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.

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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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

 

Can We Choose to Stay or Go?

RuthAnn Shallert-Wygall - Jan 19

RuthAnn wrote last April about witnessing an elderly patient’s joyful leap from this life to the next and of her gratitude at having been given the opportunity to witness that woman’s departure.

But, what of RuthAnn’s own choice, as a brand new mother, to live? In the paragraphs that follow, she tells of a near-death experience four decades ago. Newly married and having recently given birth, her choice was clear—but not so easily accomplished.

Here’s how RuthAnn tells it:

“Following the home birth of my daughter Lila in 1977, I began to run a fever. Upon seeking medical help, we discovered I would need a routine post-birth surgery. The procedure took hardly any time at all but my body was unable to clear the anesthetic and, forty minutes later, I was still paralyzed. The doctors were unable to rouse me or remove my breathing machine.

“I had wakened midway through the operation and realized all my muscles were paralyzed. I was frightened and recalled that as a nurse’s aide, I had cared for a young woman who was permanently paralyzed due to a reaction to anesthetic for a routine surgery.

“Gradually, though, I began to realize I did have sensation in a few areas of my body. I could feel the breathing tube in my throat and had some feeling in my arms.

“Occasionally I could hear snatches of what the doctors were saying. One complained that he had an event to attend that evening and was not happy I was keeping him late. “This would happen tonight… one in ten thousand!” I heard him say.

“At one point, I concentrated really hard and managed to move my right arm a little, trying to signal that I was conscious, but one of the doctors dismissed it as a reflex and I was unable to repeat the movement.

“A short while later, without experiencing any sense of movement, I found myself as a point of awareness near the ceiling. I was close to the fluorescent light fixture, which buzzed harshly. I knew my body must be below on the operating table but was unable to see in that direction.

“As the buzzing continued, I became aware of a bright, loving presence. I knew it was the inner form of my spiritual teacher. In a nonverbal way that I clearly understood, my teacher posed the question: Do you want to leave this lifetime now, or do you want to remain?

“In my teenage years, I had been troubled and, at times, toyed with suicidal thoughts. But this time there was no question: I was eager to stay. Recently married, now with a new baby girl, I very much wanted to continue this current life path. I was deeply in love with my husband and we had just welcomed our new daughter into our family. The most exciting time of my life was just beginning! Emphatically, I chose to stay.

“In the meantime, my husband John was in the waiting room wondering why the operation was taking so much longer than expected. Having studied various religions, spiritual paths and meditative systems, he was highly attuned to his inner states of consciousness—and to mine. He later told me he became aware that I was out of my body and was being given a choice to stay or go.

“John surrendered the situation and all his feelings to Divine Spirit. He did not want to impose his personal wishes upon what he understood must be my choice as a spiritual being.

“Back in the OR, I focused all my attention on my physical body. Though I could not see it, I was nonetheless fully aware of what was happening in every part of it. The physical me was still completely paralyzed with the breathing tube in place. So, I braced myself and ‘jumped’ back in, pushing hard on the lungs to start them moving again.

“It required tremendous effort and, to this day, remains the most difficult thing I’ve done in this lifetime. After a couple of attempts, I began to get the hang of it and heard one doctor tell the other I was beginning to breathe on my own. The tube was removed (what a relief!) and my next memory is of waking up in a hospital room to John’s big smile. He was so glad I’d decided to stay.

“Later that day, one of the doctors explained that I had an enzyme deficiency which had caused the anesthetic to remain in my bloodstream ten times longer than normal. It paralyzed all my muscles, including the ones for breathing. Fortunately, I had been given only enough for a five-minute surgery.

“After this experience at the border of death, I gained a new appreciation for life, and for my family. I knew with certainty that Soul can exist outside the body and does not require a human form to see, hear and feel the world around it.

“And I am sure that my spiritual guide will be with me always—indeed, will be with me when the time comes to depart this body for good and move on to higher planes of reality.”


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

 

Where Do We Go When We Die?

where do we go when we die

The Meaning of Forever Project’s blog posts in 2018 spoke of dreams, visions, music and more; of experiences with parents, dogs, spouses and patients; of special moments before death and after–and they reviewed some of the latest thinking, which gives yet more credence to the idea that death is not so much about an end to physical life as it is a beginning to some other kind of life.

If you  haven’t had a chance to see them all, we’ve made a summary here. Just follow the links highlighted in pink to see the full stories.

Lidia Adaman-Tremblay for Blog.

Lidia’s story illustrates how the connection between a mother and daughter continued in dreams long after the mother’s passing; and, how those dream visits helped Lidia feel loved and protected.

 



Mel Kazonoff for Blog

Mel tells a story of how he asked for signs that his departed wife was well and happy in her new existence, then allowed his inner skeptic to take over. However, a set of happenings too strange to ignore finally got through to him and brought comfort.

 



David Olinger - For Blog

Most contributors to The Meaning of Forever Project believe that love and life continue after death of the physical body—because experiences with their own dearly departed have proven it for them. Some have even died and come back to tell about what the academic world now refers to as their Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s).

But—much as many of us want to believe there is more to life than what we see before us—we aren’t all fortunate enough to be given convincing glimpses of “the other side”. In this short piece, David writes about how it feels to want to believe but how, for him, the evidence falls just-that-much too short of the mark.

 



Lori and the Toilet

In this story, Lori tells how her Mom’s sense of humour plays an important part in letting Lori know that the love between mother and daughter continues long after the mother’s physical passing.

