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What The Dying Might Be Saying

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On Sunday, when Shawnee Smith interviewed my father and me at the parish crawfish boil, I learned something from him that I had not known. We sat side by side, on that bench you see above, with a camera on us, and at some point my dad started talking about his father, and eventually my dad told the whole story about his ghostly visitation from his father, after the old man’s death. That story I knew. What I didn’t know, or more likely had forgotten, was that he had seen Ruthie after her death. Not immediately after her death, but maybe a year or more later. He told Shawnee that he had been sitting on his back porch, drinking a cup of coffee one morning, looking out over the yard in the distance to Ruthie’s house, when he glanced to his left. There was Ruthie, sitting in the porch swing next to him, smiling at him. Clear as day, he said — and then she was gone.

In Little Way [2], I wrote about how Ruthie had appeared to me just before we moved to Louisiana three months after her death. I had had a dream that seemed more vivid than a normal dream. Here’s how I told it in the book:

One night, just before dawn, I dreamed that I was standing in the living room of our Philadelphia apartment, surrounded by boxes, wrapping paper, and all the accoutrements of our impending move. I heard the door open downstairs, and someone walking up the stairs. It was Ruthie. She was wearing a white sweater with a collar gathered close around her neck, and carrying a tin of muffins.

“I thought you were dead!” I said.

“Oh, I am,” she said sweetly. “I just wanted to tell you that everything is going to be all right.”

“Thank you for saying that. Will you stay for a while?”

“No, I need to get on back.”

Then I woke up. The dream had been unusually vivid, far more intense than usual. When I woke up, I wasn’t sure if I was still inside the dream, or not.

At breakfast, I told Julie about the dream. “Of course she brought muffins,” Julie said. “That’s just like Ruthie.”

“Maybe it really was her,” I said. “But I know how much I need to believe everything is going to be okay down there. I might have imagined it. I probably imagined it.”

Matthew stumbled out of his room and trudged to the kitchen for his coffee milk, in his groggy morning manner. When he heard us talking about a dream, he said, “The weirdest thing happened in my room last night. I woke up and felt someone in the room with me, sitting in the chair next to my bed.”

“Who was it?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I was facing the wall, and was too scared to turn over and see.”

“Did the presence feel threatening?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “It was just watching me.”

“I think that was Aunt Ruthie, checking on you,” I said, and told him what had happened to me during the night.

You may say: You needed to believe everything was going to be okay, so that dream was wish fulfillment. Maybe so. But here’s the thing: Ruthie didn’t own a sweater like the one she wore. Moreover, I didn’t discover until after I returned home that one of Ruthie’s closest confidantes during her cancer fight had dreamed that Ruthie came to her in her house with a similar message — and was wearing the same sweater. Make of that what you will.

I bring this up because reader Coleman Glenn, who is a pastor in Canada, passed along this link to a CBC radio interview [3] with Patricia Pearson about her new book, Opening Heaven’s Door: What The Dying May Be Trying To Tell Us About Where They’re Going. [4] (That’s the link to Barnes & Noble’s website; it’s the same book, but the American subtitle is more clinical.) Pearson, who does not come from a religiously observant family, was inspired to write the book after her cancer-ridden sister had an uncanny experience and vision the night their father died in another city — a vision that helped the sister meet her own death in peace. Here’s a short except from the first chapter of the book, which you can read by following the CBC radio link:

For  a subset  of  this tribe–perhaps half  of  its  members–something else  unites them as well. Even  more quietly, almost invisibly: the sense that we  have encountered a radical mystery. We  have learned from the dying about  additional channels of communication that we hadn’t been aware of before,  that enable us to know things in mysterious ways, to connect in mysterious  ways with one another, with the dying and with the dead, along uncharted or  long-forgotten paths.

The  sense that the dying  might open  a door  to us that leads elsewhere  came first in hushed confidings. During the summer and  fall of 2008, people began  to tell me  things. Some  were friends and colleagues I’d known for  years; others were people who sat beside me on an airplane or met me for the  first time in a bar. If I told them what I’d witnessed with my father and  sister, they     reciprocated.  Almost   invariably,  they   prefaced   their  remarks by  saying, “I’ve never told anyone  this, but . . . ” Or, “We’ve   only ever discussed this in our family, but if you think you might do some  research . . .”  Then they would offer extraordinary stories about deathbed   visions, sensed presences, near- death experiences, sudden intimations of a  loved one in danger or dying.  They  were all smart, skeptical people. I had  had no idea that this subterranean world existed all around me.

