Good Mourning

Fran Blackwell - Good Mourning - 2

Can grief and joy for the same soul exist side by side? Fran made the case for this in our previous post when she told of how she feels happy that her husband is free to pursue his next spiritual mission but that, twenty-seven years later, she continues to feel his loss in the physical world. In the poem below, she finds a way to express these simultaneous feelings, and her great love for her husband, whom she continues to feel with her despite the separation of death.


Good Mourning

(For Ed Blackwell)

By Fran Blackwell


Before you came: I ask

What is it that holds me, haunts me forever since

entrance into this body, into this life?

This world going round and round.

Why am I different, so different?

I know not why or where, from whence

I come. Into no mold do I fit. No clue have I found

that is not more surrendering of itself,

like a man in the moon eating cheese.

So looking I stopped,

trying to find clues to make sense

of why I am so different yet not.

Yes, sometimes I felt like a motherless child.

I lived with the pain of not knowing the whys, the wherefores,

just one foot in front of the other.

And then we met, and you held the key to my heart,

and unlocking my heart, I could unlock your heart to

all the wonders of the fulfillment of divine love.

And No; no one knew who I am,

except for you, beloved one who came and knew me.

And I recognized the sound of your heartbeat.

Yet you have now passed from this world,

leaving me to once again

find myself in the deep alone,

stewing in my own juices uncooked,

overlooked, and where I go only God knows.

As you said before you left,

God knows how much I love you.

And I know there are no others, save you and

God, who know my heart completely.

But you were up close and personal.

Here and always Now in the presence of our love.

In quiet repose each moment was right

with the worlds, being in perfect accord with all things

bright and beautiful; though, with your passing,

calling me to a strength I wish I did not have, yet am grateful I do.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to

fall apart at the seams, take a time-out

In the breakdown lane of mindless dysfunction.

But not really, not for me.

For even within the heart of my grief

I am what I am, and in this world of ordinary people

God gave me an extraordinary Soul to share life with.

And our love endures beyond the illusions of death.

For love never dies.

Yet silent tears leave this heart heavy with joy and sorrow,

to continue on and fulfill my golden contract

without you.

The emptiness of your leaving chokes me

with a thousand suns tasting like sawdust,

and I leave no shadows,

for you were my substance,

my blood and bones, my heartbeat, my breath.

But blessed I am to have traveled with you for awhile,

to have loved you forever, and never a missed moment

of love did we squander on drama, or the illusions of

life, for we knew, we knew, Love is all.

You were the only one ever on this planet

who always had my back.

What comfort contained

in this demonstration of Love!

You were the only one, as I was for you, so equal.

Not together because of need or dependency,

for we each were complete within ourselves.

Yet together just for the sacredness of Love,

in perfect balance, beyond time and space,

our love lives forever.

Yet the loneliness of my grief

is akin to drowning.

My God, this is a loneliness beyond compare, yet I bear

it all because you were here in the flesh

with me for a time.

It is not that I miss you, because you are here

in my heart; but

the tenderness in your eyes whenever you looked

and saw Me,

your touch of love and caring concern,

stay bright memories.

And yet this moment, may I say

I miss you.

© Fran Blackwell, 2019

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.

Does Grief Serve a Higher Purpose?

Fran Blackwell - Grief 2
Photo: Pixabay

In our last post, Fran spoke of a profound inner experience that came with the passing of her husband. It helped her gain a deeper understanding of the eternal nature of existence, and of her place in it.

In this post, she provides insight into her deep and lasting grief, which seems to co-exist with an unshakable faith that the essential part of Ed continues in another existence, and that the love they continue to share is as real as—and perhaps even deeper than—it was when he was with her in the human form.

Despite enduring 20 years of kidney failure, jazz drummer Ed Blackwell and his wife Fran continued to live a life filled with love and humour. There were so many close calls over that period, says Fran, that they began to call them “dress rehearsals for death.”

At one point, after an emergency during the Christmas holidays, Fran says she told Ed, “Well, you can’t go during the holidays because that would make it a time of sadness instead of celebration. Also, you can’t pass on any of the kids’ or grand-kids’ birthdays for the same reason. You can have my birthday but stay away from the dates of my church seminars,” she remembers saying.

“He looked at me and said… ‘What do I have to do, make an appointment to die?’”

It turns out that Blackwell did accommodate his wife’s request, translating from this physical life on October 7, 1992, three days before his own birthday and two weeks before her church’s spiritual New Year, October 22. This timing was especially symbolic for Fran because it is considered a period of renewal, as well as being the date for a major worldwide gathering.