 



Ruth Ann S-W - 1 - for blog

In this story, the writer gives us another perspective on the concept of Soul as an eternal being. This viewpoint asserts that we are not primarily physical beings who have Souls; rather, we are Souls who have physical bodies. And, not only that, says RuthAnn in this story: When death is inevitable, Souls will sometimes leave their bodies behind before the final physical processes have finished.

 



Joan Olinger - Dr. Mary Neal

For those of us who haven’t had our own experiences to assure us life continues after death of the physical body, Dr. Joan Olinger has found another book that might help. In 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy-filled Life, Dr. Mary Neal writes about her own near-death experience and how it has allowed her to take more joy in the life she has right now—despite the fact it prophesied the death of her son. She even takes things a step further by providing exercises she hopes will help readers find that same joy.

Dr. Joan Olinger, who thoroughly enjoyed the book, summarizes parts of it below.

 



Patti McCulloch - Pampas

If humans can happily leave their bodies behind when they no longer function, what about dogs?

It took a while for Patti to realize it, but her dog answered that question with a resounding “yes” one sad day in 1998. The message came in the form of a light rising from the box that contained her beloved Pomeranian’s ashes.

 



Janine G Smith - For Blog - 1

Janine has long followed a spiritual path called ECKANKAR, which teaches the eternal nature of Soul, and the study of dreams to connect with this higher part of ourselves. So, she was not particularly surprised when the recently-deceased mother of a friend from her junior high school days visited in a dream with an important message. What did surprise her was the immediate acceptance of that message by the woman’s family.

Here’s how Janine tells the story:

 



David Minton - For Blog.

In his story below,  David provides another perspective on what is left of us when we leave this earthly life, and what remains–both here and in the worlds beyond.

 



Kathi Murphy

Can music be a way for the departed to show their continuing love?

Kathi believes so. In the story below, she tells of times when she heard special music that assured her  both her parents were there in times of need.

 



Ben Burchert - FB story adapted for Blog

Sometimes we receive assurance that our loved-ones live on after they have left their physical bodies; perhaps, in a dream or an encounter with a symbol that we know is meant just for us. Other times, if we are open, we can be given reassurance before we even learn they are gone. That is what happened to Ben one late summer day in 1985.

 



Joan Olinger - Morningstar Review

If we accept that we can have visits from our dear ones after they’ve left this world—and if these visits bring us comfort—how can we give similar comfort to them before they leave?

In a new book, Honoring the Mystery: Uplifting Insights from the Language, Visions and Dreams of the Dying, Barbara Morningstar examines the world of the dying from the perspective of a professional involved in hospice care for more than 20 years—and from the place of a woman bereaved.

 



Randi Warner - For Blog

For those of us who believe it’s possible, catching some sign that our departed loved one is well and happy in a new existence brings us great comfort. Some of us are also able to discern a guiding hand in things that happen before death which make the transition easier to bear. Randi is one of those people fortunate enough to have experienced both: her grandmother’s call from “the other side”, and a soothing message from a mysterious visitor before her passing.

Randi tells her story:

 



Kathi Murphy - Molson

In a recent blog, Kathi told us how the timely playing of favourite family music selections helped comfort her after both her mother and father had passed away. In this story, Kathi tells how a dream with her beloved dog Molson told her he, too, was well and happy in his new life.

 



“It might take some time for the ones we love to get in touch, but they will when the time is right.”

Bonnie, a retired Registered Nurse, describes herself as “steeped in Western science,” so it’s with a healthy dose of self-doubt that she recounts the following experiences.

 

where do we go when we die


 


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

What Makes a “Good Death”?

joan olinger - a good death - kerr

If you recall our November 4, 2018, post about Maria’s mother asking her to stand aside to make visible “a lot of people” who had come to welcome her into the next life, you may be pleased to know that both Maria’s and her mother’s experiences are corroborated by scientific research. In the post below, Dr. Joan Olinger brings together the highlights of these studies so that, like her, we can ponder this question:

What is “a good death” for you or a loved one?

Great things can happen at the time of death, or just before! I believe, however, that this isn’t the way most of us feel when faced with the departure of a loved one. Instead, we often focus on the decline of that person’s physical body. We see our loved one shrink and curl into a fetal position. We watch with great apprehension as very normal aspects of everyday life—like breathing—change from automatic and easy to labored and difficult.

Of more importance, however, is that while our loved one’s body is in the process of shutting down, their psychological, existential, and spiritual needs are still being attended to in a totally normal process that is inherent in the process of death itself.

Here, you might wonder what in the world I’m talking about. I’m referring to what is being revealed about the natural process of dying in some very exciting research by Dr. Christopher Kerr, Chief Executive Officer, at Hospice Buffalo in Cheektowga, New York. Dr. Kerr and his team have been studying end-of-life dreams and visions (ELDV’s), also known as pre-death experiences.  In these experiences, people who are dying often have highly meaningful, inherently therapeutic, and comforting dreams or visions that allow them to lose their fear of death.

In turn, these dreams and visions help transform the process of dying into a peaceful acceptance of the transition to what lies beyond. They often have dreams or visions in which they are greeted by deceased family, friends, pets, and religious figures. These pre-death experiences can be profoundly meaningful for both the dying and their families.

Recently, I saw my friend Maria transformed after her dying mother saw a large group of loved ones who were already dead come to visit. Lying in her bed, Maria’s mother was so delighted by their welcoming visit that she clapped her hands in glee. Previously agitated and afraid, she was now at peace. She died a few hours later. Just witnessing this transformed Maria, too, and gave her a renewed appreciation for life. (See the full story here.)

Research bears out Maria’s experience: Often, those who know of their loved-ones’ profound pre-death experiences are better able to accept their passing.

