On the surface, the song is about how a group of friends remember a close friend who has just died. However, in an article that appears on the VH1 website, lead singer Kevin Griffin says that the song is inspired by a story about the death of Gram Parsons: "Gram's tale is just a great, romantic rock'n'roll story. His friend stole his funeral casket from LAX and took it down to 29 Palms and set him on fire as the sun came up ... and that's where I got the story of some friends stealing their friend's urn, and honoring the girl's true wishes, and going out to the beach one morning and listening to this R.E.M. song they used to listen to growing up as the sun was coming up. It was a way to make something both personal and dramatic." During an interview for the online mini-documentary "A Brief History of Better Than Ezra," Griffin reveals the R.E.M. song to be "Perfect Circle". 
Although "A Lifetime" was released as the first single from Before the Robots, it would prove to be the highest-charting song from the album. It reached number eleven on the BillboardAdult Top 40 chart. It was the band's highest-charting single since "Extra Ordinary" in 2001.