More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on euthanasia, suicide, near-death experience, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one. ___________________________________________

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How Do Mediums Help Lost Souls?

Someone asked me a question this week: "Why do you think some people have spirits come to them all the time--even people they don't know--and others never have such an experience. And if I want to have an interaction, whether with my Mom again or someone else, do we have any ability to make that happen, or do we have to just wait for it to happen to us (if it ever does)?

Here's my answer:

Everyone has some spiritual gift or psychic ability. Some people develop their gifts by practicing--like those who give aura readings or do energy work or Reiki.

Those who have multiple unrelated spirits come to them are probably mediums or gatekeepers between the spirit realm and our world of form. I have finally accepted that I am a medium. It took years for me to claim that title, but I guess it fits.

At one time I had so many disembodied souls coming to me to help them cross over or go to the light, I was being awakened at all hours with plasma/essence hovering over my bed. Things were moving around in the house. I saw streaks of light flash thorough my hallway where there is no window. It got to be such a bother that I asked my guides what I could do to curb the conscious activity and still help these souls.

I was lead to a deck of archangel cards by Doreen Virtue. I did an angel card reading with this deck and having my situation in mind. The cards I drew had information about Michael and Chamuel. I intuitively knew that those were the two who could help me with this situation.

I began to ask them every time I meditated to stay near me and help those earth-bound spirits or "lost" souls find their way home. FYI-- I refer to the lost as those who can't find their way to a peaceful afterlife experience. It has nothing to do with salvation as some religions teach. Since it is my spirit or higher self working with these souls, I asked the archangels to allow me to help these souls without me having to be consciously aware of the work I'm doing. Well, it worked. I immediately stopped having these uninvited visitors.

Oh, I also asked the archangels to allow my loved ones or spirit guides to have access to me in the conscious realm. I didn't want to turn away a loved one in need. I also ask these two archangels to assess each soul's need and if there is something I need to do physically (such as say a prayer or light a candle) to help them, I am to be notified so I may consciously participate. Such was the case when someone is dying and needs help leaving their body.

Mediums are gatekeepers and the door swings both ways. I don't just help souls exit; I've also been called upon to help bring souls into bodies on the earth plane.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Friday, October 30, 2009

Podcast Guest Author of Book on Near-death Experience

Since Samhain or Halloween is coming soon, I thought it would be nice to offer something on our podcast for those who have loved ones on the Other Side.

The veil between the physical and non-physical worlds is thought to be very thin this time of year and many of us ask the spirits of our deceased loved ones to join us for the evening. For me, it’s like a family reunion of departed souls as we lovingly honor Virginia, Mom-Mom, Pop-Pop, Edmond, Pap, Little Granny, and Uncle Asa. Last year, we added to the list my dear friend Jerry McEwen, who was murdered during the holiday hoopla last December.

My podcast guest today is yours truly. Yes, I’m going to be the guest on my own show again! This time, I have invited Carol Denbow, the author of A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story, to interview me about my book More Than Meets the Eye, which covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on near-death experience, suicide, euthanasia, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one.

You may remember Carol as a guest on our blog when she made her virtual tour on the Internet in September 2009. I asked Carol to be my guest interviewer because she has experience with South Coast Hospice & Palliative Care in Coos Bay Oregon. Hospice care is one of the topics in my book and one that I believe is a concern for many people, who have aging loved ones they need to care for in their final days.

Click here to listen to Part 1...

My book, More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife, is available for free as a PDF for anyone who subscribes to our free newsletter at

Or, I will mail you a brand new signed paperback copy for $10 plus shipping if you contact me. Dinged copies that have a little wear on the cover are $5 plus shipping.

Click here to listen to Part 2...

