Upon arrival, I found Mother in her chair. Her respirations were agonal, her pupils were fixed and dilated and she had a strong steady pulse. I asked my grandmother, who was ninety-one, what had happened and she said, “Virginia grabbed the back of her head and said, ‘Get Terry.’ Those were the last words she spoke.
Despite my efforts at resuscitation and my medical background (I am an RN, CRNFA for a busy cardiac surgical practice), I knew in my heart that she had come to the end of her life on earth.
A definitive diagnosis was made by CT scan. She had suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke. Our options were to temporarily monitor her in ICU on a ventilator or make a decision to withdraw life support. Her chances of survival were minimal at best.
After a discussion with her physicians and caregivers, it was decided to withdraw life support. During all of this, my mother’s condition remained unchanged—fixed, dilated pupils, strong pulse, and normal blood pressure. Her ventilator was disconnected and her pulse and blood pressure remained stable.
The hospital chaplain student that was with me, my husband and best friend, Diane said to me, “Sometimes you have to tell them it’s okay to go.” As I was holding my mother’s hand, I kissed her, told her that I loved her and that I would take care of Mom-Mom and for her to go to the Light. Within five minutes, her pulse and blood pressure slowed and her spirit went to be with God.
My mother had had a near-death experience earlier in her life. When my brother was born in 1952, she had a post-partum hemorrhage. She relayed to me that she had walked through a misty grey valley and was aware of relatives that had died when she was a child. She was drawn to the Light, the brightest and most pure she had ever seen and she had a sense of “utter peace”. Her only thought was of how beautiful it was there and how she longed to remain, but she knew she had two small children to care for. Suddenly a voice like thunder said, “Ye shall live.” She awoke in her hospital bed and began to realize what she had experienced. From that moment in her life she was not afraid to die.
As I stood beside her stretcher in the ER, knowing there was no chance for her survival, but not yet wanting her to leave me or those who loved her here on earth, I felt a sense of peace. Mother was not afraid to die—she had reassured me of that “beautiful, wondrous place” and I knew she was finally in heaven.
Some families are able to let go and even assist their loved one in transitioning. Why do some families or cultures process death so differently than others? Perhaps the fear of the unknown is what makes death so intimidating. If only we knew what was on the Other Side. Is there an afterlife or not? Do our deceased loved ones live in another dimension or reality? Are they near us? Can they see or hear us? Knowing for sure what lies ahead might make a difference in how we handle death.
Much of what we believe about death and dying is taught to us by religious doctrine. Our main attitudes about death and afterlife are deeply connected with our religious beliefs which may either confuse or comfort us. For example, if someone believes in a legalistic or angry God that punishes for sin, then death for that person may be frightening. If someone believes that we all go to a better place after death, regardless of our earthly behavior, that person may not have as many concerns about dying.
There is a huge difference between Eastern and Western cultural views on death; specifically about beliefs in salvation, reincarnation, and the afterlife. Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions believe in a progression of the soul after death. These philosophies teach that an accumulation of bad or good karma affects rebirth into either a favorable or unfavorable situation. Western religions tend to look at the present life as a one-and-only chance to “get it right” with the end result being an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. Most Catholics believe in an interim state called Purgatory where those who are borderline between deserving Heaven or Hell work their way up. Jewish beliefs most often do not include the typical Christian idea of an eternal hell. Jewish people see hell as a separation from God rather than an actual place of fire and brimstone. Therefore, Heaven may be considered as a reuniting with God's light or spirit and not necessarily as a physical place with streets of gold as many Christians believe. The Aramaic word for death is interpreted “not here, present elsewhere” and shows a belief in an afterlife. Modern day scientific studies show that there is a consciousness of mind after death and that the mind and the brain are not one in the same.
Many of our fears are rooted in delusions or distorted ways of looking at life and the world around us. Generally, our fear of death is an unrealistic fear. We tend to either ignore the subject altogether or become morbidly obsessed by it. Perhaps the best way to overcome the fear of death is to remember that our present physical life had a beginning. There was a time when we were not on Earth in these physical bodies, and there will be a time when we shall return to a non-physical state of being. The rational mind has difficulty believing that any reality other than the third dimensional world of time and space, in which we currently live, could possibly exist. We have been trained since birth to thrive in it. We know ourselves to be who we are by our external experiences; however, looking inwardly may give us a different perspective.
The sorrow, grief and sense of loss are real, but our fear about death is only an illusion. You’ve faced many things in life that are more frightening and unknown than death. For example, public speaking is said to be the greatest fear a person can face. So, if you’ve ever spoken in public then you have faced a fear said to be worse than the fear of dying. The famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “If you're at a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy!”
Death should be feared no more than birth, for there is no real separation between the physical and non-physical realms. The separation seems real because there is a very thin veil (i.e.: our skin and physical body) between the two realms that dims our ability to interact with those in other dimensions. But more than the physical sense of separation, we limit ourselves with the false belief that we have only five senses with which to explore and experience life. This belief hinders us from accepting what our inner knowing tells us is true. We are multi-sensory spiritual creatures able to sense the presence and energy of non-physical beings. Those who do interact with the non-physical realm are sometimes considered insane or in need of psychiatric help. Many are shunned and ridiculed. Some children are even punished for talking about seeing angels and spirits.