Visions Through the Ages

ELDV’s have been reported throughout the ages, across different nations, different cultures, and different religious backgrounds. Some examples of these can be found in The Bible, and in the writings of Plato and Shakespeare. Until the Dr. Kerr’s research, however, these dreams and visions have not been scientifically studied from the dying person’s perspective.

Typically, the previous research into pre-death experiences has been from the viewpoint of nurses or family members. One example is a 2004 study in which nurses indicated that patients who had pre-death visions or dreams were more likely to have peaceful deaths.

In Dr. Kerr’s research, dying persons were asked every day prior to their death to describe any dreams or visions, and they were asked if they found their experiences comforting or distressing. Interestingly, almost 90% reported at least one dream or vision, and nearly 100% described these pre-death dreams or visions (ELDV’s) as distinctly different from normal dreams. They described them as “more real than real”.

The research participants felt as though they were awake in these very vivid and profound experiences. Most were with predeceased family, friends, pets, or religious figures. Two-thirds involved travelling or preparation for travel. Most of the dying people enjoyed talking about their experiences and said they derived great comfort from them—particularly if they involved predeceased loved ones.

Dr. Kerr’s research found that, as dying people come close to the time of death, the frequency of the ELDV’s with predeceased loved ones increased dramatically. Since dying people report that the most comforting experiences are those with deceased loved ones, they found more and more comfort as death approached. Only 15% of dying patients reported distressing dreams or visions. Even here, however, the distressing dreams served to help resolve painful or traumatic experiences from the past.

Dreams with a Purpose

Although the timing of these experiences varies from months to hours before patients pass on, there seems to be a psychological or existential purpose behind the dreams about predeceased loved ones.  Typically, the predeceased are those who have been the most loving. As one illustration, Dr. Kerr tells of a man who lost his arm playing on a train track when he was a boy. Most of his siblings were highly supportive and loving afterwards, but one teased him mercilessly. This person’s end-of-life experience turned out to be with the siblings who had given him love throughout his life. The one who had treated him badly was not there.

Dr. Kerr says these types of pre-death dreams or visions can serve to help heal old pains and losses. He describes one such instance in his TEDx Talk, I See Dead People,”  in which he describes the experiences of a woman named Mary.  She was observed rocking, cuddling, and loving an unseen infant, whom she called Danny. No one knew who “Danny” was. When Mary’s sister arrived the next day, she explained that Danny was Mary’s first child and had been stillborn.

Mary had been so grief-stricken by the loss that, throughout her life, she never spoke of it. Now, in a pre-death vision, Mary had regained the lost baby and was giving it all the love and care that she hadn’t been able to give earlier in her life. Dr. Kerr notes that dreams and visions are often about regaining what was lost, including the love of a predeceased one, and regaining a sense of wonder and meaning about life.

War-Time Trauma Healed

Dr. Kerr offers another story about a dying man named Mack. As a 17-year-old, he had joined up to fight in World War II. During the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, Mack helped ferry the soldiers from the off-shore boats to the invasion beaches. On each return trip, he would bring the dead and dying soldiers back to the ships. He felt responsible for these men, and long afterward he was concerned about what he might have done to help save more soldiers.

Mack never spoke about this horrific event after the war. But as he neared death, he couldn’t sleep because of terrible nightmares in which he relived those experiences. Mack began to talk about these nightmares. He then experienced comforting dreams and was transformed, being able to sleep peacefully.

In one of Mack’s dreams, he was able to relive the day he was discharged from the military, which he said was the happiest day of his life. Mack also had a dream that one of the soldiers he hadn’t been able to save on the beaches came to talk with him. This man told him the soldiers would soon be coming to get him, and he was rescued by the soldiers he had not been able to save. Mack died peacefully two days later.

Dr. Kerr points out that it is completely normal that, as we approach our own deaths, we begin to reflect on the meaningful experiences of our lives, on our own mortality, and who we might meet “beyond the veil.” He says that most dreams and visions bring reassurance and a knowingness we’ll be okay after death.

Just as it is built into a tadpole to become a frog, and a caterpillar to become a butterfly so, too, it is built into us that, through the dying process, we are intrinsically healed, loved, comforted, and welcomed into the life beyond death. Personally, I can’t image a death that would be better. When the time comes, I will welcome this as “a good death”.

Points for Reflection

If you like, you can ponder what would characterize “a good death” for you, or for a loved one. What would it be like?  Who would you or your loved one want to be reunited with? What lifelong issues would you or your loved-one like closure and healing for? Such may very well be the themes of dreams or visions that you or your loved-one encounter in the intrinsically meaningful and inherently healing process of death.

Isn’t that amazing?

Further Investigation

Here are links and references if you would like to investigate further the world of End-of-Life Dreams and Visions:

Kerr, C.W., Donnelly, J.P., Wright, S.T., Kusczczak, S.M., Banas, A., Grant, P., Luczkiewicz, D.L. “End-of-Life Dreams and Visions: A Longitudinal Study of Hospice Patients’ Experiences” JOURNAL OF PALLIATIVE MEDICINE Volume 17 No. 3, 2014.

