THE MYSTERY AND MEANING OF DEATHBED VISIONS PART I & II
Written By: Carla Wills-Brandon
Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D.
The following discussion examines the many facets of the deathbed vision experience. Wills-Brandon has been investigating this phenomenon for fifteen years and has collected over 2,000 accounts. What she has discovered is that DBV encounters are similar from experiencer to experiencer, and that the experience itself crosses all cultural, sexual, religious and social boundaries. DBVs are encountered by not only the dying but by those who care for them. Along with this, DBVs can be experienced days, weeks, and even months before actual physical death occurs. Numerous examples of the DBV encounter are presented.
Deathbed visions have played a very important role in both my personal and professional life. In my personal life, they have assisted me in processing my own grief. Because of my encounter with these visions, I know for certain that life of some sort, goes on after physical death. The comfort that comes from understanding my departed loved ones are safe-alive and well on the other side-is boundless.
Are deathbed visions a new phenomenon? Absolutely not. They have been with us throughout history and can be found in historic Judaic liturature. For instance, Jewish Hasidic writings are full of stories describing the deathbed visions of famous Rabbis. One hour before Rabbi Shmelke died, he saw his deceased father, Rabbi Moshe Leib, standing right next to him. He also saw his deceased teacher, Rabbi Mikhal. Those who buried Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic movement, said they saw his soul leave the earth plane. These followers of this historically fomous Rebbe described seeing a blue flame ascending to the heavens.
When someone I know passes away, I am sad that I will no longer be able to talk, hug, sit, have a meal or physically be with that person. My grief isn’t related to never seeing them again. My sense of loss is more about not being able to reach out and readily "touch" my loved ones in the here and now. This change in the state of the relationship is what I most grieve.
Over the years I have learned that with death, only the method of interpersonal connecting changes. The dying appear to move on to some type of new existence, leaving us here to finish out our tasks in this life. In spite of these alterations, love continues to cross all boundaries. Investigation into this phenomena has proven this to me repeatedly. Knowing what I know about life after physical death, I often wonder which one of my deceased relatives will greet me at death’s door. As I take my last few breaths, who will lovingly extend the hand of comfort to me? I find most exciting and reassuring the prospect of a future family reunion with long-lost loved ones.
My favorite type of deathbed visions have always involved visitation from deceased family members. Such visitations soothe both the living and the dying. They make the death transition easier for the dying and lessen the burden of grief for surviving family members. In some cases, even long-standing family disputes appear to be resolved. Consider the following account.
On May 22, 1972, the Duke of Windsor took his last breath. His abdication of the English throne and subsequent marriage to the American divorcée Wallis Simpson had given his mother, Queen Mary, a great deal of grief. According to an article by Ian Watson, in a November 1986 issue of the "Sunday Telegraph", when dying the Duke was heard quietly saying, "Mama . . . Mama . . . Mama . . . Mama" just before he died. Do you think Queen Mary came to escort her son, who had caused her such pain during her time on earth, to the afterlife?
People who are close to death commonly call out the name of a dead relative. To finally reunite with loved ones who have passed on must be a wonderful feeling. Centuries ago, as a man or woman lay dying-surrounded by loved ones, with a favorite pet at the foot of the bed-seeing deceased relatives was viewed as a normal affair. Those at the deathbed would often ask, "Who do you see? How are they? Do they have a message for me?" Today, such events continue to occur, but are we listening? Are we open to the lessons of the dying?
With deaths taking place more often than not in hospitals and nursing homes, DBVs are often dismissed. Periodically, a kind nurse or doctor does take note and offers support. In reading the following DBVs, notice how comforted the dying person is at seeing a familiar face from the other side. Jenny Randles and Peter Hough offer us the following account from their book, "The Afterlife" (1993).
"Sheila Mendoza is a charge nurse who works in the intensive care unit wards of a large hospital in Texas. She has watched many people die and admits that she had become rather hardened to the process. However, nothing prepared her for one night in 1982 when the most remarkable event that she had ever witnessed was to take place.
