The song “Time of Your Life,” is also titled “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” Written and recorded by the punk rock band Green Day, it was released in 1997. All three members of the band, including Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead vocalist and guitarist; Mike Dirnt, the bassist; and Tre Cool, the group’s drummer, contributed to the song.
“Time of Your Life” is a song about transitions. It does not specifically talk about death and dying, but it does speak to the idea of life experiences coming to an end. For instance, one verse advises:
“So take the photographs and still-frames in your mind
Hang them on a shelf in good health and good time.
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial.
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while.
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.”
This song first became popular at proms. Students were bidding farewell to their best friends from kindergarten, remembering their best and worst experiences, and feeling nostalgic. “Time of Your Life” captures these emotions perfectly.
Similarly, people who are dying often want to review their lives, “taking pictures with their minds” and sharing their memories with others.
When I was a hospice social worker, for instance, I worked with a man who had fought in the Korean War. He had never spoken about his experiences with his wife or his children. As death approached, he became more and more restless. Then, slowly, he started to talk to the hospice staff about the experiences he had had in the war. Some of them were funny; some of them were horrific. He shared the things that made him proud and the things that made him ashamed.
The more he talked, the more relaxed he became. He even began to speak with his family about what he had gone through. Finally he told us he was finished. He never spoke again, but he watched his family with a smile on his face. He died a few days later. The weight of the memories he had carried for more than 40 years was finally gone.
Another line of “Time of Your Life” that might ring true to a dying person is this one:
“Time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don’t ask why.
It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time.”
As we grow older, time often dictates changes in where we go and how we get there. For instance, a man who ran marathons when he was younger might be on oxygen and unable to move much at all in his 80s. This man may ask why his life turned out this way and struggle with the idea that there is no answer. Nevertheless, like the Korean War veteran, the marathon runner must accept that his circumstances are a fact, not a question. The best way for him to deal with his condition is to learn whatever he can from it.
“Time of Your Life” is a song about how we put the experiences of our lives into context. It points out that two people who have had very similar experiences can lead very different lives based on the way they interpret and express what has happened to them.
Read the full lyrics of “Time of Your Life” here. You can also watch the band perform the song in the video below.