Badgery, E. “Vivid Dreams Comfort the Dying” Scientific American November 1 2014 found at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/vivid-dreams-comfort-the-dying/

Bullkeley, K. “Pre-Death Dreams: Their Psychological and Spiritual Value” Huffington Post Feb 8, 2017 found at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-bullkeley-phd/predeath-dreams-their-value_b_9153778.html

Petrow, S. “At the end of her life, my mother started seeing ghosts, and it freaked me out” The Washington Post July 22 2017 found at https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/at-the-end-of-her-life-my-mother-started-seeing-ghosts-and-it-freaked-me-out/2017/07/21/af8a7c40-56b5-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?utm_term=.566e877452f0

Kerr, C. “I See Dead People: Dreams and Visions of the Dying” Tedx Talk November 2015 found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbnBe-vXGQM

Kerr. C. “Dreams and Visions of the Dying” June 2018 found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3eM6Der7Jw





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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

 

 

 

Can Love Overcome Skepticism?

Bonnie Lendrum

Bonnie, a retired Registered Nurse, describes herself as “steeped in Western science,” so it’s with a healthy dose of self-doubt that she recounts the following experiences.

Last August, she helped nurse her dear friend Jennifer through the late stages of an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. Bonnie sensed that her friend would soon die, but she and her husband had a long-standing annual commitment to host another couple at their summer cottage in Northern Ontario.

Like Bonnie, Jennifer was a practical, matter-of-fact person; so, when Bonnie explained she would be absent for a few days, Jennifer understood. And, when Bonnie asked her friend for a favour in case she died before they were able to speak again, Jennifer agreed. Despite her own skepticism, Bonnie asked that Jennifer pass along greetings in the afterlife to some departed loved ones: Jean, the mother of Bonnie’s God-children, who died more than 20 years ago; then, Bonnie’s parents, and the parents of her husband.

Just to make sure, Jennifer ticked off the names on her fingers before Bonnie left: “Jean, Don and Jean, Phyllis and Andy. Right?”

“Right,” said Bonnie.

While at the cottage, Bonnie would sit at a small desk in the kitchen to keep in touch with Jenifer’s family through phone calls and text messages. One night, she awakened suddenly and went to the kitchen thinking a cup of hot milk might help put her back to sleep. There, she found the light above the desk illuminated. This was strange, because Bonnie and her husband Kenn are sticklers for turning off lights that are not in use. Before returning to bed, Bonnie made sure to switch it off. The following morning Kenn, who’d been first in the kitchen, asked Bonnie why that light was still on when he got up. Bonnie said, “I think Jennifer was here last night! Twice!” Jennifer died later that day.

Three weeks afterward, Bonnie and Kenn settled into their usual seats at a concert hall in Hamilton looking forward to another performance by the philharmonic orchestra. They’d made a nodding acquaintance with the couple normally seated next to them but, on this occasion, those seats were occupied by someone else. The woman looked oddly familiar.

“I have an extraordinary memory for names and faces,” recalls Bonnie, “but I just couldn’t pull this one together.”

They spoke for a while, trying to place each other. Then, finally, Bonnie turned to her seat neighbor and asked, “Are you Dorothy, Jean’s friend?”

“Yes,” replied the woman. “I am.”

The last time Bonnie had seen Dorothy was at her friend Jean’s funeral two decades before. This was a coincidence too extraordinary for even a skeptic to ignore.

“Okay, Jennifer,” thought Bonnie. “First one off the list.”

Bonnie has a ring and a pair of earrings set with diamonds from jewelry left by her mother, who was also named Jean, and her mother-in-law, Phyllis. One evening in late fall after an early snow, she was wearing them—plus a cameo from Phyllis that she’d put on for the first time. She and Kenn had a date to meet their son for dinner in Hamilton but they had errands to run first, including a stop at the community mail box.

Finally seated at the dinner table, Bonnie realized one of her earrings was missing. Immediately, they searched under the table, then husband and son retraced their steps to the car and searched there but came up empty handed. Strangely, Bonnie felt no distress. She knew the earring would turn up. As she and Kenn drove home after dinner, they made a stop at the mailbox once again. There, he shone the headlights from various angles while Bonnie searched in the snow for the missing earring.

“Just as I was about to give up, what do I see sitting on top of the snow but my earring!” says Bonnie. “So I said, Thank you, Phyllis.”

Number two off the list.

“It’s like Jennifer is taking her time saying hello to these people,” says Bonnie with a smile in her voice. “And they are saying hello back to me.”

The stories move into early December now, and this one has Bonnie and Kenn getting ready to attend a funeral home visitation for Cameron, the middle-aged son of long-time friends, who died very suddenly. They’ve come to the point of picking a tie to go with the jacket Kenn plans to wear. Bonnie looks on as Kenn brings out his collection. A tie neither of them has seen before catches her eye. It has just the right colours.

When they turn it over to read the label, they realize it comes from a shop in Bermuda, where Bonnie’s parents often vacationed. Kenn must have acquired the tie after his father-in-law’s death, but neither of them recalls seeing it in the 17 years since. Perhaps this is a hello from Don at a time when reassurance from “the other side” means a lot.

A week later, after having attended Cameron’s funeral earlier in the day, Bonnie is out with friends where she relates her stories about Jean and Phyllis. As she returns home, despite their habit of not keeping lights on unnecessarily, she notices Kenn has left a light on in the hallway. She turns it off and goes to bed, leaving the house in darkness. The next morning when she comes downstairs, the Christmas Village scene in the family room is illuminated.

The message from these lights? “It takes a village to look after a family,” says Bonnie, thinking of Cameron, his grieving parents, his young widow and his two very wee children.

Having retired from nursing, Bonnie now has time to pursue another passion, which is writing. With one book published, she’s been working lately on her second. But, given the upheaval of the past few months, she hasn’t been particularly motivated or inspired.

For two days recently, though, all that changed. Bonnie wonders if it has something to do with a necklace she was wearing—because for those two days, Bonnie wrote freely. Normally, she doesn’t wear jewelry around the house, but she felt the urge to this one time. The necklace had been a gift from her mother.