Sheila was on night shift, paying special attention to a man who had been in the hospital for some days. Although under close care, he was not thought to be in any danger nor seriously ill.
At about 8 p.m. he began talking very lucidly about a loved one whom he longed to see. Sheila could not tell who this person was, but it was obvious that the man had not seen her in many years and never expected to do so again. The impression is that she must have passed away some years before. The man then slipped from his mumbling into a restless sleep.
At about 9:30 he began talking about this person again, and his vital signs also began to fall. Fearing the worst, more medical staff was brought in, but the man slid into a comatose state.
Then the patient became wonderfully alert, as some people do very near the end. He looked to one side, staring into vacant space. As time went by, it was clear he could see someone there whom nobody else in the room could see. Suddenly, his face lit up like a beacon. He was staring and smiling at what was clearly a long-lost friend, his eyes so full of love and serenity that it was hard for those around him to not be overcome by tears.
Sheila says: ’There was no mistake. Someone had come for him at the last to show him the way.’ Minutes later the man died, in a state of sublime peace and happiness.
From that day Sheila Mendoza looked upon her dying patients with new eyes and dignity. Like so many others who care for the terminally ill, she had witnessed that precious moment when life slips all ties to a battered, broken body and moves on toward who knows where."
Who was this long-lost family member or friend? Only the dying man will ever know. What is important to recognize is that this reunion somehow prepared him for his death. This vision enabled him to easily pass on to the next stage of existence. It also taught the health-care worker a vital lesson about working with the terminally ill.
The medical community-actually, all of us-can learn many lessons from the dying and DBVs. In the following account, a mother hears from a dying aunt details regarding her deceased daughter’s existence in the afterlife. This experience brings this mother a sense of joy and relief. Not only is she reassured that her daughter is well, but the mother quickly recognizes that her dying aunt will also be cared for when she passes.
"A few years ago my husband’s aunt had a serious stroke and was unconscious in the hospital for a few days. My daughter had died a year or so earlier. I was "speaking" (out loud) to my daughter who had passed and told her it looked like her great aunt would be joining her soon and told her it would be nice if she could visit her. Yes, I’m still a typical mother when it comes to my daughter (even though she is dead).
My mother-in-law and several other family members were at my aunt’s side when she suddenly woke up. She wanted to talk about my dead daughter. She said she had seen her. My aunt said that my daughter looked beautiful. She added that she was fine and so very safe. She then said my daughter was with God. The family didn’t like hearing this kind of talk and they kept trying to change the subject, but my aunt wanted to continue talking about my daughter. It was strange that she mentioned my daughter, because she had lost other people who were much closer to her. She died two days later. I was glad my mother-in-law shared this with me."
Just one of the innumerable gifts of DBVs is that messages from the dying about other deceased relatives can heal old wounds. Sadly, many of these messages go unheard. Society doesn’t yet see these visions as normal. As a result, dying individuals experiencing DBVs are often mis-diagnosed, disregarded, ignored, heavily medicated or shut away. Unaware family members often have an extremely difficult time understanding why Dad is talking to Uncle Joe, because Uncle Joe has been dead for twenty years. Many health-care workers dismiss DBVs as hallucinations by telling family members things like, "Your father is delusional," or "He doesn’t know what he is saying."
Hopefully, as time goes on, our culture will gain greater awareness of this phenomena. When such acceptance occurs, more families will greet DBVs as opposed to retreating from them. As was often the case a century ago, visions and otherworldly reunions will once again be viewed as a benefit to all present at the deathbed.
In my next book, I describe the departing visions of a woman who had lost all of her loved ones in the Nazi death camps. Years after World War II, as her own death drew near, she began calling out the names of these deceased loved ones. As she talked to them, she pointed to different prts of the room and said they were here, with her. Tears welled up in her eyes and her joy was obvious. At first her children were very confused, so one of the daughters quickly contacted her mother’s best friend. This friend had survived the war with her mother. As the friend listened to the woman call out to her deceased relatives by name, she was able to clarify to the adult children, who these relatives were.