“The true blessing of my experience with grief is realizing that it has been one of my greatest teachers in this lifetime,” says Fran, now age 86.

For Fran, who follows a spiritual path called Eckankar, the loving connection with her husband continues.

“I learned more about divine love with my husband’s passing than I did in all the years we shared life together. In fact, there was a moment I said to him, ‘You left too soon. Now I am really getting greater insight about love.’ He laughed and said, ‘Well, it took me leaving for you to learn these deeper aspects… Right?’”

But this connection did not stop Fran’s grief, despite admonishments from others that she should move past her emotions, secure in the knowledge Blackwell was doing just fine in his new existence.

All the same, Fran was undeterred. “I knew I would honour this grieving process however it manifested moment by moment in my life.”

Then a friend told her that a spiritual teacher once said, “Tears wash the eyes so we can see the Grace of God.”

So, “I would weep when so moved and know, beyond any judgement of others, that I was being true to my heart.”

Something else Fran learned “is that two opposite feelings seemed to occupy my heart at the same time: Joy and sorrow. Joy that he was no longer suffering and that, as Soul, he was on his journey home to God; sorrow that he was no longer here with me and I could no longer hold him or touch him.”

“I also found that grief would come as waves. At the beginning they would come often, crashing on the shores of my heart. When they hit, the pain in that moment was almost unbearable. It would be hard to breathe. Yet, when they receded, they would leave large deposits of divine love. And, though my heart would be broken into millions of pieces, the deposits of love would serve as the mending glue, and when all the pieces of my heart were glued back together, my heart grew bigger and bigger.”

A month after Blackwell passed away, Fran was driving to New Jersey from her home in Connecticut. It was on this journey that her feelings about grief were confirmed.

“It was after a winter ice storm and everything was frozen, even the blades of grass. The sun began to set in rich, glorious pinks and oranges and purples. But what was truly spectacular was that the colours of the setting sun were reflected in the ice, so that the trees, the blades of grass, were on fire with the sunset. It was like driving through the blazing artwork of the Creator!”

Fran said inwardly to her spiritual master, “Just look at this! Is this not amazing?”

And at that moment, she says, “Another wave of grief crashed into my heart. And, as I was trying to catch my breath from that, I had an inner vision in which my master pulled aside a veil to reveal a pulsating portal. He told me we were going on a ‘journey of the heart’.

“With that, he showed me all my lifetimes in progression, one by one: When I had grieved at the loss of love, when I had rejoiced in the presence of love—And I realized they were all the same. All were gifts to teach me that all blends into one and the same, that this is the eternal nature of Soul: To learn through all the celebrations of life; and, no matter what comes, to go on living and giving, to be joyous, to be as glorious as the sunset the Creator was sharing with me.”

“Yes,” concludes Fran, “all is fleeting in its own time and place, but life is for living through the ups and downs, the grief and the heartache. Love is the only reason life prevails.”butterfly 1

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 Much Love is Too Much?

Fran Blackwell - Blackwell's Translation - Ed pic
Photo courtesy of Fran Blackwell

Having watched her husband suffer for 20 years with end-stage renal failure and dialysis, Fran asked him one day if he was afraid of dying.

“No…” he said thoughtfully, “I’m just wondering why it’s taking so long.”

Edward Joseph Blackwell was a celebrated jazz drummer who played and toured with such musical luminaries as Ray Charles, Ellis Marsalis, Ornette Coleman and Thealonis Monk to name a few. Known throughout his career as a musical innovator and, later, artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University, Blackwell loved to play—even as his health continued to fail.

But Fran and Ed had long since let go their fear of death. They had come to view life as a continuum through which everlasting souls progress, taking on deeper love and wisdom as they go. To them, death of the physical body was simply a translation from one state of being to another. All the same, there could be no discounting the deep bond of love that 34 years of marriage, of weathering both the good and the bad in this world, had fostered between them.

“In the last year of his life, on top of everything else he was dealing with, he developed carpal tunnel syndrome (a painful nerve compression in the wrists),” recalls Fran. “Whenever he picked up the drumsticks and played, pain would radiate up his arms. But he played anyway and no one could tell.”

“I knew, though,” says Fran, “and my heart ached.”

So great was her love that Fran begged her inner spiritual guide to let her to take on the pain. Her reasons were partly for Blackwell and partly for her:

“If he could no longer play his drums, there would be no reason for him to stay on this planet. So I asked my inner master to please allow me to take on the carpal tunnel. I did not need my hands and arms to fulfill my mission. Yet, days went by and he was still in pain, and my hands were fine, and he played and endured the pain, never losing the beat.”