“I had two exhilarating writing days. I was just over the moon ecstatic,” she says. “I wonder if it had something to do with her…

“As I’m saying this, it just sounds absurd to me,” says Bonnie, “but I’ve learned to trust in my experience.”

And, even though the skeptic “steeped in Western science” still questions whether her experiences were real, Bonnie looks forward to hearing from the one remaining loved one on the list she gave to Jennifer.

“It might take some time for the ones we love to get in touch,” says Bonnie, “but they will when the time is right.”


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

Can Unseen Help Ease Our Last Transition?

Randi Warner - For Blog

For those of us who believe it’s possible, catching some sign that our departed loved one is well and happy in a new existence brings us great comfort. Some of us are also able to discern a guiding hand in things that happen before death which make the transition easier to bear. Randi is one of those people fortunate enough to have experienced both: her grandmother’s call from “the other side”, and a soothing message from a mysterious visitor before her passing.

Randi tells her story:

“My grandmother and I had always been close.  She and my grandfather raised me since I was very young.  I called them Nana and Papa.  Papa died in an accident when he was 58 and I was 19. Grandma had always believed there is something else beyond life on earth. We had conversations about this over the years. She could recall, as a young girl living in Niagara Falls, walking across the bridge with her own grandmother to visit a spiritualist.

“Nana lived to be 93 years old, but her last few months were ones of frustration that her body was on the decline although her mind was still active. She would engage in great conversations with the nursing home care workers, and they would always tell me how they loved to go into her room to chat. She knew more about what was going on in the world than I did and would keep me up to date every day from the nursing home with a 7 a.m. phone call at my work. Before anyone else arrived in the office, she’d tell me the world news and I would tell her news about our boys and what was on the go for the day.

“Nana suffered from Parkinson’s disease, petit mal seizures, and had a very painful blood clot in her leg. Having earlier fallen and broken her shoulder, she could no longer use her right arm. The day came when she called me to say she wanted to discontinue all but her pain medications. She asked if I would sign the necessary documents on her behalf. I went to her, and after many tears from both of us I signed the paperwork. The doctor explained she would go gradually. She’d be lucid for the first day and slowly sink into a deep sleep with no pain.

“This was on Monday. I stayed with her and we talked all through the day but, finally, I told her to rest and that I would go home and return early in the morning. At home I found a blank journal and started writing the experience of the day as a sort of message to her.

“The next day she spoke a little bit but drifted in and out of sleep. Still, I talked to her and held her good hand. I put her stuffed puppy in her right hand as it was soft and would feel good against her skin. The caregivers brought a radio to play peaceful music in the background, and the resident minister came to say a little prayer with us. Throughout the day my husband Dave stopped in, along with and our sons and daughter-in-law. I continued to write in the journal and left it on her night table when I went home.

“When I returned on Wednesday Nana’s breathing was so laboured I could tell she was fighting to keep going. I knew this was the day she would pass over. Still, she looked fresh because the nurses had bathed her and dressed her in a new nightgown. I smoothed her hair and whispered that it was okay to go, that I knew she was worried about me as she always was, and that I would be alright—but only if she promised to give me a sign after she left. She couldn’t answer me in words, but her breathing changed for a moment and I knew she understood. 

“Next, I opened the journal to write about how I was feeling, and there on the page were someone else’s words besides my own. It was a lovely note in beautiful script, and the writer had signed her name. It touched me to see that someone else had come in and sat with Nana, and that she had taken the time to write me this lovely note. As the day went by, I continued to talk to her and hold her hand. My husband joined us after work. 

“Around 9 p.m. I felt the air in the room change and knew it was her time. I put my arms around her and stroked her hair as she took her last breath. I told her how much we all loved her and to say hello to everyone who would be greeting her on the other side. That was Wednesday, so I took the next two days off to collect her things and bring them back to our place. She did not want a funeral, so she was cremated and her ashes returned to us.

“Monday morning, I arrived at work as usual around 6:30 and began to prepare for the day. I reheated my coffee, sat down at my desk, turned on my computer and started to catch up on emails.  At exactly 7 a.m., I was startled by the phone ringing. I stared but didn’t pick it up right away. I thought, don’t be silly it’s just Dave or the boys. I picked up the phone and said hello but there was only static on the line. I said hello again and the static changed in frequency, but I couldn’t hear any words.  Eventually the line went silent and I hung up.

“For some time after Nana’s passing, the phone would ring at 7 a.m. every day. Eventually, though, it became less and less frequent until, finally, the calls stopped. I am certain that this was Nana’s way of telling me she was fine and that she was checking to make sure I was fine too.

“A few weeks later I decided to unpack and sort through her things. Among them was the journal I had been writing in at her bedside. As I opened it, I read again note the other woman had left. Soon after this, I returned to the nursing home and thanked the staff for all they’d done for Nana. I asked the manager if I could meet the lady who wrote that note. I explained she would have been on night shift the Tuesday before Nana passed. The manager looked at the note and then at me and said they didn’t have anyone by that name working there, and no one else could have gotten into the building or had access her room that late at night.

“Thirteen years later, I still have no idea how that note got there or who would have written it.  I like to believe it was one of our angels or spirit guides watching over Nana when I couldn’t be there. I cherish those kind words.”


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

 

 

 

Do Dogs Go To Heaven, Too?

Kathi Murphy - Molson

Photo: Courtesy of Kathi Murphy.


In a recent blog, Kathi told us how the timely playing of favourite family music selections helped comfort her after both her mother and father had passed away. In this story, Kathi tells how a dream with her beloved dog Molson told her he, too, was well and happy in his new life.

