed and matched verses.  There were false starts, dangling middles and strong familiar refrains.  Laughter mingled with tears.  The second night we had hymnbooks and it’s a funny thing: the time had a heavier quality to it.  I liked it better singing what we had stored in our heads, mistakes and all.

Within my extended family, loved ones are keeping vigil with a grandmother everyone calls Honey.  My brother walked past her room and heard his daughters singing to their grandma:

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

With its ability to reach down into the tiny tendrils of your consciousness, music is powerful. 

I’m listening to an acoustic blues CD by Kelly Joe Phelps, Lead Me On.  The tracks are one-take songs. He sings a Blind Willie Johnson song, Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed.  I have yet to figure out what the song means, but it’s got a great title.  Another track is a Blind Willie McTell song We Got to Meet Death One Day

You gotta meet your death one day,
You’re going to glory after a while,
You’re gonna see death and smile,
You all gotta meet your death one day.

So…when it’s your ready-or-not moment, what would you want to hear?



15 thoughts on “Music to Accompany a Dying Soul

  1. The very first song that popped into my head was If Ever I Loved The, My Jesus ‘Tis Now. Then I read what you’d put and teared up! Thinking about it more, I’d need to stay alive long enough to hear The Ashoken Farewell and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, second movement! Then, upon further reflection, I am pretty sure there is going to be a lot of music in Heaven, so I may not be solving any problems by staying alive! I bet it’ll be playing up there as well! Changing the subject, I think we passed you guys Sunday as you were coming into Lostine, we were headed to Wallowa. Little reddish car?

  2. I’ll be thinking about this today.  It’s better than thinking up the traditional “last meal”, IMO.What makes me sad is to think that I would die unable to sing along- we’ve had laryngitis here a bit, and it’s been difficult to worship in silence as others praise the Glorious One.   Maybe if I were a better whistler!..

  3. Very interesting question. I don’t think I’d want anything toosentimental….just isn’t me, and I’d hate to be rolling my eyes on mydeathbed.My favorites include big Bach organ works in minor keys; joyful, rhythmic Renaissance dances; and lyrical Brahms piano nocturnes. But I wouldn’t necessarily selectany of those as my exit music. My first thought was Psalm chants, suchas from my “Psalms for the Soul” CD, featuring mostly Anglican chant.But, as much as I enjoy it from time to time, chant music isn’t alwaysincredibly uplifting. Last year when my 9-year-old was in the hospitalfor several days and my husband and I were playing tag team to staywith him, I’d listen to that CD in the car, praying for my son. Butsometimes the music just seemed—I don’t know—too depressing,especially as I tended to be tired and worried during that time, andI’d have to switch to jazz or something more lively for awhile.So upon further reflection, I think maybe I’d pick another scripture CDI own, “God the Provider.” The primary target audience is children, butI think I enjoy it as much or more as my children. It consists of 16different scripture passages set to a delightful variety of music,including Celtic, Caribbean, jazz, Baroque, and more, composed andperformed by a talented musical family. One of my favorites sets Romans8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are inChrist Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”) tomarching band music, of all things! It really works, too. (Website ishere:, I hadn’t intended to turn this comment into an advertisement, but I guess that collection might be in the running for me.

  4. I think it would have to be some of the worship songs we sing every week @ our church. Something those who visit me would know. I like the fact that y’all sang to your grandfather before he died. There is something therapeutic about loving voices raised in worship. In lieu of that, perhaps some George Winston or Fernando Ortega? Anything but silence.

  5. What an interesting question.  There are two songs I would want to hear, but the very first thing that popped into my mind was the Cherubic HymnLet us who mystically represent the cherubimAnd who sing the thrice-holy hymnNow lay aside all earthly caresThat we may receive the KingWho comes invisibly upborne by the angelic Hosts!but the other one would be the Song of St. Simeon::Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a Light to enlighten the Gentiles and a glory to Thy people Israel.Having sat vigil with several people now I agree with you that music can break the barrier between consciousness.  I think it is lovely when family can sing to a dying loved one. 