Trick or treat is actually a spinoff of the tradition of providing food offerings to honor deceased visitors who were welcome to come by their old homestead. Like balloons on a mailbox for a birthday party, candles were lit to let the spirit know where the celebration was being held. Read this article about Samhain, an ancient Celtic holiday for more information.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Three Major Shifts in the Way Americas Experience Death

From the sixth edition of Death, Dying, and Bereavement by Michael R. Leming and George E. Dickinson.

Historians have noted three major shifts in the American experience of death: Living death (1600-1830), the dying of death (1830-1945), and the resurrection of death (1945-present). Each of these periods shows how society’s perception about death and dying has changed over the past 400 years. As culture changes, so does people’s views of the death experience and the treatment of the dying person.

Living Death

Between 1600 and 1830, death was a typical part of the American life. Everyone was well acquainted with death. Bodies were prepared for burial and laid out in a wooden coffin at home. The bodies were buried in the local cemetery, on the back portion of a rural property, or in a church graveyard. Puritans saw death as punishment for sin and encouraged one another to fear death and be prepared to meet God. After the funeral, everyone returned to daily life. Between the 1730s and 1830s, Americans were influenced by the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, Unitarianism, and evangelicalism and gave new choices from which to form new beliefs and behavior about death, dying, and bereavement.

The Dying of Death

American philosophy about death and dying began to change between 1830 and 1945 when a middle class sector began to rise amid the poor and rich. An undertaker and embalming practices came on the scene and began to separate social (public) life from home (personal) life. Families no longer needed to prepare the body at home. This not only shielded families from the harsh reality of death; it gave them a new way to deal with it through the use of caskets, hearses, music, monuments, written funeral notices, flowers, and decorations.

The Resurrection of Death

Death erupted into daily life once again when the US bombed Hiroshima. This started a cycle of war, terrorism, and the threat of the “end of the world” through powerful weapons of warfare and destruction. Today, we live with the fear that our lives could be taken by an act of war or terrorism. We have more violence in the news, movies that depict ghosts in a morbid and scary way, and we have military friends and loved ones on duty in the middle east.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Monday, October 26, 2009

When's Sarah Coming Home? Helping Your Child Understand Death

For most children, their first experience with grief comes with the death of a beloved family pet. When Zoe the eight-week old puppy dies of parvovirus or Tweety the budgie stops singing his morning song, a child experiences profound and lasting loss for the first time in their young lives.

Children want and need to know about death, yet we are often reluctant — even squeamish — when talking about it. Conversations with kids about death can be extremely difficult, but they are so important. Helping children understand the death of their pet may arm them with the skills they need to cope and grieve effectively when someone they love dies. Everyone experiences a sense of shock when death occurs, and this is especially true for children. They have no prior experience, and usually no information to help them comprehend what "dead forever" means.

Death and grief are extremely difficult human emotions, therefore, there is no right or wrong way to deal with death. As adults, our reactions to death are a product of societal attitudes and the beliefs and culture of the family from which we came.

When a family member dies, children express their grief differently depending on their age. An infant may become irritable and fussy. A pre-schooler lives in a magical world, so death isn’t permanent for them. They may alternate between seeing death as temporary and reversible to understanding that death is forever. Children ages six to 12 have a more mature understanding of death and teenagers have an adult understanding of death, but has fewer coping skills.

Let’s look at Justin’s first experience with death:

Justin’s is 5 years old and lives with his mom and dad and brand new sister Sarah. One morning, Justin wakes up to mom’s tears and runs to Sarah’s room to find mommy and daddy crying. Daddy ushers Justin out of the room and tells him quietly that Sarah isn’t going to wake up today.

Justin is scared and confused. Justin has never seen Daddy cry. Dad is his hero. He makes Justin feel safe. What could be so horrible that it would make Daddy cry? Daddy spends the morning talking to Justin while mom and Grandma Jane go in and out of the house, crying and Sarah is taken away by strange people that Justin does not know.