“One year ago, our beloved dog Molson passed away suddenly at home in his tenth year.  He was a joyful, loving, fun mix of French Bulldog and Boston Terrier.

“Molson entered our lives when he was nine months old. The woman who originally owned him could not care for him, and my daughter asked if we could take him in. At that time, I was recovering from breast cancer surgery and the loss five months earlier of our previous fur-buddy, Kelsey. 

“Molson was truly a gift in this very difficult time. During the nine years he spent with us, we experienced much love and joy with him. Every day he brought smiles to our lips and love to our hearts.

“After losing him and grieving every day for him, I had the most vivid and wonderful dream.

“I had just entered our house with the same sad, “You’re not here” feeling I’d been having since he died.  Then I heard him leave our bedroom and come down the stairs, the click, click of his nails on the wooden treads. I was standing by the fireplace in the living room and he ran toward me, stopping to spin with joy as he always did when he greeted me. 

“He looked so young and happy. I felt intense joy and happiness as I petted him and rubbed his little body. I could actually feel his warm fur underneath my stroking hand. I was laughing and smiling, and he twirled around and looked straight at me. His eyes were clear and bright, no longer dulled by cataracts, and his expression was exuberant, but also soft and loving. As I stared into his shining eyes, I felt peace and joy that I was with him again, that I could actually feel and see him so vividly.

“As Molson walked away, I asked, “How long can you stay”?  He turned to look at me once more. I felt his goodbye and the sense of, “Do not worry, I am fine, and all is well”.

“This was unlike any dream I have ever had. It felt so real and, throughout, I was aware that Molson had passed. I awoke with tears in my eyes, but not the same despondent tears I felt every day prior. Instead, I had a sense that everything was okay. I had a feeling of great love—no worries, no fear, no regret, and that all was as it should be.

“Not long after that dream, my husband was outside vacuuming the swimming pool. Somehow, a bright purple balloon on a stick with the word “Celebrate” written on it, dropped into our yard and hovered inside the pool. My husband moved it aside and, at that point, heard what sounded like a chime. We do not have windchimes and have never heard them in our neighborhood. 

“We brought the balloon into the house placed it in a corner of the living room where it remained fully inflated for many months. Our grandchildren would often play with it when they came to visit. One day we noticed that there was a halo of light on the wall around the balloon. This began happening each morning, although we have never seen light like that in the 25 years we have lived in our home. 

“In the winter following Molson’s passing, we were dog sitting for my sister-in-law. I took several pictures of “Abby” sitting in the snow outdoors. When I looked at the pictures, I could see that behind her were three bright orbs of light.  Although we have never seen this before or since, we think it’s interesting to note that we have had three rescue dogs during our lifetime.  We found these balls of light comforting because my husband and I both believe that the love and energy, which makes up the beings we cherish on earth, continues forever.”


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

On Finding Peace After a Loved-One Dies

Maria Douvalis - for Blog

In this story, Maria tells how she observed and supported her mother through dementia, liver disease and eventual death. Although Maria did not want to accept at first that her mother was dying, her account of how she coped is a loving answer to this question posed in the book we reviewed in our last post : “How can we all better honor the mystery at the end of life, support our shared humanity, and in turn celebrate life to the fullest?”

Here’s how Maria tells it:

“Three years ago, my Dad (Michael) had an incapacitating stroke. For a while, we weren’t certain he would live. He wasn’t able to swallow or to walk and could not remain at home. Mom (Ourana), who had dementia, couldn’t live at home without him; so, my three siblings and I had to help our parents make the transition to a nursing home.

 “One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was pack my Mom’s things for that move. She was very artistically gifted and her lifetime of beautiful creations included crocheting, clothing of her own design, and beautiful bedspreads woven from silk. As a young woman, she had raised the silk worms for this purpose. Now, as I packed to move her to the nursing home, I had to leave all these lovely things behind.

“Mom could not stop wondering why she was in a nursing home when she had four children. We had tried to have her live with us and had taken turns looking after her in her own home, but the dementia was so severe that she needed 24-hour care. Although we had tried very hard, we just could not look after her by ourselves. When we took her out on special occasions, we would have to trick her to go back to the home. About a month before she died, Mom finally accepted that she lived in a nursing home with Dad.

“A time came when Mom didn’t know my name anymore, but she knew I was her daughter and that I was there to see her and take care of her. I was willing to do whatever she needed: feed her, comb her hair, bathe her and dress her. I thought, I am willing to do whatever she needs, but I don’t want to change her diapers. Then, when the time came, and she was in emergency at the hospital, I changed her four times, because that was what she needed. I had no difficulty taking care of her in this way. I did it with love, and it was my pleasure to take care of her.

“On August 15, 2018, Mom became very ill and stopped eating. I began tricking her to eat, one spoonful at a time. I thought, if I can get her to eat, maybe she can live longer. Just a few weeks later her skin turned yellow and the doctors discovered there was something wrong with her liver. Still, I didn’t want to believe she was dying. My siblings and I didn’t want to believe we were losing our Mother. I went almost every day to see her after that. I wanted to do everything I could for her.

“Earlier in the summer, Mom told me she had a dream. In it, her mother said, ‘It’s time for you to come’. Mom knew that her Mother was dead, and she was scared to think of dying in order to be with her mother. Several times she had dreams with her mother telling her it was time to come home. When she told us about them, we denied that we might be losing her. We’d say to Mom, ‘You’ll probably live longer than we will.’ 

