You held my hand when it was cold
When I was lost you took me home
You gave me hope when I was “at the end”
And turned my lies back into truth again
You even called me friend
These are the lyrics from the song “You needed me”.
I’d like to know what “at the end” means here.
Is it common to say someone is at the end, or it’s just because it’s a song?
Probably a shortened version of the very familiar phrase in British English: ‘at the end of my tether’. So at the end of one’s strength, endurance or patience. The idea is of an animal grazing but tethered to a post. A similar American version is ‘at the end of one’s rope’. The extension here is swimming on a safety rope having capsized from a boat. One example of usage from The Guardian newspaper is: “I’m sometimes exhausted and find myself at the end of my tether when my son won’t listen to me, which is fairly often’.
After only reading the subject I initially thought it was going to be about someone dying. At the end = dying, in the situation I was thinking of. For example, one might ask a friend who’s spouse died…"Were you there “at the end”? As in, were you there as they died.
In yor song lyrics, it seems more like “at the end” could mean they had hit “rock bottom”. In other words they were in as bad a place or situation as they could be. So, someone giving them hope “at the end” in this case might be someone giving that person enough hope to make it through their difficult situation. I think that’s the case in this song. Looking at the lyrics for the whole song it seems like the storyteller is talking about having done some bad things (I sold my soul – which may be short for “sold my soul to the devil” which would mean they did something wrong, but possibly for immediate pleasure) and maybe gotten into a bad situation and just when things couldn’t get worse (at the end), this other person helped them see a better way and help them to turn around and get out of their bad situation.
Piggybacking off bembe’s response. “at the end of my tether”. In America we would typically say “at the end of my rope”. This would mean we’ve reached the end of our patience for something. For example, maybe you’ve had a difficult day. Work was tough, the kid’s are crying and whining, all you want is calm, but there’s no calm to be seen…You may be “at the end of your rope”, meaning one last thing might make you lose your mind.