After lunch, Justin goes to Sarah’s room to look for her. They always take an afternoon nap together. But Sarah isn’t there. “When will Sarah be home?” Justin asks his daddy. Daddy holds Justin as he tells him “Sarah won’t be coming home, honey, Sarah has died. She stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating. We’re all so very sad. Why don’t we sit together and remember some of the funny things she used to do.” Justin turns his blue eyes to look at Daddy “No, it’s okay Daddy. She’ll be home later.”

As the days go on from the time of Sarah’s death, mom and dad are caught up in funeral preparations and Justin continues in his insistence that his sister will come home. As family gathers and the days get closer to the services his parents remain with growing concern for his belief.

Parents should be aware of normal childhood responses to a death in the family. It is normal during the weeks following the death for some children to feel immediate grief or persist in the belief that the family member is still alive. But long-term denial of the death or avoidance of grief is unhealthy and can later surface in more severe problems.

Once children accept the death, they are likely to display their feelings of sadness on and off over a long period of time, and often at unexpected moments. The surviving relatives should spend as much time as possible with the child, making it clear that the child has permission to show his or her feelings openly or freely.

Parents with children experiencing grief should:

Provide age-appropriate information regarding the loss

Give the child space for them to emote. (Encouragement to discuss his or her innermost fantasies, fears, thoughts, and feelings.)

Be aware of their own emotional availability: Your child needs someone who will listen. Reach our for support from others if you are unable to provide that support to your child at this time.

Warning signs include:
changes in sleep, appetite, school performance, or social interaction
verbal/non-verbal messages of wanting to join the deceased (drawings, behaviors, or statements)

Keep In Mind: Children need to be assured that death is not the end—that love never dies. Just because the person is no longer living, doesn't mean we don't still love them. You are the expert of your child and always reach for assistance from a professional if you have any questions.

Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of nearly 40,000 foster children. He also has a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Sophy has lectured extensively and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles Neuro-Psychiatric Institute. His lectures and teachings are consistently ranked as among the best by those in attendance.

Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the “Keep ‘Em Off My Couch” blog, provides real simple answers for solving life’s biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at

Article Source:
For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Biology and Practicality of Death

Philosophy focuses on the biology of death and its practicality. Everyone has to die sometime, so why avoid talking about it or preparing for the occasion? This is the kind of view my Aunt Kat and I share.

Eleven months ago when she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, her doctor said she might be lucky to live six to nine months. While she is counting every day as a blessing, she is also very aware that she is about to leave her loved ones. She talks openly with me about her “bucket” list (now completed), how her children are avoiding her by not coming to visit her or helping with her care, and how she plans to visit me from the afterlife. The TV series, The Ghost Whisperer, spawned that discussion.

I can relate to those who have death denial issues because when my grandfather was dying, I could not stand to see him suffering. I wanted to remember him as he was when he was healthy. I lived next door to him at the time, and it was all I could do to walk across the garden to say hello.

Things have changed since then. As strange as it may seem, I would love to be present when my aunt and/or grandmother die. Even though I am Pagan and they are Christian, I feel that I could offer them a sense of peace and calm. I would even sing hymns to them if they requested. Why? Because I feel that religious differences and past issues need to be put aside and that forgiveness and unconditional love is what a dying person needs to pass peacefully. In fact, that is exactly what is needed to LIVE peacefully!

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Friday, October 23, 2009

Death and Dying in the Islamic Culture

This essay is by Julie Mohr, an online student in the same college sociology class as me. I invited her to be a guest on my blog today because she offered such great insight in a well-written post as one of our required assignments. We were asked to describe the beliefs and practices of another culture in regards to death, dying, and afterlife. She chose to study death and dying in the Islamic Culture.

There is great diversity in the Muslim religion, which has people who practices it on every continent, and reportedly has as much as 1/5 of the world’s population as followers, less than 15% of whom are of Arab descent (There are significant numbers of people who follow Islam in Asia, Africa and Europe). The basis of the religion follows the beliefs and teachings of well-known Christian Biblical figures Abraham and Moses, and the prophet Mohammed writing the Quran as not a NEW religion, but as a clarification from God of rules and law. They recognize Judaism and Christianity (both Catholics and Protestants) as religions that worship the one God as they do, Allah is the name of that God for Muslims.