“Then she had another dream where her mother said, ‘Ourana, it’s time for you to come.’ This time, Mom said to my father, ‘Michael, it’s time for us to go home.’ Shortly after this, she died.

“The last time I saw her was the day she died. When I arrived, she opened her eyes, then clapped her hands three times. She said, ‘Have my blessings! You came to see me.’ The last words she said to me were, “Move a little bit. The people, they are here. A lot of people are here. They came.” I asked her who, but she didn’t answer.

“I understood that she wanted me to move aside so she could better see those who had passed on earlier and were now coming to greet her. I couldn’t see them, but I thought, She is seeing something. I think a lot of people she knew were there to welcome her. Her face was glowing. She looked very happy and peaceful. I thought, Maybe she is here in this life, but her Soul has already left.

“This powerful moment is going to stay with me all my life, because I was there and saw that she could see the people who had come. After this, the distress she had felt since her emergency visit to the hospital was gone. It was a big change for her. It’s very different to hear someone tell you that they had an experience like this with a loved one, than it is to actually be there to see it, experience it, feel it.

“I kissed Mom on the forehead as I left her that night. ‘Good-bye, Mom,’ I said. I had never kissed her on the forehead or said good-bye like that before. She died later that night after being given communion by a priest.

“Since then, I’ve had three dreams with her. In each she’s been young, beautiful, healthy and peaceful. I believe she is in paradise.

“I have no regrets, no guilt. I am very glad I served my parents, taking care of them, when they were in need. I became very tired from all the work I did to help them, but I’m so glad I did it.

“When I was a child, I felt I had all the time and energy in the world to play and have fun. Then when I got older, I felt I had no time or energy as I worked to make my career a success, get a home, have a family, and take care of that family, including my extended family. Now, I want to use my time and energy to enjoy every day. We never know how much more time we have. This is now my philosophy of life, and I am like my Mother: happy, and at peace.”

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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

 

How Can We Comfort the Dying?

Joan Olinger - Morningstar Review

If we accept that we can have visits from our dear ones after they’ve left this world—and if these visits bring us comfort—how can we give similar comfort to them before they leave?

In a new book, Honoring the Mystery: Uplifting Insights from the Language, Visions and Dreams of the Dying, Barbara Morningstar examines the world of the dying from the perspective of a professional involved in hospice care for more than 20 years—and from the place of a woman bereaved.

Clearly and precisely written at less than 100 pages, this book might become a sort of manual of comfort for a whole host of readers: If you have a loved one who is dying; if you are grieving someone who has died; if you work in health care; or, if you are facing your own death, Morningstar’s book may have what you need to help you through.

Dr. Joan Olinger read Honoring the Mystery and gives her impressions below.

By Joan Olinger

A reviewer on Amazon.com wrote that Honoring the Mystery is “like a warm blanket on a chilly day and a compass for a wandering soul.” I certainly agree that this is the tone of the book.

Honoring the Mystery is about fear, grief, transformation and love. It’s about letting go and trusting, about moving from denial to acceptance. In focusing on these aspects of dying, Morningstar shows readers how to find comfort, peace, and understanding in a process that can all-too-often overwhelm our ability to cope.  

She lays out her philosophy of “companioning” the dying and the bereaved by highlighting three key themes. The first (in Chapters 1 and 2) presents a novel way of viewing death, along with a new way of understanding and valuing the experiences of the dying and of the bereaved. It’s encapsulated in something a palliative care physician has said to her: “My patients are my gurus.”

A second theme illustrates, through uplifting stories, how people who are dying can experience tremendously healing and comforting visions, as well as dreams that resolve old issues and connect them with the transcendent. In fact, she says, the speech pattern of a dying person often changes from the literal to metaphorical. By realizing that language seeming out of character to us likely has symbolic meaning for the patient, we can help comfort them, meet their needs, and prepare for the transition of death.

 Morningstar’s third major theme centres on how we can open our hearts, be present with love, and empathetically bond with the dying individual.  She refers to this as “companioning”. But she isn’t directive about how to do it; rather, she illustrates her own approach by showing time and again how she draws near to a dying or grieving person. She describes how she opens her heart, gently and quietly approaches, begins with a light touch on the shoulder, then remains silent, listening and allowing the individual to speak without being judged. She writes about connecting with each person—whether it’s the one who’s dying or the ones who will be left behind—from a place of respect, dignity, and validation.  

“One of the greatest dances at the end of life is the dance between love and fear …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.”(p.79)

Morningstar says dying people often have visions. Typically, they are comforting, and the person feels joyous or peaceful afterward. Historically, though, these types of visions have generally been thought of as hallucinations, delusions or the negative effects of medication. Understanding them in a different light, listening to descriptions of them, validating them and even celebrating them, can bring great comfort to the dying and their loved-ones.  

 Morningstar encourages us to be open to learning from all that a dying person has to share. She uses the analogy that when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, he did the best he could to describe what he saw. Scientists back on earth did not ridicule or doubt his descriptions. Instead, he was honoured for having the courage to explore new realms the rest of us could only try to imagine.

 “The dying are also adventurers—true explorers venturing into one of the most uncharted territories yet to be discovered,” she writes.  

And she challenges us to consider this possibility: That the process of dying is actually the process of birthing in reverse. Before the baby is born, it has been curled up inside the womb.  As an individual begins to die, they often are again in a curled-up cocooning position. As the life force declines a dying person sleeps a lot, just as newborn babies do. Like the baby before birth not actively eating, drinking or socializing, so too, does the individual nearing the end of physical life eat, drink, and socialize less.

