Song Spotlight: “Beyond the Sunset”

Beyond the Sunset - Song Spotlight |
  • Theme/Topic: Anticipatory Grief, Goodbye
  • Mood/Tempo: Thoughtful, processing, slow
  • Genre/Style: Country, Gospel

You may hear “Beyond the Sunset” at funerals, perhaps when a spouse has passed away after decades of marriage. In a hospice setting, it can lead into important existential conversations, or it could simply provide a non-verbal container for two people to express their love for one another.

This song was first released by Hank Williams under the pseudonym “Luke the Drifter” in 1950, on the B-side of “The Funeral.” The lyrics were originally a poem called “Should You Go First” by Albert Roswell, which was then set to the 1936 hymn by the same name. Other noted performers of this song include Bill and Gloria Gaither, Pat Boone and Jo Stafford.

Note how the lyrics can provide comfort to the spouse left behind and help the couple or loved ones to remember their beautiful shared memories:

Should you go first and I remain to finish with the scroll
No lessening shadows shall ever creep in to make this life seem droll
We’ve known so much of happiness we’ve had our cup of joy
And memory is one gift of God that death cannot destroy
I want to know each step you take that I may walk the same
For someday down that lonely road you’ll hear me call your name
Should you go first and I remain one thing I’ll have you do
Walk slowly down that long long path for soon I’ll follow you
In that fair homeland, we’ll know no parting beyond the sunset for evermore

Try This:

  • Encourage loved ones to reminisce together. Ask, “What’s the secret to your long marriage?”, “What was your favorite memory together?”, or “What’s one thing that you want your loved one to remember?”
  • Use digital images of nature and sunsets to spur discussion
  • Use this song to lead to other songs on a similar theme, such as “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” or “Always”
  • Offer to assist hospice patient in writing a letter or poem to their loved ones that they can keep and read after they’re gone. Words from this letter or poem may replace lyrics of this song or be put into another melody.
  • Encourage loved ones to hold hands, hug each other, or dance as the song is played

“Beyond the Sunset” is a great song for processing death and the end of a close bond with a loved one. What are your other favorite processing songs to use in eldercare and hospice settings? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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