  6. The Te Deum Anglican chant in the 82 hymnalGlorious Things of Thee are SpokenFernando singing ‘Jesus King of Angels’Sara Groves singing ‘This Journey is My Own’ and ‘Going Home’ and ‘Fireflies and Songs’but…. mostly hymns – SCREAMING, triumphant hymns – that proclaim Christ’s victory over sin and death…. and then these 2 on repeat.Beautiful Savior [Lutheran version – ALL verses!]Abide with Me [just the thought of this makes me want to see Him face to face]and now i’m catatonic and am thinking of so many songs that I can’t differentiate. Last time you posted a question like this i lost an entire day. Here we go again. 🙂

  7. Well, as unspiritual as it might sound, mostly Sandy Patti with some Phillips, Craig and Dean mixed in. My favorite song hers of all time, which MUST be sung at my memorial service is “Another Time, Another Place,” which she sang w/ Wayne Watson. In church, we sing a lot of Phillips, Craig and Dean choruses, and sometimes I stop singing, close my eyes, and allow myself to be bathed in the words and music. It can be glorious and uplifting at times, and it can be soothing and medicinal at others. I am always so glad to think that God invented our vocal chords and minds with the ability to produce music!

  8. “What A Day” – Phil Keaggy; “Let Us Love & Sing & Wonder” – John Newton via Laura Taylor and Jars Of Clay; “Festival Te Deum” – Benjamin Britten; “Beautiful Savior” – St. Olaf Choir arr.

  9. I think I would leave it to my kids… if all were there it would be a mighty voice and they would know what I want to hear. I don’t know how people do it… Just thinking about it tears me up.I’ve got it under control… a version of theTe Deum ‘We Praise You and Acknowldge You, O God  set to Thaxted,  Luther’s We All Believe in One True God, Awake My Heart With Gladness, by Gerhardt.. anything by Gerhardt, On My Heart Imprint Your Image… My Song is Love Unknown… Have No Fear Little Flock…Earth and All Stars … In Thee Is Gladness… Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling… Lift High the Cross…

  10. I agree with Brenda, I’ll leave it up to the family, because there are just too many I would love to hear.  Music is such a gift to us.  During one of the tests I had to undergo a few years back, feeling very alone, psalm 22c went through my mind, but the situation was different than dying.  The boys have been singing a song by a group called “Me without You” that goes,” The angel of death came to David’s room, …and said,”friend it’s time to go”  ”  It is the dialogue between the angel of death and King David-  it is very thought provoking and we have had good discussions.  I think it has helped us to be ready ‘to go’, whenever. 

  11. Oh, I hadn’t thought of those Sara Groves songs till I read the comment above by wonderloveandpraise.  I really like those.  I have said I’d like to have Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus sung at my funeral (by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, how’s that for reaching?  Ha.).  I love the soaring part at the end where the trumpet comes in.Lately, the songs from the liturgy at mass have been going through my head all week.  Various ones as we sing some of the differently week to week.  Gloria. Amen. I can’t even remember the other responses now.  Luke is really into Gregorian chant at the moment.  I guess I will leave it up to my kids as well.  I love the thought of my family singing hymns around my bed.Sandy

  12. @applechexx – @jerseechick – @My_name_is_Angie – @heckatall – @DebD –@wonderloveandpraise – @LimboLady – @DCHammers – @Tanabu_Girl – @Btolly – @secros60 – I’ve got some listening to do.  I loved the responses.  Thank you.  I don’t know why it formats so weird.  I’d guess that you shouldn’t do hard returns [enter] and let the computer do the entering and returning.  It’s frustrating isn’t it?Deb, the Song of Simeon is one of my most favorites.  I sang it in choir in high school.  But I’ve never put it in the context of departing this earth…duh!  Thanks, especially, for mentioning it.

  13. This was a post worthy of thought. And more thought. I’ve been chewing on it all week!  My conclusion:  I don’t think I know at THIS moment what I will need at THAT moment. But I want my arsenal to be full for the Holy Spirit to draw from.  It seems that every morning when I first awaken, there is a song running through my mind and heart. It’s not unusual for it to be a song I hadn’t thought of in years and I wonder “how did that resurface in my consciousness just now?”  Often it is just the thing that will sustain me and cheer me as the day unfolds.  So I think that at the moment of death I will trust that the Lord will bring me what He knows I need to hear, whether from the sweet voices of my children/loved ones or the sweet inner music inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  P.S. Loved reading the many comments on this one!  Great thoughts from kindred souls.

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