Even the change in breathing that happens as a mother goes into labor can be compared to the change in breathing that a dying person experiences shortly before death, says Morningstar. If that change, which is often distressing to loved-ones, could be viewed as reverse birthing—or even birthing into a transcendent world beyond the physical—perhaps it could take on a new meaning.  We are so excited about being present when a baby is born, but we dread being present for a death. Perhaps, if we view physical death as a birth into another world, we could find a similar richness of experience there.

 Many of Morningstar’s ideas are encapsulated in a story she tells of Diane, a mother in her mid-forties, who was dying of cancer. It was very difficult for Diane to think of leaving her husband and young daughter behind. One day, she saw children running joyfully around her hospice room, and she asked the nurse who they were. The nurse was careful not to discount Diane’s claim but told her she couldn’t see the children. So, Diane continued asking the nurses over the next several days who the children were; but, their responses were always the same: they couldn’t see the children either. Eventually, Diane stopped asking, but she remained joyous in her heart, because she could see the children and they were having fun.  

One day, as Diane’s daughter Sarah cuddled with her on the bed, she asked, “Who are those children, Mom?” Surprised and delighted, Diane instructed her daughter to ask the children that question. Sarah reported back that they claimed to be her brothers and sisters—but she was an only child. Her mother suggested she ask them their names. As Sarah relayed those names, Diane realized they were the ones she had given years before (but had not even told her husband) to each of the babies she had lost to miscarriages.  

This precious experience of having these children running around in her hospice room, and of finding out they were her own children, brought Diane great comfort and emotional healing. Those babies had not been lost at all; they would be with her in her journey beyond the physical body.  

As Barbara Morningstar shares her experiences from hospice bedsides, and from her own personal life, she opens up a new frontier for us. She helps us see “the lay of the land” so that we don’t have to feel afraid as we and our loved ones prepare to depart. At some point, all of us will become explorers in the worlds that await us.

You can find out more about Barbara Morningstar, her book, and Autumn’s Cocoon Education here.


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

 

Mother’s Favourite Song Helps Kathi Through Grief

 

Kathi Murphy

Can music be a way for the departed to show their continuing love?

Kathi believes so. In the story below, she tells of times when she heard special music that assured her  both her parents were there in times of need.

My family is very musical, so it seems so fitting that my experiences with Mom and Dad after they passed on have been musical ones. These messages reassured me that all was fine with my loved ones, even after they had left their physical bodies behind.

Mom’s Celebration of Life, 2001

As we were preparing for my Mom’s Celebration of Life we searched her apartment but no one could find a copy of her favourite song, “Crazy” by the late country singer Patsy Cline. We found other cassettes with other songs but sadly not that one. Meanwhile, the reception hall provided a cassette player for us to use at the gathering and there was a tape already in it that had been left by the people who’d used it previously. When we turned on the machine it played “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. Amazed, we questioned each other, but no one in our group had placed it there.

I eventually purchased a Patsy Cline CD but didn’t play it right away. I thought of my dear Mom every day, though, and one day I felt very strongly that she was near. In order to be alone to think about her, I brought our cassette/CD player into my bedroom and closed the door. I placed the Patsy Cline CD in the machine and pressed play. The first song was “Crazy” and, as it played, my tears flowed.

As I waited for the next song to play, “Crazy” played again from the beginning. This happened 3 times before it moved on to the next song and I have no idea how. I was never able to make the machine do that again. Although I was surprised at first by this strange happening, I also took great comfort in it, because I felt Mom was reaching out to me.

During the next few years, I would go for walks in the woods and think of Mom. Unable to hug her physically as I once could, I would feel the need to wrap my arms around myself, and it always felt as if she was returning my hug. These experiences were very comforting. I felt no fear, just a sense of being safe and loved.

Dad’s Funeral 2005

As my husband and I drove home after Dad’s funeral service, this thought occurred to me: We are all simply “dust in the wind,” an expression made famous in a song by the group Kansas. A few minutes later that very song came on the radio station that we happened to be listening to.

That same year, I had an experience with both my parents. They had divorced when I was a teenager and it had been a particularly difficult separation. One night, I saw a vision of them both standing together, holding hands and smiling down on me. It felt as if they were reassuring me that all had been forgiven and that there was much love for everyone.

About 5 years later my son, who is an avid guitar player, decided to take singing lessons.  My family had frequent music nights where we sang and played instruments. He rarely sang solo. This particular music night, he began to play and sing a new song he had learned, and to my surprise and amazement it was “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas.  I hugged him after and explained what the song meant and why it was so amazing that he had chosen that particular song to learn. I hadn’t told him about hearing that song after his grandfather’s funeral. When I asked him yesterday why he chose that particular song, he told me, “Honestly, I just really liked it. The guitar picking went really well with my lessons.”

My Illness in 2014

In September 2014, I went through a tough time. I became very ill with an infection that necessitated emergency surgery. The doctors had a great deal of trouble inserting my breathing tube, and I was unconscious for two days after the surgery. During my long recovery, I had difficulty finding any joy in life.

One particularly rough day, I asked Mom to help me. What I received was that same “safe” feeling and the hug I had felt on my walks in the woods. Next, I asked her to play our song. The following day my husband and I were listening to our usual radio station, which does not play country and western music. But, through the speakers came the voice of Patsy Cline singing “Crazy.” And, just in case I hadn’t gotten the message, that song played again on the same radio station one week later.

The comfort I felt during these moments helped me to know that the energy and love that are my Mom and Dad are forever with me.


Can you think of a time when music brought you a particularly special feeling about a loved-one who had passed on? If not music, what about some other special signal?


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 themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.