I have personally traveled to Turkey, which is 99% Muslim, and found it a country with a tremendous amount of openness and interest in us as travelers. I visited Izmir and then traveled to Istanbul, where I went to Topkapi Palace and saw the great Relics Room where they believe to have the staff of Moses and the cooking pot of Abraham, along with hairs from the beard of Mohammed. At the time I was surprised because I didn’t realize that Muslims believe they are an extension of Abrahamic faith. A Muslim sings the Quran in that room 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since I didn’t know a lot about the religion, or Islamic rituals regarding Death & Dying, I chose it for the purpose of this assignment:

According to several websites I visited, there is broad cultural diversity in the Muslim world, so some of the rules are elastic and not nearly as set in stone as those of us in the West might be led to believe.

However, in death, there are very specific rituals to be followed. In a USA Today article about Muslim burials in the United States, Tahir Anwar, imam of the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, Calif. said little is known about how funerals were conducted in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's founder.

"The bodies were washed, people did the (funeral) prayers, and they were buried. Those remain the three things we do today," he said.

Clothing, the role of women and a host of other issues vary widely from one country or continent to another. But despite these difference, and like Christianity or Roman Catholicism, there are rules of law. In the Islamic world are called the five “pillars” of Islam, on which most if not all Muslims follow and ties them together (I won’t list them here since none of them are relevant to the death & dying aside from mentioning that they are the five goals that make a Muslim a Muslim). After reading several websites, I found that Muslims believe there is life after death not all that much different than Christian and/or Jewish religions.

Afterlife/Judgment: Death in the Islamic tradition is similar to Catholicism in that the body ceases to live, judgment of the deceased is made, and they are laid to rest with the future belief that a final Day of Judgment/End of the World is coming, when all the faithful will be brought to heaven and those who are not will go to the equivalent of hell . Their description is less extreme than Christians, in that Muslims are taught that there is “paradise” and “chastisement”.

On, it says that “Muslims believe that death is a departure from the life of this world, but not the end of a person's existence. Rather, eternal life is to come, and we pray for God's mercy to be with the departed, in hopes that they may find peace and happiness in the life to come.” (also not unlike the Bible readings and prayers for the soul that many Christian religions offer up at a deathbed or during a funeral).

“The person who is dying is asked three questions as they are dying, and their answers provide Muslims with the idea that the person is going to either be in a comfortable grave, or if they will be “chastised.”

It is recommended, if at all possible, for a Muslim's last words to be the declaration of faith: "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah." (some websites had this or some variation of the same statement). ”

Ultimately, a person who has lived a good “sin-free” life with lots of Muslim’s praying for his/her soul gets to “rest comfortably” in the grave (waiting for Judgment Day), whereas one who hasn’t will begin an afterlife of chastisement beginning with their being lowered into the physical grave itself.

Death and Its Relevance to Muslims
Muslims see death as the most important part of life, in that it is something very important to prepare for. On it states that “Death is likened to sleep in Islam. Sleep in Arabic is called "the little brother of death." The Prophet spoke often of death, and the Quran is filled with warnings of the dangers of ignoring one's mortality and of not preparing for death before it is too late.”

After Death
When a Muslim dies, there are very specific rituals in caring for the dead body. A Muslim person who has been trained to prepare the body will wash it, shroud it, and sometimes perfume it. Often a family member or friend will do the washing and shrouding, and men always take care of men’s bodies, and women care for women’s bodies. Care is taken during the washing and shrouding to cover the person’s private parts.