When a dying person has a DBV, surrounding family members are often better able to let go of their loved one. The dying no longer fear death and there is a peace about them. Notice that the dying woman in the above account was not calling out the names of the living. She was only calling out the names of the deceased. Another beautiful DBV account comes from a delightful woman named Gladys. In this touching account, Gladys encourages her beloved husband to leave his ill body. Her husband’s DBV made the dying process easier on both of them.
"My husband Bryan died of cancer on August 29, 1995. With help from the local hospice, an attendant, named Morris, was hired to come in and help me on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first thing I asked Morris to do in the mornings was change Bryan’s bed. Since Bryan had bone cancer, any movement was painful. During the final hours of his life, I was standing at the foot of the bed while Morris was moving Bryan. As Morris moved him he said, ’Bryan, I am trying to be easy with you,’ to which Bryan responded, ’Don’t sweat the little things.’
He was allowed to come home two weeks before his death. We had been married for forty-four years and had our share of spats, but never once did either of us feel unloved. I like to call that last two weeks (before he died) our last ’honeymoon.’ We were very open with the fact that he was dying, and we talked at great lengths about heaven and if we would know each other when I got there. Then Bryan looked straight at me and said, ’Mama! Mama!’ I knew at that time he was not seeing me, but his deceased mother..."
For those preparing to travel to the other side of the veil, visions of deceased family members must be extremely reassuring. Science unfortunately continues to downplay DBVs. In this age of science, popular belief holds that we die alone. My surgeon, physician father-in-law was for years a firm believer in the rigid laws of science. When the topic of life after death would come up in conversation, Pop would say, "We become worm food and that is it! Lights out! We just expire! The end!" The day after he passed, one of my family members saw him sitting in our downstairs den, looking as he did 20 years ago. This particular phenomenon is called an after-death communication. Such encounters continue to be investigated by credible individuals, like medical doctors Melvin Morse, Barbara Rommer, and Raymond Moody and even clergy, such as Rabbi Simcha Paull Raphael.
Many of the DBVs I’ve documented relate to contact with parents and parent figures who have died. The next DBV was taken from "Psychic Research and the Resurrection" by J. H. Hyslop (1908). This absolutely beautiful narrative was given by a Dr. Wilson of New York. Dr. Wilson was at the deathbed of famous American tenor James Moore. The account is well known among DBV researchers.
"It was about four o’clock and the dawn for which he had been waiting was creeping in through the shutters, when, as I bent over the bed, I noticed his face was quite calm and his eyes clear. The poor fellow looked up into my face, and taking my hand in both of his, he said, ’You’ve been a good friend to me, Doctor. You’ve stood by me.’ Then something which I shall never forget to my dying day happened, something which is utterly indescribable. While he appeared perfectly rational and as sane as any man I have ever seen, the only way that I can express it is that he was transported into another world, and although I cannot satisfactorily explain the matter to myself, I am fully convinced that he entered the Golden City, for he said in a stronger voice than he had used since I attended him, ’There is Mother! Why, Mother, have you come to see me? No, no, I’m coming to see you. Just wait Mother, I’m almost over. I can jump it. Wait, Mother.’ On his face there was a look of inexpressible happiness, and the way in which he said the words impressed me as I have never been before, and I am (as) firmly convinced that he saw and talked with his mother as I am that I am sitting here.
In order to preserve what I believe to be his conversation with his (deceased) mother, and also to have a record of the strangest happening of my life, I immediately wrote down every word he said. . . .. His was one of the most beautiful deaths I have ever seen."
