In all cultures people who are dying start talking to loved
ones who have already died in the days before they die.
Sometime they say that they can see beautiful places in
the spirit world and hear beautiful music.
These "deathbed visions" were
rarely mentioned in the scientific literature until the
late 1920's, when they were studied by Sir William Barrett,
a professor of physics at the Royal College of Science,
He became interested in the topic when his
wife, a doctor, arrived home one night and told him about
a woman who had died at the hospital that day after having
a baby. Just before she had died the woman, Doris, sat up
and become very excited about seeing a wonderful place and
said that her father had come to take her there.
What was most amazing was the fact that
the woman was surprised to see her sister with her father.
It seems that the sister had died only three weeks before.
Since Doris had been so ill, she was not told that her much
loved sister had died.
This story was so interesting to Professor
Barrett that he undertook a systematic study of death-bed
visions. His was the first scientific study to find that
the mind of the dying patient is often clear and rational.
He also reported a number of cases in which the doctors
and nurses or relatives present could also see what the
person dying saw.
His book, published in 1926 was called "Deathbed
Visions". In it he noted that:
• many times at the moment of death
people would see a friend or relative at their bedside whom
they thought was still living
• in all cases when it was checked
out, the person they saw had already died.
• dying children often expressed surprise
that the angels they saw waiting for them didn't have wings.
In the 1960s Dr Karlis Osis of the American
Society for Psychical Research did a pilot study of deathbed
visions that confirmed the findings of Barrett. His finding
• the most common type of vision was
of people who had died before them
• the visions usually lasted a short time, five minutes
• the dying patients stated that the visitor had come
to take them away
• it made no difference if the dying person did or
did not believe in the afterlife
• most of the patients in the study had not received
drugs which could confuse their minds.
In 1977 Dr Osis and his colleague, Dr Erlenddur
Haraldsson, published "At the Hour of Death".
This book extended the original study and included reports
from over 1000 doctors and nurses in India as well as the
United States. In all it reported on the deaths of more
than one hundred thousand people. These studies all found
the same things as the earlier studies.
According to the information provided to
him by nurses and doctors:
• only ten per cent of people are
conscious shortly before their death
• of this group one half to two thirds have near death
• these people see their loved ones, see scenes of
the next world and suddenly are very happy and excited for
no medical reason.
In his book "Closer to the Light—Learning
from the Near-Death Experiences of Children", Dr Melvin
Morse says that death-bed visions are 'a forgotten aspect
of life's mysterious process' and that they can comfort
and help the dying patient and the family (1993: 65).
He talks about several cases where dying children began
to see visions of the afterlife during the last few days
of their lives. They described amazing colors and beautiful
places and relatives they sometimes had not known existed.
Dr Osis himself began with the supposition
that these experiences were caused by the chemical effects
of a dying brain. However, after investigating, he became
convinced that these experiences were so extraordinary and
so convincing that they could not be explained by the physical
condition of the patient or by the medication they had been
There are many cases on record with the
Society of Psychical Research where the spirit visitors
were seen by others at the bedside of the dying person,
sometimes by several persons at the same time:
• in one well documented case a death-bed
apparition was seen by the dying woman, Harriet Pearson,
and three relatives who were caring for her (Journal of
the Society for Psychical Research Feb 1904: 185-187)
• in another case of a young boy dying,
two witnesses independently saw his recently deceased mother
at the child's bedside (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research, Volume 6 p.20 ).
Deathbed visions are consistent with and
support the other evidence for afterlife. Of those who will
experience conscious death, fifty to sixty percent will
experience a vision of the afterlife.
The importance of deathbed visions
In his book "Parting Visions"
(1994) pediatrician Melvin Morse says
• family members who know about the
visions of the dying are known to spend more time at the
dying person's bedside.
• spiritual visions empower the dying patients making
them realize that they have something to share with others
• spiritual visions remove all fear of dying in the
patient and are enormously healing to the relatives
• they can prevent burnout on the part of nurses and
• if attended to they can dramatically reduce wasteful
medical procedures that are often painful to the patient.
He claims that 30-60% of the American health care dollar
is spent in the last few days of a person's life and 'most
of it is spent in useless procedures that do nothing to
prolong life' (Morse 1994: 136).
In this video interview Dr Peter Fenwick
and Dr Sam Parnier talk about deathbed visions.
Carla Wills-Brandon M.A. LMFT, PA is a Licensed
Marriage and Family Therapist and author of 13 published
books, became interested in deathbed visions when her own
son had one when he was just three years of age. Visited
by an other worldly visitor who shared that he was there
to take his grandfather with him, her son was confident
his ‘Da’ was all right. In 3 of her books, One
Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed
Visions, A Glimpse of Heaven: The Remarkable World of Spiritually
Transformative Experiences, and Heavenly Hugs: Comfort,
Support, and Hope From the Afterlife, she not only re-examines
the research of Barrett and Osis, but also takes a look
at many recent experiences. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTAZDS2B2ZA
Shared Death Experiences
There are many reports that people
who are sitting at the bedside of a dying person experience
going into the spirit world and meeting relatives who have
already died with that person.
In his recently-released
book "Glimpses of Eternity", Dr. Raymond Moody
explores the area of deathbed visions and shared-death experiences.
In one chapter, Moody discusses a strange mist that is sometimes
reported over a deathbed. “They describe it in various
ways,” he writes. “Some say that it looks like
smoke, while others say it is as subtle as steam. Sometimes
it seems to have a human shape. Whatever the case, it usually
drifts upward and always disappears fairly quickly.”