Pastor Glenn adds:

I haven’t read the book or anything else by the author, so I can’t comment on it beyond what I heard on the radio. I do know that in my experience as a pastor, her comment that 50% of the bereaved experience the presence of their deceased loved ones sounds about right. As I think I mentioned in a comment on one of your posts on supernatural/paranormal experiences, I was taught in seminary to a.) let people know that they’re not crazy if they have some kind of experience of their loved one, and b.) not to worry if they DON’T have that kind of experience, since not everyone does, and if they don’t, it’s not an indication that they should’ve been closer to the person.

The National Post‘s reviewer liked the book [5]. Excerpt:

Pearson’s book is a well-researched argument that we have no business telling people their “spiritual” experiences are simply products of longing or wish fulfilment or rattled brains, in the same class as hallucinations. We have no business telling them this not only because we are polite but because these experiences are not in fact delusions. In their utter clarity and coherence and intensity, near-death experiences as related by Pearson defy the increasingly feeble attempts of dogmatic materialists to explain them in scientific terms.

Here’s an interview with Pearson in the Toronto Star. [6] Excerpt:

You talk about “nearing-death awareness.” What’s that?

Hospice staff see subtle shifts of consciousness. People start talking in symbolic language about their dying. They’ll say, “I need to go shopping now,” or “Get my shoes. I’m going home.” In my sister’s case, she made references to airplanes taking off. (Katharine died later in 2008.)

Another facet is the tendency to interact with an invisible presence. They see someone already deceased and chat with the person. When that happens, hospice nurses say the person is going to die soon. There are subtle elements that make it distinct from brain-based hallucinations.

How is it different?

It doesn’t have a random quality. Someone may hallucinate about an elf in the corner. But they don’t react to the elf per se. With nearing-death awareness, it alters their sense of things and they react. They’ll say something like, “I am going now. This person at the end of my bed is going to take me away.” And they will die in the next 24 or 48 hours.

How does medical science explain this awareness?

It doesn’t. Theories have been offered related to morphine, but careful research finds no correlation with medication. If anything, it’s correlated with less medication and less brain disease. People whose brains are clouded with tumours are less likely to have those clear visions.

We’ve heard about near-death experiences, about a white light. What else might happen?

In interviewing people with NDEs, I found it was much more complex. There’s a moral quality. The experience of light isn’t visual, it’s an experience of dissolving into light that is also love and wisdom. They merge into this consciousness. Another detail that sometimes happens is the exposure to self-reflection. You experience the harm you’ve done to other people from their perspective.

Light that “isn’t visual,” but rather “an experience of dissolving into light that is also love and wisdom.” Sounds like Dante’s Paradiso. It sounds like what Orthodox theology calls theosis, the end goal of our journey: to be dissolved into God, while remaining ourselves.

As longtime readers know, Ruthie’s dream prophecy did not come true for me here. Things haven’t turned out all right, though I’m getting there. [7] But Ruthie was wrong, and I have wondered for a while if that wasn’t simply wish fulfillment.

But after this weekend with Shawnee and her film crew, I’m wondering for the first time in a long time if Ruthie might have really come to me, and if she will, in the end, have been right. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Anyway, the veil is much thinner than we normally think. People are afraid to talk about it. But it’s true.

46 Comments (Open | Close)

46 Comments To "What The Dying Might Be Saying"

#1 Comment By Darth Thulhu On May 20, 2014 @ 2:09 am

I think you need to cut Ruthie’s vision some slack (and hold it to a more detached unfalsifiability). In particular, “everything is going to be good” in Starhill can be viewed on any one and every one of God’s time scales:

1) Sometime in the next 10 million years, if not engineered otherwise, Starhill will lie on the ocean floor, a full 60 feet below the waves of the Gulf. No one will remember anything of you and yours. This is going to be good.

2) Somewhere between one and two billion years from now, if not engineered otherwise, increasing solar radiance will eventually turn Earth into another Venus. Water vapor will begin boiling out of the oceans, causing extreme runaway greenhouse effect and sterilizing the planet into a becalmed hellscape. This is going to be good.

