Don McLean wrote a song called “American Pie” in 1971. The song seems to be a parallel of the loss of innocence in Don’s own life and the changes America was going through as she left the “Happy Days” of the fifties and plunged into the turmoil of the sixties. Protestors emerged questioning U.S. policies regarding war and civil rights. The dream of a near utopian society was dying and the reality that replaced it was troubling and difficult to accept.
McLean expresses exasperation when he writes:
“Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again.”
It seems nearly blasphemous when he describes the failure of the church to rescue a society that was plunging into a darker period of its history:
“The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.”
He also expresses frustration as he copes with his own delusions about life:
“I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck,
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died.”
The death of a dream is a hard pill to swallow. Young adults are sometimes floored by the reality of what the real world is like as they make the transition from the innocence of childhood to the stark reality of a “dog-eat-dog” world. The spilt blood of slain dreams may drain the life from them and some never recover from the wounds. Another onslaught of reality comes much later in life. This is often referred to as the “mid-life crisis”.
For many at this stage in life, the loss of a dream causes severe pain which often leads to acts of desperation to reclaim the dream or create another dream. Divorcees will often claim that their spouse made them an expendable commodity as they tried to cope with the depression of facing the reality that they weren’t going to be able to experience all they wanted in life. Those in mid-life are often overwhelmed by insurmountable debt or the unexpected dependency of their children. The promotion they always thought they would get isn’t going to happen. The harsh reminder of their own mortality by the death of parents is difficult to handle. The loneliness of an empty nest can be depressing. The futility of investing decades in the life of a wayward child can be maddening.
The music died on the day they finally realized they would never write that book. Someone dreamed they would start a company or become independently wealthy. Someone somehow thought age would fail to steal their beauty or sap their strength. A younger woman dreamed she would have children until the doctor told her she must undergo the hysterectomy. The princess he married is no longer so charming and the knight she married has tarnished armor.
So what do you do when the music no longer plays, when the dream is dead? You should mourn your dreams. Your dream was worth crying over. It’s okay to feel the pain of loss. It was something you loved, something you dedicated yourself to, something you sacrificed greatly for. Grieve the loss of your dream. Express the despair you feel.
But some bury the dream and sink into hopelessness. That hole is dark and ominous. They seek temporary relief through drugs, alcohol or sex. Many never recover and some become suicidal.
Some employ an escape strategy to find relief from their grief. They seem to relate to the idea that “It’s always darkest right before the dawn.” There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It comes this way but usually not nearly as fast as we would like it to.
Truly successful people move beyond the attempt to just find relief or escape. They are not willing to live with no music in their lives. They insist on learning from their failures and they begin to create new music to live by. When the dream dies it’s time to try something else. There can be no new beginning unless it is preceded by an ending.
For the Christian, the source of hope that follows a lost dream is in Christ Jesus. He is really good at doing resurrections, just ask Lazarus. He sometimes chooses to resurrect dead dreams. He sometimes allows our dreams to die because they have become our idols. He sometimes tests us to see if he is more important to us than our dreams and then he replaces them with a reality beyond anything we could have ever hoped for. Christians never say, “I am too old for a new dream” because we understand that our lives are eternal in Christ.