The body is treated with gentleness and respect, “as we would want to be treated,” said one woman in an article about Muslim death rituals in USA Today. Here in the United States, funeral homes will provide assistance to Muslims only insofar as providing the appropriate permits or licenses to bury their dead. Most sites I visited also stated that they try to bury a person within 24 hours, so there is no need to embalm the body. (Some websites were very specific about men receiving a certain number of layers of shrouds vs. women, and what colors they had to be. This can vary from country to country, but it’s clear that it must not be decorative, and most choose white if they state a choice).

Washing is done in odd numbers only, but I couldn’t find a place that explained why, only that a person is washed 3, 5 or 7 times. The cloth is called 'kafan' and the process 'takfeen. Some websites said that autopsies are forbidden, but others said that they must be done with the least amount of violation of the person (the person should remain as intact as possible because on Judgment Day good Muslims are raised up to go to Paradise and therefore must be physically intact for that to happen). Cremation is generally forbidden.
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The funeral prayer is then performed, and the deceased is buried in a graveyard without a coffin, simply laid in the earth and covered. A person, usually a relative, informs the deceased of what is happening, as Muslims believe that the deceased can hear and understand what is being said.

Muslims believe the dead person is not always aware of the transition, and so the one giving instructions informs the deceased that he or she has died, is being laid in the grave, and that two angels known as Munkar and Nakir will soon come into the grave to ask three questions.

To the first question, "Who is your Lord?," the deceased is instructed to reply, "Allah." In answer to the second question, "Who is your Prophet?," the deceased should say, "Muhammad," and the correct response to the third question, "What is your religion?," is "Islam." If the individual passes this first phase of the afterlife, the experience of the grave is pleasant, and he or she is given glimpses of the pleasures of paradise. If however, the deceased does not pass this phase, then the grave is the first stage of chastisement.”


From The grave itself is aligned on a northeast to southwest axis, facing Mecca. The wrapped body is placed directly into the ground, without any kind of casket. The body is laid on its right side, with the head facing Mecca, and the shroud is removed from the face.

Mourning: three days is the normal mourning period. Widows observe an extended morning period, called “iddah”, which lasts four months and ten days. During this time, she is not to remarry, move from her home, or wear decorative clothing or jewelry.

When one dies, everything in this earthly life is left behind, and there are no more opportunities to perform acts of righteousness and faith. The Prophet Muhammad once said that there are three things, however, which may continue to benefit a person after death: charity given during life which continues to help others, knowledge from which people continue to benefit, and a righteous child who prays for him or her.

Some of the difference I picked up on were generally those that would take old rituals and clash with Western Muslims. For example, one of the websites talked about autopsies as being forbidden, and another mentioned that they could be done, but care should be taken not to disturb the body too much, and to do it as respectfully as possible as quickly as possible. This would be a variation on a previously forbidden practice allowing for the government/law enforcement in this and other countries who need to do an autopsies for the purposes of establishing a cause of death.

There were a number of interesting facts on, where you could read about Islam and its Biblical-Quran comparisons, some of the different religions and how they compared and contrasted.

“The Sacredness of Life - Islam has made human life sacred and has safeguarded its preservation. According to its teachings, aggression against human life is the second greatest sin in the sight of Allah, second only to denial of Him.”

Julie Mohr has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of her life, but she was born in Brazil to American parents. She is a former newspaper journalist who has worked at The Yakima Herald-Republic and The Seattle Times. Julie publishes a blog at and attends school part-time for the purpose of changing careers to nursing. Her personal experience in miscarriage and infant loss helped her decide to become a nurse, and guided her to several online groups where she helps support those going through similar experiences.


Thursday, October 22, 2009


by Debbie Summers

I wandered down a lonely shore
my feet upon the marshy sand
A sense that I'd been here before
with you, as we walked hand in hand...
Wind at my face, my cheek on yours, then I leaned in for your embrace.
I heard the waves, in symphony, a rush of force that kept apace
with my heart's beat,
The roll then lull, repeat again, in concert with the steady rise
of veneration I saw in your eyes.
Face to face we listened as the sea saw fit
to dance around our feet
and root us to the spot, before she called retreat.