When the time finally came for Blackwell to leave the physical world, he was surrounded by friends and family, and Fran was given a profound spiritual experience in which her inner master invited her along as he escorted her husband into his next life. Fran recalls that, as she returned to the present, her guide paused to tell her something.

“I know that when you asked to take on your husband’s pain, you did so out of great love, but he needed this last challenge,” she remembers the master saying. “He didn’t let the pain stop him; he gave all he had and more. This gave him the opportunity to realize that love can overcome pain.”

Then, gently, he explained that if Fran had taken that away, Blackwell would not have been able to graduate to the spiritual level due to him. Because Fran was not permitted to interfere, he told her, Blackwell was able to move on.

“He has earned a place in one of the high worlds of God,” Fran’s master assured her. “This soul has returned home.”

Looking back on that day, Fran is struck by another insight: “What a loving and gentle way for me to learn how deeply significant is the Spiritual Law of Non-Interference.*”

* The Spiritual Law of Non-Interference is said to be a universal law that forbids one person from interfering in the personal affairs of another without their permission, either intentionally or through ignorance. To learn more, try an internet search for “law of non-interference”.

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.


Not in Our Time, But in God’s Time

Charlotte Miloknay for Blog


Sometimes the comfort from a departed loved one comes in a powerful experience that cannot be missed–as with Louiseand Margarett, in dreams and other signs that they were attuned to perceive. But what about those of us who don’t immediately see the comfort we’ve asked for? Charlotte writes of an experience like that:

My brother Mervin translated (died) of Melanoma on September 6, 2002, at the age of 64. I had been with him at the hospital almost constantly for the last three weeks of his life. It was difficult to leave him each evening, but he had the company of his children, who would come and stay through the night.

Mervin and I had always been close, and I loved him very much, so it was particularly difficult to watch him slowly dying in such pain. All I could do was hold his hand, with his children gathered around him, waiting for him to leave us. When he did, it was devastating for everyone.

A few weeks after he translated, my husband and I took a day trip to Niagara Falls. On the way there I was thinking about Mervin. I really missed him and I felt I needed to know if he was all right and happy. I looked up to the sky and asked God to show me a rainbow as a sign that he was okay. There is often a rainbow in the mist over the Falls. I kept looking for one but didn’t see anything. Eventually, I forgot about it.

My brothers’s sixty-fifth birthday was coming up on November 3 and, in his memory, his family was planning a memorial and fundraiser for the hospital where he had been a patient. I had mixed emotions about attending, because I was still missing him very much and really didn’t feel like celebrating. I did go, but it was a very sad evening for me.

At the event, his daughter was selling fundraising tickets. When it was over, she told me she had some left over. They had Mervin’s picture on them, so she sked if I would like to have a few for a souvenir. I accepted the tickets and immediately put them away in my purse without looking at them.

The next morning, I remembered I’d put them in my purse and decided to take a better look… Well, there was my sign from God: right next to the photo of my beloved brother was a picture of a mountain with a rainbow.

This was my signal that Mervin was doing just fine in his new life. God does everything at the right time.

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.



Can a Dream Meeting Be Real?


Louise Michaud (Rev)

In this post from May, 2017, a grieving mother explains how she received a beautiful dream gift from her daughter.

“Being a medium, I understand why we come here and when it’s our time to leave, but it doesn’t make grieving any easier,” says Rev. Louise Michaud, who writes about the passing of her daughter Chantal at the age of 29.

Louise is an ordained spiritualist minister, a medium and spiritual counselor among other things. So, when her daughter left the physical world a week following a heart transplant, Louise knew the moment it happened.

Even though she was driving through the rainy night, still a long distance from the hospital where Chantal lay, “I felt my daughter’s soul leave her body,” recounts Louise. “As an intuitive, I knew she had passed, but as a mother I hoped I was wrong.”

Alas, Louise was not wrong. But she says that, since Chantal’s physical death, her daughter has continued to communicate with her. One night she heard Chantal very clearly tell her, “Mom, you have to write my story to help families that have lost a child.”

So, Louise did. And she says she did it with Chantal’s help. The result is A Daughter’s Journey: A Spirit from Heaven, which was published in October, 2014.

In spite of even this close communication, says Louise, “I believe that what we miss the most about our loved ones is the physical part of their being; not being able to see, feel or hear them again in human form. Yes, we have memories, pictures, videos; but, not having them by our side can be devastating…”

That is why one of her most precious communications with Chantal was in a dream:

“I was having one of my moments missing my daughter and crying. I spoke to her and told her how much I missed her, and that what I missed most was holding her, hugging and kissing her.