3) Within five billion years, if not engineered otherwise, the Sun is going to expand into a red giant and swallow the entire planet. Everything and everyone will be stellar plasma, a fire leaving neither trace nor remnant. This is going to be good.

4) Within a century, you and yours will all have passed away to see what, if anything, lies ahead. This is going to be good.

5) Within a decade, your children will all be departing the nest and y’all will know the results (or lack thereof) of the Orthodox Church work, the Dantean transformation, and the Starhill family reunion. Regardless, it is going to be good.

A (justified) skeptic shouldn’t accept a single specific claim you might make about the outcome of Ruthie’s prophecy. You aren’t God, and there is absolutely no way to prove her wrong in the long run, so any specific claim you might make (either way) is impossible to weigh. The miracle vision isn’t for other people; the miracle vision is for you.

But in that exact same spirit of detached unknowing, you received what you understood to be a (transcendent) divine promise: It is going to be good. That is worth treasuring, and worth being thankful for, and worth offering up prayers of praise and love to Ruthie, and to God.

#2 Comment By charles cosimano On May 20, 2014 @ 2:39 am

Rod, there are times when you have to remember that a dream can be just a dream. That does not mean that it does affect us, it can affect us deeply.

Post death dreams are very common. They are part of the grieving process. On the other hand, a message in a dream is much better than having your mother’s ghost chase your girlfriend out of the bedroom. (And she got a very firm talking to after that!)

#3 Comment By TomB On May 20, 2014 @ 4:59 am

There’s no denying the phenomenon of the dying seeing/hearing “things,” but I don’t know that medical science has no possible explanations for same.

I just (closely) attended the dying of an uncle who, in his last (morphine-free) days (while everyone I think believed he would get better from), started talking about the old man with the beard he kept seeing walking along the wall his bed faced, and then on occasion a woman. To the point where I’d be sitting with him within arms reach of the wall or so, having an othewise lucid if simple talk with him, and he’d point at the wall and say “see? there he is” as his finger pointed and moved inches away from the wall, as if pointing to someone walking along. And then you’d be talking to him and catch him watching that evenly-bland painted wall with absolutely no color or grain or shadow giving it the least depth or contour or relief.

And there was no sense of worry in him that he was seeing things, rather oddly. You’d tell him you didn’t see any thing, and he was certainly lucid enough to know there was just a wall there, and he’d just turn back to looking at it waiting to see who would be walking in it next.

He died within days of this starting; probably congestive heart failure secondary to pneumonia.

As to the medical science, wouldn’t a pretty clear idea be that by definition a dying person is having physical troubles, with such troubles very possibly if not likely involving the brain—such as depriving it of some oxygen, or shutting down or degrading/contorting some of its functions?

Of course they might not be able to say with absolute authority “oh, they are seeing old loved ones; that’s neural group 87B4 giving up its last gasp” but isn’t that a possible and even reasonable medical explanation still?

So that … is it really going to be a surprise that on your own way out and as your neuron # 45gvl620003q3ou flashes out like a light bulb giving its last flicker, you die smelling lemons or something?

#4 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 20, 2014 @ 6:21 am

Rod said:

“I think that was Aunt Ruthie, checking on you,” I said, and told him what had happened to me during the night.

While an understandable reaction, this is an example of a leading statement. You cast his ambiguous experience into a narrative that fit your preconceptions. When other people hear such statements they often respond by altering how they later remember and report the event. Now these events people describe may or may not be true, but the malability of memory makes researching them problematic.

#5 Comment By Uncle Billy On May 20, 2014 @ 6:36 am

My wife has had some very vivid dreams about her sister who died young from cancer. She says that they are different from other dreams, almost real. I think it may well be her sister communicating with her from the other side.

People are afraid of death. They don’t want to talk about it. We all know that we are eventually going to die, but we avoid talking about it, avoid thinking about it. It scares us, and we dodge it, but it is the elephant in the room, that we avoid talking about.

In the movie “Tuesdays with Maury,” the dying Maury said that we must forgive people. We cannot carry grudges to the grave. It’s bad for the person who we are angry with and it’s bad for us. Anger is corrosive and when we carry it, and carry it for years, it can affect our health, our sanity, indeed our very soul. We need to free ourselves of this.

