Can Faith be Renewed After Loss?


At The Meaning of Forever Project, we were privileged to receive this poem among the writings of a long-dead grandmother, who found faith in a dream-vision she had of her departed son. He had died in an accident, and grief over his loss confined her to bed for four years. But a dream of her son in a new life brought her back to life, too, and eventually inspired this poem called “Faith”.

This was originally posted in January of 2016.


The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

Near-Death or Beyond-Life?

Brenda Solanki - NDE - March 19

If you have been following our blog, you’ve read stories from contributors who’ve had the experience of exiting their physical body at what seemed like the time of death but, then, re-entering and going on to live happy, productive lives. The experts call these “Near-Death Experiences” (NDE’s). We’ve even written posts summarizing some of the current thinking about NDE’s, and we are happy to continue receiving and posting your stories on the subject.

But, in bringing you Brenda’s story (below) it occurs that, perhaps, what contributors are describing are not “Near-Death Experiences” at all; perhaps what they are actually talking about are experiences “Beyond-Death”, or “Beyond-Physical Life.”

In that spirit (pardon the expression), we bring you Brenda’s story:

by Brenda Solanki

Have you ever wondered what happens after you die? Do you still exist and, if so, what does it feel like? To be honest, this had not been a question of any real importance to me when I was young. Then, in one short year, several life changing events happened to open my mind and heart to the reality of a greater existence.

I was pregnant with my second child when I learned that both my mother and my beloved step-father were terminally ill with different forms of cancer. Treatment and care required different hospitals and schedules in a different city from where I lived. In addition, I was looking after a busy 2 year old son while progressing through a difficult pregnancy. This left me with little time to focus on much of anything for myself let alone the philosophical question of where my parents would be when no longer here with us.

However, all of this changed ten days after the birth of my second son. I suddenly found myself in excruciating pain, hospitalized and prepped for emergency surgery. Apparently, I had a seriously damaged gall bladder, symptoms of which had been masked by the pregnancy. It had to be removed immediately.

This was a major surgery, complicated by my being only ten days post-partum and nursing my baby. Finding the correct level of anesthetic apparently proved to be a problem because I awoke during the surgery. At least that was the explanation I was later given. From my perspective it was quite a different matter: I felt as if I was drowning, desperately trying to breathe. I remember pain beyond anything I’d ever experienced and calling out, “Please help me, I can’t handle this!”

Suddenly I was out of my body. The pain was gone and I felt a sense of incredible freedom and wonder. I was in a tunnel a bit like a tornado on its side. It was whirling at tremendous speed creating a continuous huu-huu-huu-huu sound.

I was stationary within this vortex looking toward the far end where a beautiful golden light beckoned. I knew I would go towards that light but first I looked behind.

What I saw was no surprise… My beloved husband and two little sons were standing there, smiling at me. Feeling no sorrow, I said, “Goodbye, I love all of you so much but I’m going home now. You will always be loved. You will be fine.”

And with that, I shot down the tunnel into that glorious golden light.

But before I could totally grasp all I was seeing, feeling and experiencing in this beautiful place, a gentle, laughing voice said quietly, “You can’t stay, you have to go back.”

The next awareness I had was in the recovery room with tears on my cheeks. I was grief-stricken at being, once again, in my physical body.

There were many consequences from this amazing event. I was able to help my parents in their transition to the other side by sharing the beauty and knowledge that life does go on. Over the years, I would often ask myself why I was sent back. Each time there would be a new challenge, or discovery, or opportunity to serve, to learn, to grow. Most importantly, I had absolutely no fear of death. I knew that I was Soul and that I will continue in another realm when my physical body is done.

I have been given a deep and abiding love of life knowing that there is a purpose and that I am loved; that when this physical body reaches its end I—SOUL—will go on to new adventures. I am grateful for each day, no matter what happens.

I now have four children and a brand new granddaughter, and I am still blessed with the same wonderful husband. I found my spiritual path shortly after my experience and, every single day, I sing that beautiful HU sound I heard in the tunnel. It lets me feel—even here in this physical world—the incredible joy,  freedom and love of the other side.

I have discovered who I am… I am Soul!

How would you characterize Brenda’s experience?

You can find out more about the sound Brenda writes about at

The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.



How to Help a Dying Loved One and Yourself Too

Joan Olinger - Helping - Feb 19

In our January 11 post, Dr. Joan Olinger summarized the work of Dr. Christopher Kerr at Hospice Buffalo, in New York, in which he chronicles the End of Life Dreams and Visions (ELDV’s) of his patients, thus adding credence to the idea that, when we finish this life, we continue in yet another one—possibly welcomed by loved ones who have gone before.

All the same, says Dr. Olinger, knowing this makes it is no less difficult to watch someone we love decline. In her latest contribution, she summarizes a few ideas about how to make the dying process easier for those who are leaving, as well as for those who will be left behind. And it all begins with loving and listening.

By Dr. Joan Olinger

Sitting with a dying loved one can make us feel helpless and uncomfortable.  It can be hard to know what to do and be very upsetting when they begin to talk with people who are invisible to us, or to tell us of visits with others we know are long dead. We might worry they’re losing their minds, having hallucinations or negatively fixating on a traumatic past. What are we to say or do?

There was a time when this type of experience would have been very upsetting for me, too—even believing, as I do, that the essential part of each of us lives on after the physical body expires.