“That night I had a dream that answered my prayers. It was a vivid dream, so real I could never forget it. I know Chantal and I were actually together.

“She gave me the most wonderful gift a mother could ever hope for: She allowed me to hold her, hug her and kiss her. It was so real, so emotional, and it gave me such comfort. I woke up sobbing but at peace.

“Chantal’s life had great meaning. She had a reason and a purpose to come here, and I know in my heart she was able to accomplish what she came to do. She taught me to be more loving, more caring, and more compassionate toward others. These wonderful qualities we should all possess, to help us to learn and grow spiritually.

“Chantal is always in my thoughts, and I get great comfort knowing she is around me, guiding me. My love for her grows stronger every day.”

You can find out more about Louise and her book here

If you would like to share your comforting experience with a departed loved one, please get in touch with The Meaning of Forever Project  at

How Many Ways Can a Beloved Say She is Near?

Margarett Sample - Colourful HB for blogPhoto:

By Margarett Sample

My daughter Jenny Joy died before she was born.  Losing her has been the greatest sorrow of my life.

In the days following her delivery my arms literally ached from emptiness. I learned this is common among women who have lost a baby.

But no one was able to tell me of other bereaved mothers giving up sleeping on their sides because they could hear inconsolable baby cries every time they pressed an ear to the pillow. I began to sleep on my back. At some point, though, the crying sounds stopped, and I could sleep on my side again.

I was fortunate in subsequent years to have two healthy and wonderful sons. Once in a while, when he was very young, my first son would tell me he’d played with “the girl with the blue hair” in his crib. I figured it must be his sister visiting.

I had different food cravings with each pregnancy. With my second son it was cheesecake, with my first son it was spicy Italian pasta, with Jenny it was sardines. By the time the boys were two and four years old, I had become a lacto-vegetarian, eating some dairy but no fish, poultry or meat.

When the opportunity arose to travel to Greece to perform a play I’d co-created just before I’d gotten pregnant with Jenny, I was very excited, though a bit concerned about travelling as a vegetarian. This was the early 1990’s, and vegetarian food was not widely available in restaurants.

As I pondered how to stick with my new diet while abroad, I was struck by a sudden and overwhelming craving for sardines. I decided to try eating some, both to assuage the craving and to see if I could actually eat and digest fish. I enjoyed the sardines. So, on the flight to Athens, when my pre-ordered “vegetarian” meal turned out to be vegetables and fish, I laughed and quietly thanked Jenny for the preparation.

I felt her with me throughout the trip. One night a new traveling friend, who didn’t know about my daughter, asked who the little girl was who’d been standing beside me on a verandah. He had seen her with me when he’d come out of his room, but when he turned back after locking his door, he no longer saw her. He said she looked like me.

Later that year, there was a wedding in my family, and I was buying dress shoes for my boys because they were the ring-bearers and needed appropriate footwear to go with their black tails. I spent some time lingering over a display of little girls’ black patent leather shoes, thinking about my Jenny Joy and how she would have been getting a pair if she were alive.

A few weeks later, I went to see a well-known psychic about various things going on in my life. Near the end of the reading he said, “I see a little girl around you, does this make sense?”

I replied, “Yes, that’s my daughter.”

He said, “It’s so interesting … usually when children come to me they are barefoot, but she is very proudly showing me her shiny black patent leather shoes.”

When the boys were three and five years old, we got a pet bunny, which they had begged for and adored. When Runabout Max died within a year, we buried her in the backyard, with much ceremony and many tears.  That night I had a dream in which a little girl of about six was playing in our yard with Runabout Max. When I told the boys and their dad, we were all sure that it was Jenny, who now had a pet bunny to take care of.

Early on, I began to associate hummingbirds with Jenny Joy. They would appear and I would smile, feeling her presence. Not that I thought the hummingbird was her, but I had a deep knowing that she was sending this traditional symbol of Joy to remind me that her spirit is always with me.

Over the years, hummingbirds have appeared to me in the most amazing ways. On many occasions, one has flown in and hovered for a while in front of my face, sometimes cheeping to me, sometimes just silently connecting. A magnificent Giant Hummingbird got up close and personal with me during a trip to Peru, and that same afternoon I found a delicate silver and enamel cloissoné hummingbird pendant that I now wear on a chain.

I recently turned sixty. On my birthday, a friend who knows I love to sing gave me a brooch. She said, “There were two I liked, and I really wanted to give you the sparkly treble clef, but I just had to get you this one. It was like I had no real choice.”

As I opened the box, I burst into tears, because in my heart I clearly heard, “Happy Birthday, Mum.”

The brooch is a hummingbird.

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.

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.



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