We don’t know what is on the other side. Those who know, aren’t talking, and those who are talking don’t know. I like to think that we get to see departed loved ones again. That would indeed be “Heaven.”

#6 Comment By B On May 20, 2014 @ 7:35 am

I didn’t know my great grandmother that well. She was a sort of depressed, paranoid person, and my dad only took us into the city to visit once a year, on Christmas Eve.

She came to me in a dream shortly after she died, and danced with me in the kitchen. I’ve always thought she was telling me she was happier now.

#7 Comment By evw On May 20, 2014 @ 7:53 am

Maybe Ruthie’s timetable is different than yours. I would say you’re on the trajectory to “all right”. Maybe it was the fact that you wouldn’t be able to see that trajectory that required her coming.

#8 Comment By Jon Cogburn On May 20, 2014 @ 8:16 am

Instead of your wish fulfillment maybe it was Ruthie’s wish?

Has the dream helped you use the disappointments and awful sadness for greater goods? I know that you have been and are doing this in so many ways, many that you might not even realize. Maybe the dream has been part of making this possible.

#9 Comment By Connie On May 20, 2014 @ 8:32 am

You say that Ruthie was wrong about how well things would turn out for you. Perhaps the visitations are meant to be reassuring, and the dead don’t/can’t really know the future.

#10 Comment By JohnE_o On May 20, 2014 @ 8:35 am

Anyway, the veil is much thinner than we normally think. People are afraid to talk about it. But it’s true.

Perhaps it isn’t so much that people are afraid to talk about it, but that there isn’t all that much to say about it.

Your father thinks he saw Ruthie for a moment, and then he didn’t anymore.

You had an unusually vivid dream where Ruthie comforted you by saying that you moving home was going to be okay. (I think the sentiment is correct, btw)

But for someone who didn’t experience those visions or dreams, what’s there to say about it besides, “Well, how about that?”

And, to go another level deeper, the fact that these claimed experiences are unverifiable can lead to a culture of belief that is open to incredible abuse.

Claims of visions from the dead, claims of the ability to communicate with the dead, and claims of knowledge of what happens to people after death can be and have been used by the living to frighten, control, and swindle the living.

It seems to me that the core of religion is providing an answer to those who are fearful of what happens after death and how to make it the case that bad things won’t happen to a person after death. Because no one knows what happens after death, a person with a certain type of personality will spend their life – time desperately trying to make sure that things will be okay for them after death.

Earliest example we can point to – the pyramids.

If there is anything to existence after death, we’ll know soon enough – so why worry about it?

#11 Comment By Major Wootton On May 20, 2014 @ 9:03 am

It would fit in with Baue’s thesis (influenced by his discovery of P. Sorokin) in The Spiritual Society, if government and private foundations sponsored research into contact with the departed. I have little doubt that this is what will happen. (Cf. a passage late in Vladimir Solovyov’s 1899 “Tale of the Antichrist.”) Possibly there will be some incidental good, but mostly we shall have a flourishing of prelest’.

#12 Comment By mrscracker On May 20, 2014 @ 9:07 am

Sure, it’s just the Communion of Saints.We recite our belief in this every Sunday in the Apostles Creed, but often scoff at any evidence given of it in action.
When we attempt to put an experience which transcends the senses into words, it either sounds ridiculous or words simply can’t express it fully.I think this is why people keep it to themselves.

#13 Comment By KD On May 20, 2014 @ 9:33 am

The chief benefit of verificationism is to be able to distinguish between types of assertions. Someone’s account of a dream can be false, but we don’t determine the falsehood of the account based on direct empirical observation (we don’t falsify the account, we discredit the source of the testimony).

Likewise, a fact can seem to have importance, because it is related to a goal: we see a weakness in our opponent’s pawn structure we seek to exploit. The importance of the fact does not lie in the truth of the representation, but in relation of the fact to a goal-driven activity. Last there are facts that seem to have importance regardless of some instrumental goal. I would say we would say of such a fact it is beautiful, or good. But that it is good or beautiful is not a fact, it is good or beautiful in relation to something else. We could say that the fact has a supernatural meaning, and this meaning is unrelated to the empirical cause of the fact or the empirical description of the fact.