Across the unknown, one more mother comes to escort her beloved child to the next world, as if the maternal instinct to protect offspring continues after the physical body has disintegrated. With the passage of time and boundaries of death, motherly love can continue. I recently received the following DBV account of a one-hundred-year-old woman who had a blessed visit from her mother just before she passed.
"My mother died in 1976. Her sister-in-law died a few years later, one week prior to her one hundredth birthday. For about a week before her death (she was not ill and was perfectly lucid at all times), she began giving daily announcements to the family about visits with her mother. This, I say, happened every day. She died peacefully at the end of the week."
A call from Mom from the beyond! Is this only an American phenomena or is it a cross-cultural experience? The next account answers this question. The following DBV comes from Osis and Haraldsson’s collection of deathbed visions in "At the Hour of Death." Here, a young Hindu boy is passing. The nurses and doctors at his deathbed shared this vision with Dr. Osis.
"He often talked about (his mother). . . . He mentioned her . . . very affectionately. The day he died he had no fever but he said, ’My time has come’ to his father. ’My mother is calling. She is standing with her arms open.’ At that moment his state of mind was clear. He was conscious of his surroundings and talked to his father until the last moment. Then, with one hand holding his father’s and the other pointed toward where he saw his mother, he said, ’Don’t you see Mother? See!’. . . Then he died, stretching forward to [her] . . . almost falling out of bed. He was so happy to see her!"
Most mothers want to be there for their children, as though the desire to "mother" continues in the afterlife. To see what I mean, read the next account.
"My sister had cancer and was living out her last days at home. Every time I walked past her room, she seemed to be talking to someone. One day, I was outside her bedroom door and I heard her ask for a glass of water, so I went to get her one. When I took it into her room, she looked at me and said, ’Oh, thank you. You didn’t have to bring it. I had already asked Mom to bring me a drink.’
Our mother had been dead for years, so I asked her who she had been talking with. She said she had been talking to our mother!"
What is so interesting about these visions is not only their impact on the dying, but their effect on those who previously would never have even considered such visitations possible. The dying man in the following narrative appears to be totally surprised with the sudden appearance of his mother-in-law.
"My mother lived with us throughout our marriage. A few months ago, my husband-who I must say does not believe in any of these kind of experiences-told me that my [deceased] mom was in the house. It would take something very dramatic for my husband to make such a statement."
As the moment of death draws near, nonbelievers are often surprised with a DBV. The man in the previous example never would have expected his mother-in-law to return from the dead. Imagine his astonishment when he realized his mother-in-law was revisiting her old stomping grounds!
When my time to die arrives, I strongly suspect my mother, who died many years ago, will return to my side, and I have often wondered what our reunion will be like. Knowing my mother, if she does visit my deathbed, she will probably tell me how to die! You think I’m joking? Read the following DBV report, in which a dying woman receives specific directions from a deceased mate on what to do at the moment of death.
"On February 14 my mother said to the nurse, ’Today is Valentine’s Day. Too bad my husband can’t be with me. Perhaps I will see him today.’ She later said my dad came to see her and said that she will see a bright light and to turn right and he will be there waiting for her. Then she said that she needed to get ready to die and began to pray and sing."
My belief is that some part of our being continues after death. If someone is loving in this life, who’s to say they won’t be loving in the next existence? If a husband had provided support and assistance to his wife while alive, it only makes sense this pattern of behavior would continue after death.
Am I alone in my belief? Interestingly, these visions and experiences are actually common to many dying people. Recent studies on the DBV experience have provided some interesting numbers. Although only about 10% of people are conscious shortly before their death, of this particular group, 50% to 67% have DBVs.
DBVs can be found throughout historical literature and lore, but they were rarely mentioned in the scientific literature until the late 1920’s. At this point in time they were studied by Sir William Barrett, a physics professor at the Royal College of Science in Dublin.
He would never have considered examining such a topic had it not been for an experience told to him by his wife, an obstetrical surgeon. On the night of January 12, 1924, she arrived home from the hospital eager to tell her husband about a case she had had that day.