But, putting my own experiences together with recent research into end of life dreams and visions has changed my perspective. I now realize the things dying people may say or do that I may have previously viewed as out of touch with reality—hallucinations, even—are actually integral to the dying process.

According to Dr. Christopher Kerr and his research team at Hospice Buffalo in New York, these strange happenings are probably helping our loved ones make peaceful transitions from this life to the next. Long-time palliative care specialist Barbara Morningstar supports this view in her recent book, Honoring the Mystery (mentioned in our October 14 blog).

Dr. Kerr’s research suggests that ELDV’s allow our loved ones to resolve issues and problems that may have dogged them their entire lives. They provide comfort, reassurance, guidance, awareness of lessons they have learned, and reunion with loved ones. Through these dreams and visions the dying person begins to feel safe, perhaps even look forward to being reunited with predeceased loved ones in a world very similar to the one they know now. Morningstar’s writings would seem to agree with this. And, both Morningstar and Dr. Kerr stress the importance of listening without judgement.

Dr. Kerr counsels against withdrawing when a loved one starts to describe unusual dreams or visions. Instead, he suggests that we “open the door” for them to talk by asking questions: “How did you sleep?” for example; or, “Did you have any dreams or unusual experiences?” When given a chance to talk about their dreams and visions, nearly 90 per cent of patients in Dr. Kerr’s research reported having at least one. They also said the experiences were comforting, and that they enjoyed talking about them.

But Morningstar points out that fear can be a factor, too. She witnessed this with her own husband, who was dying of cancer. At one point, he was overcome by a debilitating fear, which she could do nothing to alleviate. What she could to, though, was show him that she was there, that she loved him, and that she was listening—even if the words he was using were unlike his normal conversation.

“When fear is present in the dying or their loved ones, a companion’s love and compassionate presence is more powerful than words. In the silence alone, when love is present, profound transformations happen.”

Finally, her husband was able to work through his fear and communicate to her his final insight: That life is really about “the essence of love”.

“We make it so difficult, but it is so simple,” he told her. And she knew no more words were needed, just a long and loving embrace.

The research shows that, if you pull your chair up beside your dying loved one and just listen, you can learn a lot you didn’t know before. This happened as I sat with my own mother as she was dying. The stories she told me shortly before she lost her ability to speak coherently due to Alzheimer’s have become her legacy. 

She told me about herself, her family, and their experiences with death (See earlier posts here and here.  She and I had always been very close, and so I was surprised that some of the very meaningful stories she told me had never been mentioned before. I learned things about important events in Mom’s life, how she was raised, and why some things unfolded in my life the way they did.

 So, being able to talk with the dying person about their ELDV’s can provide a profound sense of meaning, comfort, connection, and hope for the dying person—as well as their families. You can even take notes if you like. Moments like these can ease the loneliness that the dying person may be feeling.

Even though, sometimes, your silent presence may be enough, I believe the sound of your voice is important at others. While there is no scientific proof that the sense of hearing is the last to go, many believe this, and care givers in the field often counsel to treat the dying person as if they can hear and understand every word you say.

Maggie Callanan, a critical care nurse turned hospice professional and author of Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying (Bantam, 1997) told the Spokesman Review  that she has been there during the deaths of 2,000 people.

Her advice is this: “…[D]o not say anything you do not want this dying person to hear. Just don’t. Not in the room, but not even down the hall, because it appears hearing becomes acute.”

I’ve believed this for a long time. That’s why I talked with my Mom and sang to her, even when she was unconscious, just a few hours before she died (or translated). Although she was a devout Christian, I told her I’d be there to help her cross over and that my spiritual guide would be there for her, too.

We’ve mentioned the importance of not passing off strange ramblings as hallucinations, and Dr. Kerr describes major distinctions between vivid ELDV’s versus disturbing hallucinations, which can often occur as a person’s brain is dying. One of the main differences between these two phenomena relates to the effect on the individual.

Dying people tend to experience healing dreams and visions as enjoyable, comforting, uplifting, and hopeful. In addition, they can clearly describe these experiences to others. In contrast, hallucinations leave a person agitated, distraught, disoriented and unable to communicate clearly.  And it is possible for a dying person to have healing dreams and visions at one time and hallucinations at another.

The reason why it is important to differentiate between ELDV’s and hallucinations is that hallucinations may require medications (such as anti-psychotics) to ease the distress they cause. Unfortunately, if an ELDV is misunderstood as a hallucination, the antipsychotic medication may interfere with the healing effects of the ELDV.

In a New York Times interview from 2016, Dr. Kerr says, “Often when we sedate them (patients having ELDVs), we are sterilizing them from their own dying process…I have done it, and it feels horrible. They’ll say ‘You robbed me—I was with my wife.’”

To see for yourself what it can be like for a dying person to tell others about a healing dream or vision, you might wish to view Dr. Kerr’s TED talk titled “I See Dead people” on YouTube, in which Dr. Kerr plays videotapes of palliative care patients talking about their experiences. You can see that they are comfortable, engaged, coherent, and eager to share their experiences.


Points for Reflection:  What leads you to have an interest in the subject of death and healing at the time of death?  How might this become a legacy for your loved ones?   How does what you believe about death effect the way you live your life now?


The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.