My quest to understand what the dying see began when I found out that my mom only had a few months (if that) to live. I wanted to be familiar with the stages she would go through and how I could best be there for her.
One of the things I read about the dying is that often they see deceased relatives or friends right before the end. In the world I grew up in (as a Seventh Day Adventist), I was taught that such things simply couldn’t happen. Yet, I read and heard story after story of men, women and children on their deathbeds who saw their dead mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and friends. The same is true with people who experience “near-death experiences.”
The logical response to this phenomena is that lack of oxygen and the consumption of various drugs can do crazy things to the brain. Who knows what can occur when a person is hanging on by a thread?
As we neared the last days of my mom’s life, I so wanted to understand what she was feeling and seeing. The day before she took her last breath I decided to ask her.
First I wanted to make sure she could comprehend what I was saying. I told her I loved her, and she raised her eyebrows in acknowledgement. Then I shared a funny story about a conversation my sister and I had. The corners of her mouth turned up in a smile. I could tell that she was taking in every word.
And then I went for it.
“Mom, can I ask you a really serious question?” She turned her head and opened her eyes fully. I could tell she wanted to grasp every word that came out of my mouth.
“Mom, do you see any of our dead relatives in the room? Do you see your dad?” she shook her head to indicate “no.”
“Do you see your mom,” she shook her head.
“Do you see dad?” (my dad had died when I was 10). Her response was quite different this time. She began nodding her head to indicate “yes.”
“Is he here in this room right now?” she nodded. “Can he see me?” she nodded again. And then she tried to communicate with words, but was frustrated when she couldn’t get the words out. I could tell she wanted to share her reality with me so badly.
The next day mom was in a different realm. She wasn’t responding to me or my family members, yet she was having full-on inaudible conversations with a being I couldn’t see. Maybe my dad?
At times she would become quite animated, speaking deep within her throat and making guteral sounds. At one point, she kept shaking her head and saying “no.” It was obvious she was fighting something. I sat down next to her and tried to hold her. My sister also came into the room to let mom know she was there. I then called my brother and let him say hello.
Shortly thereafter, mom began having conversations again. When she spoke to the invisible being this time, it was as though they were having a cohesive conversation — one that I still couldn’t understand because by that time her vocal chords were shot. She’d talk and then listen and talk again. It was as though she was trying to make sense of what she was being told.
The conversation ended, and a bit later her body constricted. Her brow furrowed. Then something profound happened. Her soul (the mom I loved and treasured so much) completely left her body. Her body continued to breathe, but there were no more conversations. No more frowns or grimaces when you’d adjust her legs or back.
What I saw led me to conclude that she finally agreed to go. Could it be possible that she went with my dad? That he was sent to take her away and keep her safe along the way?
While I can’t be certain, this is what it seemed to be.
According to David Kessler, author and expert on death and dying, the following things often happen when a person is about to die.
The dying are often visited by their dead mothers.
Their hands often reach up toward a force that can’t be seen. (My mom did this)
Family members and friends of the dying can’t see their visions or participate in conversations.
Visions often occur hours to weeks before they die.
While there is no “proof” that their visions and communication with deceased family members or friends are real, some death and dying experts are adamant they should be taken seriously.
“People think it’s just confusion or the drugs,” explains Maggie Callanan. As a hospice nurse for more than 27 years, she has helped more than 2,000 dying men and women in their last days. “But frankly, the confusion is ours. The patient knows what is going on.”
Dr. Martha Twaddle, chief medical officer of the Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter, explains further: “You can write it off and say it’s a hallucination, they’re not getting enough oxygen in their brain, but no, it doesn’t apply to many people in these situations. I have to believe they are transitioning; they are in a phase we don’t understand physically or metaphysically. And it is profoundly reassuring to see it happen.”
Following the death of my Mom, I am more open to the idea that something amazing (like my father being there to take my mom away) may occur. The experience is one I can never forget — and honestly I never want to forget.
Just a few weeks ago, I was wondering why I haven’t had many dreams of my mom since she died. As I was driving home from work, I said out loud, “Mom, it’s about time you come and visit me in a dream! Where are you anyway?” I then laughed it off and enjoyed my drive through my favorite canyon.
That night while I was sleeping, it happened. I had one of the most lucid dreams I’ve had in a long time. Mom was dressed beautifully. She peered at me with a HUGE smile. Her eyes were bright and full of life. She was happier than I had seen her in years. And she was younger, maybe her 45 or 50-year-old self. We didn’t exchange any words, but it was clear that she is healed, happy and free.
I woke up with joy in my heart.
By Jen Engevik