She had been called into the operating room to deliver the child of a woman named Doris (her last name was withheld from the written report). Although the child was born healthy, Doris was dying from a hemorrhage. As the doctors waited helplessly next to the dying woman, she began to see things. As Lady Barrett tells it:
"Suddenly she looked eagerly towards part of the room, a radiant smile illuminating her whole countenance. ’Oh, lovely, lovely,’ she said. I asked, ’What is lovely?’ ’What I see,’ she replied in low, intense tones. ’What do you see?’ ’Lovely brightness - wonderful beings.’ It is difficult to describe the sense of reality conveyed by her intense absorption in the vision. Then - seeming to focus her attention more intently on one place for a moment - she exclaimed, almost with a kind of joyous cry, ’Why, it’s Father! Oh, he’s so glad I’m coming; he is so glad. It would be perfect if only W. (her husband) would come too.’
Her baby was brought for her to see. She looked at it with interest, and then said, ’Do you think I ought to stay for baby’s sake?’ Then, turning toward the vision again; she said, ’I can’t - I can’t stay; if you could see what I do, you would know I can’t stay.’
Although the story thus far was compelling, skeptics could still argue that it was nothing more than a hallucination due to lack of blood or triggered by fear of death. Indeed Sir William Barrett may have made that very point to his wife. Then he heard the rest of the story. It seems that the sister of Doris, Vida, had died only three weeks earlier. Since Doris was in such delicate condition, the death of her beloved sister was kept a secret from her. That is why the final part of her deathbed vision was so amazing to Barrett.
"She spoke to her father, saying, ’I am coming,’ turning at the same time to look at me, saying, ’Oh, he is so near.’ On looking at the same place again, she said with a rather puzzled expression, ’He has Vida with him,’ turning again to me saying, ’Vida is with him.’ Then she said, ’You do want me, Dad; I am coming."
Could all this have merely been wish fulfillment expressed in the form of a hallucination? Barrett considered such an explanation, but he rejected it because among the apparitions of the dead was someone whom Doris had not expected to see. Her sister, Vida, had died three weeks before. This explains why Doris was a bit surprised when she saw her sister. This story was so inspirational to Barrett that he undertook a systematic study of deathbed visions. His was the first scientific study to conclude that the mind of the dying patient is often clear and rational. He also reported a number of cases in which medical personnel or relatives present shared the dying patient’s vision.
The work of Sir William Barrett did not contribute to the theory that these visions were a form of wish fulfillment. In fact the deathbed vision often did not portray the type of afterlife the dying expected. For example, Barrett reported several children who were disappointed to see angels with no wings. In one such case he described a dying girl who sat up suddenly in her bed and said, "Angels, I see angels." Then the girl was puzzled. "Why aren’t they wearing wings?" If deathbed visions were simply a fantasy of the mind, says Barrett, why did this little girl see something different from her expectations?
What exactly is a DBV? Deathbed visions come in all shapes and sizes. Some people receive visitations from deceased relatives while others encounter angels, or religious figures. Many of the accounts I have discuss seeing a wisp of "something" leaving the body of a friend or relative at the moment of passing. DBVs are a different phenomenon than after-death visitations. After-death visitations are visions of deceased loved one(s) by people who are not near death. DBVs usually occur when someone is very close to death and they see visions of deceased loved ones who greet them to help the dying make the transition of death. These experiences can even take the form of a near-death experience. DBVs can occur even days before a person dies. Many terminally ill people will experience these visitations to help prepare them for when they cross over to the other side. DBVs also occur to family members in the vicinity of a dying loved one. Such encounters reassure them that their dying loved one will be safe and will live on. This phenomena is nothing new. It has been described over and over again, for as long as time can remember.
Those who are about to leave will often talk about seeing beautiful landscapes on the other side and then state this is where they will be after they pass. In most cases, once one has had such a vision, death is no longer something to fear. DBVs bring comfort not only to the dying, but to those who love them.