I walked some more along the shore
Alone yet filled with memories...
of time unknown in days of yore
When you were here alongside me...
Your voice a song all of its own, your words the lyrics, tune replete,
that wrapped itself around my heart,
I heard the music loud and clear, surrendering in sweet defeat...
Two sets of footprints down the beach, as far down as the shore did reach.
We were together all our lives, through happiness and bitter strife.

My eyes are closed as I recall it all
along with waves that crash and fall
Your touch, your scent,
your feet upon this firmament.
And then they open and you're gone
And once again I am alone.
I turn and watch the rolling sea, claim my mark upon the land
One set of footprints in the sand
Here then gone along with the notes of your song.

I wander once again, in search of you, in every face I see
Who will you in this lifetime be?
I do not know...

All I can tell is that I loved you so...


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eight Commonly Held Assumptions About Dying

If you are the caregiver for someone who is dying, it is important for you to know that the dying person’s meaning of death may be very different from yours. Try to gain a better understanding and avoid thoughtless actions when around the dying.

On page 50 in the sixth edition of Death, Dying, & Bereavement by Michael R. Leming and George E. Dickinson, there is a list of eight commonly held assumptions that people have toward those who are dying. Remember these are misconceptions, not facts!

1. Those with whom you work necessarily share your meaning of death.

2. Meanings that were helpful to earlier generations are equally functional today.

3. Meaning remains constant and does not change.

4. Dying biologically is all that is happening.

5. Knowing about the biological aspects of dying will in and of itself provide knowledge about how humans expect to behave in death-related situations.

6. The terminally ill person is the only one having death adjustment problems.

7. The dying person has somehow stopped meaningful living during the terminal period.

8. Talking is the only way for the caregiver to communicate that she or he cares.

I was sitting with my mom and uncle in the hospital room when Nanny called out, “Doris?”

Mom walked to Nanny’s side. “What do you need?” she asked. “I’m right here.”

“Hold my hand,” Nanny replied.

Mom took her mom’s hand and simply held it without saying another word.

When you don’t know what to say to someone who is dying, try to find other ways to communicate that you care. Perhaps sitting with them while the major caregiver goes home to shower and rest is in order. Maybe you could send a greeting card, sing a song, read a poem, gently massage their feet, or bring flowers to their room. There are many good alternatives to talking.

My mother and grandmother are two of the most compassionate human beings I know. Without realizing it, they both understand the sociological aspects of dying. I watched my mom and Nanny care for Pap (my grandfather) and Edmond (my mom’s brother) when they were dying. I’ve had great mentoring through their examples. I am no longer afraid to assist a loved one who is ill or dying.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Monday, October 19, 2009

Death Rituals

Death rituals are as old as culture if not older. Though specific rituals differ from region to region, religion to religion, there is a shared purpose for performing them:
  1. to acknowledge loss
  2. to mourn and grieve
  3. to give loved ones and the community a chance to reflect, remember and validate the deceased's life
  4. to give a last rite of passage.

What type of rituals does your family observe? Feel free to leave a comment and share with others.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Topics of psychology regarding death and dying

The following comes from my handwritten notes from an online sociology class I am taking via Chemeketa Community College. The text book for this class is Death Dying, & Bereavement by Michael Leming and George Dickinson.

1. Sociology looks at how individuals and society interact with one another and how we agree upon accepted and shared meaning and attitudes toward death and dying. This includes the loss of relationships due to death, how one person’s death affects an entire society, how society influences the meaning of death, how the meaning of death is agreed upon by a group of people, and how we respond and react to one another when the death and dying process is brought near and personal.