We have dreams of our ancestors, and these dreams have meaning, importance. At the same time, there is no question of our dreams being “really true” in any empirical sense. They are not empirical descriptions.

#14 Comment By LarryS On May 20, 2014 @ 9:41 am

In his book, “Ring of Truth” (1967), J.B. Phillips writes that C.S. Lewis visited him twice after his death. I’m not sure what to think but I do wonder where the after-death clothing comes from.

#15 Comment By TimG On May 20, 2014 @ 9:54 am

“As longtime readers know, Ruthie’s dream prophecy did not come true for me here. Things haven’t turned out all right, though I’m getting there.”

“Longtime reader” here to encourage you that we ourselves are probably never the best evaluators of “things turning out right.” Not how you’d have expected, nor when, maybe, but then we walk by faith not sight. I know your (and Ruthie’s and your family’s) story continues to be an encouragement to me. There’s some right in that. Thank you.

#16 Comment By Tommy On May 20, 2014 @ 9:55 am

After the unexpected death of my 2 year-old brother (30 years ago), my mother had two experiences that were as real to her as anything that’s ever happened.

The first came when she was in the pediatrics hospital, holding her lifeless baby boy one last time. As she held him, weeping over his body she singing. Loud, angelic voices sang a resurrection hymn.

The second incident came shortly thereafter. My brother came to her in a dream. He was older, probably in his 20s but she knew it was him. He didn’t say anything but appeared as if to say that everything was ok.

I used to hold the view that there was a brick wall between the living and dead – but over the last couple of years, I truly do believe the veil is thinner than we realize.

One of my favorite passages from the Harry Potter series is when, in the final book, Harry is for all intents and purposes in Hades. To his surprise, he is having a conversation with his deceased mentor Prof Dumbledore:
Harry: Is this real or is this just happening inside my head?
Dumblodore: Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 20, 2014 @ 9:58 am

Since it wasn’t my experience, and there is no way to verify it, I think I would say of these ghostly visitations, the same thing I say about questions like, was Mary really a virgin when she conceived and gave birth, and did Jesus really rise from the dead in the bodily physical sense… don’t mess with the stories.

#18 Comment By KD On May 20, 2014 @ 10:14 am

I think we have to be prepared to accept that there are phenomena that can have meaning without having truth, just as we are prepared to accept that there can be truths without meaning.

#19 Comment By jeanne On May 20, 2014 @ 10:33 am

Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite authors, described a dream he had about a friend….

“A year or so ago, a friend of mine died. One morning in his sixty-eighth year, he simply didn’t wake up. It was about as easy a way as he could possibly have done it, but it was not easy for the people he left, because it gave us no chance to start getting used to the idea…to say goodbye. He died in March, and in May my wife and I were staying with his widow overnight when I had a short dream about him. I dreamed he was standing here in the dark guest room where we were asleep, looking very much like himself in the navy blue jersey and white slacks he often wore. I told him how much we had missed him and how glad I was to see him again. He acknowledged that somehow. And then I said, ‘Are you really there, Dudley?’ I meant was he there in fact, in truth, or was I merely dreaming that he was. ‘Of course,’ he said. Then he plucked a strand of wool out of his jersey and tossed it to me, and I caught it between my thumb and forefinger, and the feel of it was so palpably real that it woke me up. That’s all there was to it. I told the dream at breakfast the next morning, and I’d hardly finished when my wife spoke. She said that she’d seen the strand on the carpet as she was getting dressed. She was sure it hadn’t been there the night before. I rushed upstairs to see for myself, and there it was – a little tangle of navy blue wool.”

Rod, you know the story of the little girl at our school who died of a brain tumor. Around the time she was going through her radiation treatments, I discovered Ruthie’s book and it gave me such comfort. Brooke died this past September on the first day of school. I was “strangely” comforted by the thought/dream/inspiration that Ruthie, the school teacher, was with her on “her first day of school.” I believe that the most Loving God of the Universe chooses to give us these treasures to point to the day when all will be restored and reversed. Jesus and the power of His Resurrection will make it so.

#20 Comment By jeanne On May 20, 2014 @ 10:34 am

correction – Ruthie’s story, your book,

#21 Comment By Raskolnik On May 20, 2014 @ 11:04 am

Light that “isn’t visual,” but rather “an experience of dissolving into light that is also love and wisdom.” Sounds like Dante’s Paradiso.