"Yes, my Da is going to the sky!" My own son had a powerful DBV when he was just 3 years of age. Visited by an other worldly creature who shared he was here to take my father in law with him, left my son confident his Da was all right. Da," as my two boys lovingly called their European grandfather, was over 6 feet tall. He was a decorated war hero who had assisted relatives in concentration camps after Hitler’s fall and helped numerous Russian Jews migrate to this country during the 70s. Yes, Da was very special. As a physician, he worked until he was 83 years of age, out living most of his patients. A loving grandfather, he always enjoyed a good romp with my two boys. At times, my father in law was a kid himself. He exercised weekly and loved taking his 2 dogs, out for their nightly walk. Being very independent, Da was devastated when a stroke left him bed ridden.
As his passing drew near, extended family members periodically took turns sitting with him. Though this was of great help, most of the caretaking responsibility rested on the shoulders of my husband and myself. One evening, my husband announced that he would be spending the night with his father at the hospital. He knew between caring for Da and the boys I was worn out and suggested I try to get a good night’s sleep. After packing up a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies for my husband to munch on that evening at the hospital, I put the boys to sleep, fell into bed and slept soundly myself.
The next morning, I awoke to find my husband’s face in my face. He was lying in the bed cuddled up next to me. Though he looked very tired, he had a huge grin on his face. After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I sat up in bed and said, "So? How are you? How is Da?" With this tears began to fall from his eyes. "His time is near," he replied. "I saw his soul begin to take flight."
"Tonight while snoozing in the chair in his room, I had a wonderful dream about Da. In this dream he said to me he was going soon, but that he would always watch over us. Upon awakening, I looked over at Da as he slept and noticed he was very at ease. Suddenly, I saw something rise from his body. It was absolutely beautiful. A whirl of pastel color, vibrant in not only appearance but also movement, was leaving his chest area. It was so comforting." The following week, Da gently passed away in my husband’s arms.
That night my husband experienced a powerful visual DBV. In my books, "A Glimpse of Heaven: The Remarkable World of Spiritually Transformative Experiences" (2003) and "One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery And Meaning Of Deathbed Visions," (2000) I share one DBV account after another from care givers who have been at the bedside of someone passing. Countless hospice workers have witnessed what they believe to be the soul leaving the body at the moment of physical death. Visions of deceased relatives, angels or celestial beings of light have also been reported by those who work with the terminally ill.
If you yourself have had an other worldly vision which you feel is connected to the passing of a loved one, you are not alone. If your dying loved one has shared with you tales of visitations by deceased relatives, loved ones or other beings, know that what they were seeing was real. Possibly your friend or dear one who was passing talked about visiting a beautiful place while sleeping, or maybe they shared with you that they had "talked to God," " "the angel of death," or "light beings." These are not uncommon statements from those who are passing.
My basic reason for investigating the DBV experience began with my desire to enlighten society about the dying process. I wanted to show the public at large that the DBVs have been with us for centuries and that they can ease death, ot only for the dying, but the living. I believe it is time for us to do as our ancestors did in generations gone by. We need to once again, pay attention to the words of those who are leaving this world.
