Friday, 26 August 2016

Tears in Heaven

Suggestions towards an interpretation of Eric Clapton's famous ballad in preparation for a funeral at which this was requested. It is well known that Tears in heaven was written in response to the sudden, tragic death of the singer's four-year old son Conor.

The first two strophes ask hypothetical questions.
Would you know my name,
If I saw you in heaven?
They are hypothetical questions because the singer confesses "I know I don't belong here in heaven." It is probably not only that his own time has not yet come ("I must be strong and carry on"), given that the second stanza ends with "'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven." There may be glimpses of heaven for him but heaven is not a place that suits the singer, or probably better, not a place for which he feels suited. Maybe a legacy of thinking that heaven is for good people and sweet little boys like his own son? The singer expresses no doubt that the person addressed in the song is in heaven.

But even if the singer could see his son in heaven. Would the son acknowledge him? This question seems to be a good part of his anguished grief. The singer has failed and, having apparently made up his mind only the day before to make up for this, he will now not be able to do so.

It is often said that "Time heals all wounds." The singer is not convinced.
Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.
The first half of each of these two lines expresses the belief that there is a lot of damage that can be done by time as well - it does not necessarily get easier, but the second half suggests that it can also lead you to prayer.

And this changes everything. There is now a different sort of knowledge, one that is no longer centred on what the singer knows about himself or wants to know about himself, and there is a certainty ("I'm sure").
Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure.
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven.
How does the singer know that? He doesn't tell us but I reckon Eric Clapton had Revelation 21 in mind.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
Cf. Isaiah 25:8Revelation 7:17. Prayer helps us to look beyond ourselves and to trust God's revelation and so come to a new and better knowledge. The next step would be to ask God himself, "Will you know my name? Will you acknowledge me?" This is the most important question of them all.