It also sounds like–no, it is–Tibetan teaching. The dying process is scary and intense, but at a certain moment you come face to face with this light (which is also identified with the slightly-mistranslated “Buddha Nature,” the union of ultimate wisdom and compassion).

I wonder, though, just what it will take for dogmatic materialism to take the hint…

#22 Comment By RB On May 20, 2014 @ 11:21 am

The veil is very thin. I have little doubt our family members on the other side of the veil minister to us. Sometimes we even know about it.

I have hallucinated before (post-operative infection) and that has a totally different quality to it than actually witnessing something spiritual. Those spiritual, thin-veil experiences feel more real to me than the furniture I’m sitting on.

People don’t always hear about it because it can sound silly when spoken aloud, or because they’ve been commanded to keep those experiences sacred. Some are instructed or feel impressed to share those experiences. Thank you for sharing yours, Rod.

#23 Comment By KD On May 20, 2014 @ 11:21 am

I don’t think the Tibetans have the monopoly on the light metaphor, as quick read of the Gospel of John or St. Augustine will prove. (Nor the Christians, for example, Suhrawardi’s writings.)

#24 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 20, 2014 @ 11:39 am

It’s not trite, and need not be expressed aggressively: you had to be there.

Science commits every effort to eliminating, minimizing or mitigating the subjective. One needs nothing else to validate that science has nothing to say about the spirit… at least not yet. 😀

There is a progression from the personal to the abstract. It links each end point. What it doesn’t do — cannot do, IMO — is offer validation of the end points while bypassing the steps between.

You had to be there. Not because your perception would have been identical to anyone else present. Not because the two (or more) of you can compare notes while the experience was still fresh in your minds. You had to be there to experience the connections between your consciousness and cognition and the phenomenon itself.

The rest is in keeping with your nature, your maturity, your personal strength of self, your attempt to rationalize (and its success or failure).

Pastor Glenn makes the most important point. My take on it — his commentary on that “50%” measurement — starts with you had to be there. If you weren’t there, no blame is offered or deserved. If you were there but didn’t perceive, no blame is offered or deserved. We are who we are, capable of what we can do, no more and no less. Any contradiction of that either displays an agenda or hides some other motivation, usually completely unrelated.

#25 Comment By Gromaticus On May 20, 2014 @ 11:43 am

In his book, “Ring of Truth” (1967), J.B. Phillips writes that C.S. Lewis visited him twice after his death. I’m not sure what to think but I do wonder where the after-death clothing comes from.

Well, for a proper Englishman like Lewis, I would assume the afterlife has accommodations for bespooked tailoring.

#26 Comment By JohnE_o On May 20, 2014 @ 11:46 am

I wonder, though, just what it will take for dogmatic materialism to take the hint…

I’m guessing a big white light ought to do it…

#27 Comment By Raskolnik On May 20, 2014 @ 11:56 am

KD, that’s exactly my point. People all across the globe have been reporting this phenomenon for thousands of years, if not longer. You’d think that would count for something to those who claim to care about “evidence,” but…

#28 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 20, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

Some cultures have/had beliefs about “the veil” that are/were as ordinary to them as beliefs and practices are to Christians and others. I don’t question the differences, I look for similarities.

In eastern Asia — Shinto prominently — ancestors are honored rather than worshipped. They are entreated to intervene (a similarity with Christian prayer), but not endowed with any of the “omni-“‘s.

In northern and western Europe, cultures didin’t question the veil, it was a fact of life for them. There was another world, inhabited by creatures both sentient and not. The Celtic holiday Samhain (sow-in) was a day they believed the veil was at its thinnest. It also marked their turning of the year. Their gods and spirit creatures existed and acted, to be acknowledged (and often avoided) rather than worshipped and invoked.

I cannot help also noting a most serendipitous occurance on this thread, where this section heading is marked — as usual on all threads — with blog title thus:

26 Responses to What The Dying Might Be Saying


#29 Comment By Anglican Peggy On May 20, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

My sister has had several of these experiences. The first time, we were staying at my aunt’s house just after my paternal Grandma died. We were both sleeping in my Grandma’s old bed when my sister was awoken and saw a glowing orb above the bed. She wasn’t afraid because she just knew it was Grandma. My sister says she felt a peace and knew that Grandma was ok. The other time was a dream where my maternal Grandfather visted her in a dream and told her he was ok. This was especially welcome because he was not especially religious in his life but he was at least a nominal believer and we were not sure of his relationship to God when he died after a major heart operation.

My lone experience was a little less clear but was nonetheless a huge comfort to me. My maternal Grandma was a huge fan of Patsy Cline. Listening to her music was a pleasure that we both shared several times. I had even brought in a CD to the hospital to play for her during her final illness. She wasnt very responsive at that time because she was so sick but that CD just lit her up. Anyway, after she died, I couldnt bring myself to play the CD anymore. But then I started finding it on the floor in front of my stereo. I would put it back only to find it back on the floor later on. At about the same time, my stereo just started coming on by itself. Funny enough I didnt make the connection between the two strange occurrences and my Grandma until the day that happened to feature both occurrences several hours apart. I had found the CD on th floor earlier in the day and then later that night the stereo turned itself on. I finally put the CD on and listened to it. Of course I bawled my eyes out but it was a good cry. After that I never found the CD on the floor again and the stereo never turned on by itself again. But the peace I feel about the ultimate fate of my sweet Grandma is with me to this day.

#30 Comment By KD On May 20, 2014 @ 1:30 pm


I think there are some good, and some bad reasons, not to wander far from verifiable facts. But if your model of knowledge is something you can jab a pin through and store on a museum shelf, then there are some beetles you are going to have to give up on (consciousness, God, life after death, value, meaning, dreams, art, authority, etc. etc.).

#31 Comment By KD On May 20, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

The practicing vivisectionist will always be able to convince themselves that there is no life to be found in anything.

#32 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 20, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

In his book, “Ring of Truth” (1967), J.B. Phillips writes that C.S. Lewis visited him twice after his death. I’m not sure what to think but I do wonder where the after-death clothing comes from.

Now Larry, that’s what I’m talking about, you’re messing with the stories. The essence, that was C.S. Lewis, probably doesn’t have any physical substance at all. Phillips was merely seeing a projection of Lewis’s presence that let him know who it was. A naked body would be no less incongruous than a well tailored suit.

#33 Comment By Ellery On May 20, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

When I was 17, a classmate died of cancer after being ill for a year and a half. I remember vividly a dream a week or so after he died, in which I was walking down the street and I heard his voice, clear as day, calling my name. He said he needed me to tell Susan something – Susan being his best friend. Then I woke up. I told Susan about the dream and that I was sorry I never heard what he wanted to tell her, because the quality of his voice was so strong in the dream that I’ve never shaken the conviction that it was real.

#34 Comment By grumpy realist On May 20, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

Law is skeptical of this. I have never heard of a will being overturned because the deceased came back after death and indicated he wanted to award his descendants differently.

And I don’t know if I would want to live in a world where such “testimony” was allowed.

#35 Comment By stef On May 20, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

There’s a book you might like, Rod, called [8], written in 1868 by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.

It’s basically about a younger woman who’s lost her brother in the Civil War, the older widow who comes to live with her, and the long conversations the two of them have about the afterlife, and visitations such as you describe.

It was hugely successful in its day, because interest in this stuff at that time was intense. Since it’s a 19th century novel, the language is flowery and (by today’s standards) it could use a bit of editing, but it still might be worth a read.

#36 Comment By sue On May 20, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

People are afraid to talk about it

If only this were true! People won’t shut up about their visitations by aliens and dead people or their trips to heaven!

Again, Rod, since you claim regularly to have predictive dreams, please start a daily dream diary. You don’t even have to post it. Just whenever you claim to have one, post the contemporaneously-written diary entry for that day.

#37 Comment By LarryS On May 20, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

One more from me. Many years ago I worked as an orderly in a hospital. My job was to circulate
and help out where needed. I dropped in to the ICU and found the nurses crying at the nurses’ station.
I asked what happened and this is what they said. A male patient had gotten out of bed by himself and was
standing at the foot of the bed talking with someone no one else could see.
Some said he was talking to Jesus.
They got him back in bed and was surrounded by doctors and nurses to see if he was OK. The man said,
“I have to go now.” He said good-bye to each person individually, closed his eyes and died.

Another interesting story is told by Father Richard Neuhaus.
“As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning” (2003).
The book is well worth reading but his personal experience is astonishing.

#38 Comment By catherine On May 20, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

After my father died (very unexpectedly) I dreamed frequently of him. Usually it was some riff of me being surprised to see him and ashamed to tell him that I thought he was dead.

But then he actually came to me in a dream. I believe one hundred percent that it was really him visiting me. In this dream I knew he had died and I was overjoyed to see him, and I was sobbing with emotion. He gently told me to pray for him and I said “No, Daddy, you pray for me!” which amused him.

That’s what happened, but I can’t begin to find the words to explain the experience. It was so joyful and comforting, peaceful and natural. There wasn’t anything unreal or off-kilter about it. It was as real as any experience I’ve ever had.

And I do pray a special prayer for my dad (and now also my deceased mother) every week during my Eucharistic Adoration hour.

#39 Comment By Rob On May 20, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

From this it logically follows that there is a God and my religion is truth

#40 Comment By Roland de Chanson On May 20, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

I distinctly remember one of my prior deaths. It was in a little Celtic village in Gaul close upon the defeat of Vercingetorix. I was very old at the time — the village elder in fact. I had been the brehon for three score years but had relinquished the role to my most learned disciple. He later became a Christian priest. Tant pis.

Sinking deeper into penultimate infirmity, I distinctly recall a vivid visitation in a dream yet not a dream from Caesar. He, the strangulator of our king, Vercingetorix, said to me in Latin, “optime erit vobis”. This was four years after his assassination in the Senate house. I was unsure what that meant and I died discomfited.

I dwelt in oblivion, in semi-consciousness for many centuries. I tried to pierce the veil but it was more solid than Roman concrete. I despaired. I was alone. My people scattered to the fringes of Europe. All this I observed without the respite of prayers and sacrifices of my ancient tribe.

But later, in my Merovingian rebirth, I understood, nay, realized, from earliest childhood what that prophetic revelation meant. I will not reveal the essence of the prophecy as I am planning a book and possibly a video game to capitalize upon it.

Let it not be doubted that the Celts indeed hold the key to the other side and to the deities dwelling therein. And this was true eons before that Welsh slave Patricius played silly theologic games with a tiny trefoil clover.

#41 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 21, 2014 @ 6:52 am

JohnE_o said:

If there is anything to existence after death, we’ll know soon enough – so why worry about it?

Spiritual laziness like this will get you sent off to perdition. Whatever perdition is.

#42 Comment By Patricia On May 21, 2014 @ 7:57 am

I am astonished that so many people can report these experiences. Sadly, I cannot, although I would dearly love a visit from my father, who died suddenly three years ago. I don’t even dream about him, except for one very disjointed dream.

#43 Comment By JohnE_o On May 21, 2014 @ 8:26 am

Spiritual laziness like this will get you sent off to perdition. Whatever perdition is.

That sounds scary, MH!

Is there something I can do now to make sure I don’t suffer this ‘perdition’ you speak of?

#44 Comment By mrscracker On May 21, 2014 @ 10:55 am

sue says:

May 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm

People are afraid to talk about it

If only this were true! People won’t shut up about their visitations by aliens and dead people or their trips to heaven!”
And that in turn may influence other folks to choose NOT to share their own experiences.

#45 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 21, 2014 @ 11:19 am

JohnE_o, well you could take Pascal’s Wager to the next level, just like Edward Current:

#46 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 21, 2014 @ 11:38 am

Soft science warning!!! 😀

It’s my view, supported by some in the field, that dreams are the purging of the overload of “data” we accumulate subconsciously every waking moment. The hallucinations often accompanying sleep deprivation are the purge taking place despite not being asleep. Our minds are not automatic in this, so the other part of my view, not necessarily supported, is this:

We don’t turn off when we sleep. Our minds are “working” on things in the background, as it were. My response to Patricia, for example, is that the departed loved one holds no tension for her, no “unresolved” issues or such. One shouldn’t feel bad about not dreaming about a departed loved one, and there is a final question with that: do you remember every dream you have? It’s very unlikely anyone remembers every dream (how would a person know for sure?), so chances are we dream about things and just don’t remember doing so.

We return you now to the regularly scheduled discussion, already in progress…