The Earth plane is simply another facet of our experience as souls. We are spirit beings having a human earthly experience. We all come from the same Source regardless of what we call it—God/Goddess, Spirit, Energy, Creator or whatever vocabulary term one wishes to use. Even though we manifest in individual bodies and have the illusion of separateness, there is no real division in our spirit. An ethereal mist or cloud of spirit exists where every soul is united with God and with one another. From this cloud extends a line of energy or Spirit to the Earth plane where it manifests as a suit of human flesh.
Who we really are is only a small portion of what we see in each other. It is like poking your fingertip through a hole in a bed sheet draped over your body. What is hidden behind the sheet is so much greater than the fingertip—so much greater than the small portion that meets the eye!
After its mission is accomplished in the earthly realm, the soul essence simply returns to the spirit cloud to continue its work or to wait for another opportunity to manifest into human form. This return to Source may occur as a result of the body’s deterioration and inability to support the soul as a vehicle and thus death of the physical body occurs. Because the soul craves authenticity, living an incongruent life may cause us to subconsciously create disease, physical deterioration, or ultimately death as a means to leave the physical body.
According to the Old Testament, humans originally had the ability to live forever. The book of Genesis teaches that death occurred for mankind as a punishment for the sin committed by Adam and Eve. Still, some Biblical characters were noted to have lived for almost a thousand years. What happened that caused our lifespan to be so shortened? In light of the technological and medical advances, it would seem that the opposite should be true. Some, like Elijah mentioned in the Bible, didn’t die. Jesus took his resurrected body with him when he ascended as a light body. Living a long, healthy life requires us to live in integrity with our inner truth. It requires unplugging from belief systems that prevent us from living life to the fullest.
What we do with our life is our choice. Even dying is a choice we make! It is my belief that God does not infringe upon our free will or tell us what to do with our life. Instead, God very gently leads us to learn at our own pace, and never forces us to do anything we do not wish to. Life is the picture we paint by the decisions we make. Since a soul has choice (free will) it may simply choose to return to Source. I believe this is why we have SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other unexplainable departures from a body that is otherwise healthy. The soul changes its mind about being in the physical body, or has another idea about what might best assist it on its spiritual journey. While any death causes grief for the remaining family, it is ultimately the soul’s choice to move on. Free will is something we have not been taught to accept, appreciate or consciously exercise. In order to understand and accept death as a natural part of the soul’s evolution, we must be able to allow people to choose for themselves on all levels. It is normal to feel anger towards God when our loved one leaves his or her physical body, but it is not God’s choice. God does not take a soul against its will. The soul chooses to leave in the best interest of its evolution. We may have difficulty accepting that our loved one’s death could have been a part of a greater plan—especially when it doesn’t fit our expectation.
What is death? What is dying like? The best way to obtain information about death is from those who have had a first-hand experience with death; those who have died and returned to tell about it. These are referred to as near-death experiences (NDEs). P.M.H. Atwater is one of the original researchers in the field of near-death studies. In her book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Near-Death Experiences, an NDE is loosely defined as an intense awareness, sense or experience of “otherworldliness”, whether pleasant or unpleasant, that happens to people who are at the edge of death. It occurs for people regardless of age, education, culture or religious background. Atwater began her work in 1978 and comes from the vantage point of being a near-death experiencer—not just a mere researcher. She believes there is a step-up of energy at the moment of death, an increase in speed as if you are suddenly vibrating faster than before. Using radio as an analogy, this speed-up is comparable to having lived all your life at a certain radio frequency and then someone or something comes along and flips the dial. That flip of the dial shifts you to another, higher wavelength. The original frequency is still there as it was before. Only you changed. You sped up to allow entry into the next radio frequency. As is true with all radios and radio stations, there can be bleed-over or distortion of transmission signals due to interference patterns. These can allow or force frequencies to coexist or commingle for indefinite periods of time. Normally, most shifts on the dial are fast and efficient, but occasionally, one can run into interference, perhaps from a strong emotion, a sense of duty, or a need to fulfill a vow or keep a promise. This interference could allow coexistence of frequencies for a few seconds, days, or even years (perhaps explaining hauntings); but eventually every given vibrational frequency will seek out or be nudged to where it belongs. You fit your particular spot on the dial by your speed of vibration. You cannot coexist forever where you do not belong. Who can say how many spots are on the dial or how many frequencies there are to inhabit? No one knows. You shift frequencies in dying. You switch over to life on another wavelength. You are still a spot on the dial but you move up a notch or two. You don’t cease to exist when you die. You shift your consciousness and speed of vibration. That’s all death is…a shift.
Those who are not afraid of death may actually look forward to it. Such is the case of Carolyn Smith. She is a neat, very attractive, woman, about 80 years old, who has been a widow for a number of years. She was diagnosed with lung cancer recently and the doctor estimated she would have about 1-3 years to live. Carolyn had a great attitude about her coming demise so she started making her plans and preparing for her departure as if it was a trip to Disneyland. She cleaned out all her old stuff and decided to sell her home and build a house with her daughter - a house that would be a great place where her daughter could live after she was gone. Then her doctor told her about a wonderful new treatment that would take care of her lung cancer. She was actually disgusted to find out that she may continue to live! How dare they find a cure after she put forth so much effort getting ready to die? She said to her doctor, “So, am I going to die, or did I go to all this trouble for nothing?” Carolyn plans to have the treatment, but she is disappointed to have to wait a while longer for her ride home. Carolyn’s attitude about dying is better than her attitude about living! Oh, that we all would have such an expectancy about our transition.
Get the audio version of More Than Meets the Eye at http://weare1inspirit.com/