One of the great inevitable truths of life is death. While it is comforting to know that death is not an end but a beginning—Romans 8:38 tells us that death will never be able to separate us from God’s love—it is difficult to imagine life without a recently departed loved one.
For instance, my grandaunt passed away the other day at 95; many Filipinos grieved when legendary comedian Dolphy went home to his rest. While they certainly lived a full life, words couldn’t express the grief that we felt, knowing we wouldn’t see our loved ones until we, too, were reunited with them in the next life.
Music is one of the best ways by which we can express our feelings about a loved one returning to his or her home in heaven. Secular music has had its share of farewell songs, notably “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, or even “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John.
Well, here are five Christian songs that capture the sentiment of what it means to say goodbye to this life and usher in the glorious new eternity we have in the presence of God. And to those currently mourning the recent loss of a loved one, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
“I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe
“Surrounded by Your glory,” Millard sings, “what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?” The song was such a huge hit that it crossed over into secular radio, where it finished in the Top 5 of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, among other charts, and was the precursor to 11 number hits for MercyMe.
In 2011, MercyMe re-recorded “I Can Only Imagine” alongside the London Symphony Orchestra, and the added instrumentation gave new depth and color to the band’s most enduring chart-topper to date.
“You Wouldn’t Cry For Me (Andrew’s Song)” by Mandisa
“You Wouldn’t Cry For Me” was written by Mandisa for a woman named Rebecca, who gave birth to a stillborn baby who was named Andrew. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have heard her sing, “If I could find the right words to say, if you could just see this place, you wouldn’t cry for me today.” Written from Andrew’s perspective, “You Wouldn’t Cry For Me” is a truly comforting song for anyone who wasn’t able to say goodbye and is struggling with feelings of guilt or loss.
“Finally Home” by Kerrie Roberts
Written originally by Roberts to express her homesickness in being away from her family, “Finally Home” has since evolved to express the feeling of anticipation when we are finally in the presence of God.
“When I’m finally home,” Kerrie sings, “and I finally know what it really means to praise His Name, what it feels like to know amazing grace.” It’s comforting to a grieving Christian to know that his or her loved one is now forever in a place where he or she can worship God forever.
“Save a Place for Me” by Matthew West
Written in honor of his late grandmother, Luella Jane West, Matthew released “Save A Place For Me” as part of a campaign intended to honor loved ones who have gone home to their rest, as well as comfort those still dealing with their grief.
Christians, in particular, will be able to relate to the bridge, in which Matthew sings, “I wanna live my life just like you did / Make the most of my time just like you did / I wanna make my home up in the sky just like you did.” Isn’t it our prayer that our lives honor Christ so when it comes to a close, we will be able to return to the loving arms of our Savior fully happy that we lived our lives well?
“I’ll Fly Away” by Avalon
Since 1929, over 100 artists have placed their stamp on “I’ll Fly Away,” including Christian pop-rock group Jars of Clay, R&B legend Aretha Franklin, gospel superstars Tamela Mann and the Blind Boys of Alabama, country star Alan Jackson, and bluegrass legends Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch, who sang it for the movie O Brother Where Art Thou.
My personal favorite, however, belongs to vocal foursome Avalon, whose version in their 2006 album Hymns was tight and energetic, with some vocal runs in the end of the song and a money note from Melissa Greene that is probably the most glorious send-off for anyone headed home to Jesus!
Ganns Deen is a child of God, husband to Caths, and father to Nathan and Nicki. He is passionate about Christian music and tapping the power of the Internet to glorify God and spread the gospel. An award-winning songwriter in his own right, Ganns serves God full time in his capacity as online content supervisor for Victory Philippines. Follow him on Twitter (@ganns) or on his Christian music-themed blog, www.gannsdeen.com.