I found comfort in the text that mentioned the audience of dying person shifting from the living to the supernatural. My own grandmother is a case in point. She has been speaking to deceased relatives more and more as she approaches her final days. Her husband, my grandfather, did the same thing when he was transitioning in 1988. So did my uncle in 2001. Some will say this is drug-induced but according to Death Dying, & Bereavement by Leming and Dickinson, it is common for those who are departing the earth realm to talk to the unseen or deceased loved ones. I believe my grandmother actually sees and hears in the spirit realm. She has ever since she had a near-death experience in the 1950s.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fear of Pain in Dying Process

When I faced emergency gall bladder surgery in 1989, I was more afraid of having to endure the suffering associated with recovery from such a horrendous surgery. Laser surgery was just becoming available, but it was not an option in my case because a gallstone was lodged in the bile duct and my gall bladder was so full that it had begun to perforate. There was too much of a risk that bile would leak into my abdominal cavity, so an eight-inch incision was made to remove my gall bladder and unblock my bile duct.

Even as I was suffering with severe pain prior to being taken into surgery, I was not concerned at all about dying. Honestly, I was quite angry when I awoke and found that I had survived! I hated the pain I felt then, and I detest suffering still. After witnessing my grandmother's plight these past months, I especially want to avoid pain in the dying process when my time comes.

I have signed a living will stating that I so not want to be placed on life support and forced to endure needless suffering should I become unable to live with any quality of life. While it doesn’t eliminate the possibility that I will suffer on my deathbed, I think this is a good way to assure that I will not to be kept alive by machines if I should end up in a persistent vegetated state. I don't think it is fair to a family to have to make a decision like the one Terri Schiavo's family faced.

If you would like to create your own living will, here's a free PDF of an advanced directive that you can download, print, fill in your information, sign your copy, and have it witnessed.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Friday, October 16, 2009

Finding Our Way Home

I recently learned that Aboriginal people send the spirit of their deceased loved ones back to its birth place so it can be reborn. That brought a memory to me. When I first witnessed a sea turtle come to shore in Melbourne Beach, Florida to lay her eggs, I was so intrigued that I did some research to learn more. These turtles return to the place where they were born in order to lay their eggs. Scientists are still puzzled about how they "know" where they were born and how they find their way back.

So it is with our spirit—we know from whence we came, and we will all find our way home!
For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Explaining Death to Children

How fitting that I signed up for a college sociology course on death, dying, and bereavement this fall. There is a section in our textbook about how to help children deal with death. This information will help me explain death to my 8-year-old grandson should he ask for my assistance. He is going to visit Nanny (his great-great-grandmother) this weekend with his parents. I want him to be prepared not only for his visit with Nanny but also for her impending death. He has spent a lot of time with Nanny since she lives with my parents and he enjoys going there any chance he gets. Sidney spends several weeks each summer with the three of them. Not many children have a close relationship with their five-generation matriarch.

I found a Web site that gives good information for helping kids deal with the death of a loved one.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Congestive Heart Failure

My mom took my grandmother, Nanny, to a pulmonary specialist today. The nurse/technician drew 900 cc of fluid from around her left lung. This is the same side in which they withdrew 1000 cc when she was in the hospital two weeks ago. The concern is not only how quickly the fluid built up again, but also that the color of the liquid was raspberry. That means there is blood mixed with the fluid--a sign that her congestive heart failure is worsening.

Mom continues to have hope that Nanny will recover. After all, no one expected her to pull through last year when she had two surgeries to repair her broken hip. She not only survived, she was almost ready to put bear weight and start trying to walk again when she started having chest pains three weeks ago. I am in limbo while waiting for my mom to call me and let me know Nanny has passed. I hope it is peaceful and in her sleep. She's had enough trauma over the past year.
For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How sociologists study death and dying

This fall quarter, I’ve decided to continue my college courses through the online curriculum at Chemeketa Community College in Oregon. I needed a social science class to earn credit toward my AAOT degree and was excited when I saw SOC 232--a sociology course on death, dying, and bereavement. The text book for this class is the sixth edition of Death, Dying, and Bereavement by Michael R. