“I believe no soul is left to wing its viewless flight to Paradise in solitude. I believe the ‘Gloria in Excelsis’ of the shining host of God welcomes the disembodied spirit upon the confines of the new world. I remember hearing once of a little dying child shrinking timidly from the idea of going alone; but just before the end there came a spirit of sublime confidence, a supernatural opening of vision, a recognition of some companionship, and the little one cried out: ‘I am not afraid; they are all here.’ . . . I believe the chamber of the dying is filled with the holy angels.”
—Basil Wilberforce, from Deathbed Visions by Sir William Barrett, p.33
No one dies alone.
No One Dies Alone is a great organization that puts a living breathing human at the bedside of a dying person, but I’m talking here about End Friends, psychopomps, beings who help with the transition of death.
I became aware of End Friends when my father was in critical care and I was in a nearby hotel room struggling with a thorny problem. The problem suddenly righted itself, and just as suddenly a curtain of blackness came over me. I fell onto my bed into an instant deep sleep, awakened by the hospital calling to say that my father had died. I remember nothing, yet I strongly believe that I somehow accompanied my father as he left this realm.
I knew nothing about End Friends at the time. Sometime later, a nurse introduced me to the word psychopomp, which means soul guide. A great many nurses have privately approached me with their experiences of helping a patient with the transition of death—assisting with the birthing of the spirit.
But I didn’t know that yet, and explored various forums, looking for answers to a question that I couldn’t word. I discovered three populations willing to discuss death: hospice workers, paranormal believers, and those following a shamanic path. All three discussed the same occurrence: those near death seeing, talking with, and being comforted by beings from the other side, either religious figures or beloved friends or relatives who had died.
In the hospice world, this is a commonly accepted occurrence, sometimes called nearing death awareness, as in Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley’s popular books Final Journeys and Final Gifts.
Many medical professionals blame the behavior on reactions to medications or lack of oxygen to the brain. In her book On Life After Death, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross took on the medical establishment explanation of lack of oxygen with a study of the near-death experiences of totally blind patients. Though blind in life, the patients in their near-death experiences were able to describe the people attending the near death, down to the jewelry they were wearing. But when the patients returned to life, they were as blind as before. Dr. Ross stated that if this was an example of a lack of oxygen to the brain then she should prescribe it for all her blind patients.
In that same book, On Life After Death, Dr. Ross adamantly states that no one dies alone, no matter the manner of death:
But at the time of transition, your guides, your guardian angels, people whom you have loved and who have passed on before you, will be there to help you. We have verified this beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I say this as a scientist. There will always be someone to help you with this transition. (p.27)
An associate of Dr. Ross, David Kessler, collected nearing death experiences into a book he called Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die. As you’ve probably surmised, the title refers to common nearing death experiences of talking about taking a trip or seeing a roomful of people. A favorite quote of mine from the book is a patient stating, “Of course you can’t see her—she’s here for me, not you.” In Final Journeys, Maggie Callanan referred to her patients, saying, “In our presence, they often talked with and were comforted by people we could not see.”
If your dying loved one starts seeing and talking with dead people, take it as a good thing. Your loved one is being comforted and helped with the transition of death. And if a loved one experienced a difficult death, please be comforted with Dr. Ross’s assertion that your loved one did not die alone.