Visitations to caretakers from deceased relatives or even the dying person can also take place during dream time. At the moment of my own mother’s passing, I awoke in my bed at home knowing deep in my soul, that my mother, who was in the hospital, miles away, had died. A phone call 10 minutes later confirmed this. At the time I was 16 years of age. Here is another example of a dream time DBV. "I was asleep at home. My mother had been very ill for sometime. I had traveled to the home of my youth to be with her, but had eventually needed to leave her side to care for my young children. When I left my mother’s nursing home room, I had known I would never see her again. Flying home, my grief was overwhelming. The night I returned home I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. After dinner with my husband and children, I went to bed. During the middle of the night, I awoke from a very deep sleep. I had dreamed my mother had come to visit me. In this dream, she was with my father who had passed 5 years ago. Both of them looked happy and healthy. My mother blew me a kiss. Then she and my father turned around and walked off, over a hill. When I awoke, tears filled my eyes, but I also felt a sense of peace. My parents had looked so joyful. I looked at the clock and noted it was 3 AM, then lay back down and went to sleep. The next morning my brother called to tell me my mother had left us. When I asked him about the time of her death, he replied she had passed at 3 AM." As I mentioned earlier, the individual who is about to die will often report other worldly visitations. "Don’t you see her? My (deceased) mother is here! She has come to take me with her!" or "There are angels everywhere! They are lovely! They want me to go with them!" or "I have been to the other side and it is just beautiful! I’m ready to die" or "I just had a talk with God. All is well," are comments the dying will often make weeks, days, hours or moments before passing. Let’s take a look at another other worldly visitation. "My father had been very ill all year long. I had moved in with him to care for him and had been living at the house for about 6 months. The doctors had told me there was nothing more that they could do and that it was important to make him as comfortable as possible. Being close to my father I did not mind putting my own life on hold to care for him during his final days. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight and friends and family knew his time was near. One afternoon I noticed he was staring intently at the ceiling. When I would ask him a question, he would turn his gaze toward me, answer my question and then look back at the ceiling. That evening, I walked in to find him in deep conversation with someone. Looking at the corner of his room, he would nod, and then say, ’Yes, I understand.’ Nod again and then reply, ’Ok.’ The next morning, I asked him, ’Whom were you talking to?’ With this he answered, ’A very nice lady has been visiting me. She said we are goin! g on a trip together.’ My father had several more conversations with this ’nice lady’ before passing away the following week." Caretakers who are unaware that deathbed visions are common, spiritual experiences the dying often encounter before passing, can feel confused and even frightened upon hearing such reports. Medical personnel will often say that such visions are the by-product of a dying brain or medication. Sadly, such explanations cannot completely explain the DBV phenomenon and they take from the spiritual significance of such encounters. DBVs have a specific purpose. That purpose is to ease the transition from this world to the next for the dying and those who are taking care of them. When we as caretakers understand that DBVs are a positive, affirming experience, we can better assist those we love who are departing. Departing visions provide comfort not only to the dying, but also to those who love and care for them. Could they be creations of the dying brain - a kind of self-induced sedative to ease the dying process? Although this is a theory offered by many in the scientific community, I don’t agree. The visitors in the visions are almost always deceased relatives or friends who have come specifically to offer support to the dying person. In some situations, the dying do not know these visitors are already dead. In other words, why would the dying brain only produce visions of people who are dead, whether the dying person knew they were dead or not? And what about the effects of medication? Many of the individuals who have these visions are not on medications and are very coherent. Those who are on medications also report these visions, but the visions are similar to those who are not on medications. When confronted with someone who has experienced a DBV, clergy, medical personnel and mental health professionals often don’t listen. Listening objectively to DBV expedience is a must. As one physician said to me, "Its extremely important to take the time to listen to patients, especially when sharing strong spiritual experiences such as deathbed visions or near death experiences." Such shares can provide comfort to grieving family and spiritual healing for the one experiencing the encounter. Mental health professionals must also approach these encounters with an open mind. "The history of psychology is loaded with examples of spiritual investigation," says psychology professor Alex Seigel. Dr. Seigel believes that the mental health professions should always take time to listen to spiritual encounters such as DBVs, before categorizing them as delusional thinking. William James writings are full of examples of spirituality as it relates to human consciousness and he is one of the fathers of modern psychology. My dear friend Rabbi Jimmy Kessler uses the DBVs of the dying to assist them as they cross over, from this life to what ever awaits us after physical death. He too believes it is extremely important to support and validate those who have DBVs, or related spiritual experiences. All three of these professionals agree that when assisting an experiencer, comments such as the following should be avoided: 1. "I believe these experiences are just a fabrication of the mind." 2. "I recently read research which suggests that these experiences are only the by-product of a dying brain." 3. "I really think your dying relative or friend was only hallucinating. S/he wasn’t really seeing anything." 4. "You have been under tremendous stress, and I really do feel your mind has begun to play tricks on you." 5." You (your friend/your relative) didn’t actually see, hear or feel that. You are making too much out of this, and I don’t believe this is good for you." 6. "Our religion doesn’t acknowledge such things." 7. "These visions are not of God. They are evil." 8. "You are in grief over your loss (or fearful of death). During these trying times, we all want to believe in such things. I suspect this is just wishful thinking." The above remarks are based on personal experiences, and life philosophies. They reflect very biased opinions. Although they maybe true for a particular health-care giver, they can quickly eradicate and negate any healing potential that an After Death Communication, Near Death Experience, Out of Body Experience or Death Bed Vision may possess for an experiencer. In most instances, such remarks are damaging. Silence, accompanied by a silent nod of the head would be more compassionate and healing. The above comments should be replaced with the following supportive, nurturing open ended questions; 1. "How has this experience bettered your life? What feelings are you having about this?" 2. "What comfort did the vision or experience provide for you?" 3. "Have you learned anything from this experience?" 4. "How has this experience improved your view of you, the world around you and your spirituality?" 5. "What can you take from this experience and apply to improve the quality of your life?" The above questions are free of personal bias and can be used by any helping professional. If care takers feel comfortable with such spiritual encounters, further validating comments can be made. 1. "Yes, I believe you! What a powerful experience. Tell me more!" 2 ."I don’t know what to tell you. This is incredible. Let me ask around to see if I can find any resources that might better help you understand your experience." 3. "It sounds like you have had an exciting, life-transforming event. You might need to spend some time processing this. Though I’m not familiar with such things, I’d be more than happy to hook you up with someone who is. Are you interested?" 4. "I too had a similar encounter. Would you like to hear about it?" 5. "Other people have shared with me experiences which sound just like yours. Can I share these with you?" Last September, my 88 year old mother-in-law passed. Because my family was aware of the DBV phenomenon, we were able to witness and assist Elizabeth in her passage from beginning to end. Her communication with her deceased mother who died in the Nazi gas chambers and her comical arguments with my deceased father-in-law about crossing over were not seen as unusual, hallucinations, or cause for concern. Our family saw these experiences, conversations with already departed loved ones, as gifts, gifts to be treasured. My mother-in-law’s DBVs brought great comfort to all of us, including her sister who survived the Nazi death camps and witnessed horrific loss of life. My hope is that as time marches on, my own unique experiences with DBVs will no longer be seen as unique. Hopefully in the future, the DBV will be accepted as a common, natural, healthy, part of our transition from this life to the next. BIBLIOGRAPHY Barrett, Sir William. Death-Bed Visions: The Psychical Experiences of the Dying. London: Psychic Press, 1926. Reprint. Northamptonshire, England: The Aquarian Press, 1986. Gallup, George Jr. (With William Proctor). Adventures in Immortality: A Look Beyond the Threshold of Death. London: Souvenir, 1983. Randles, Jenny and Hough, Peter. The Life After. New York: Berkley Books, 1994. Raphael, Simcha Paull: Jewish Views of the Afterlife: New Jersey, NJ 1996. Watson, Ian. "The Death of The Duke of Windsor," Sunday Telegraph, 30 November 1986: 8. Wills-Brandon. One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions. Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, Inc., 2000. Wills-Brandon, Carla. A Glimpse of Heaven: The Remarkable World of Spiritually Transformative Experiences. Avon, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 2003. _______________________________________________________________ Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D. 1010 2nd st, League City, TX 77573 [email protected]
Posted by: Lisa Marie Storm Contributing Editor for Paranormalnews.com E-mail: [email protected]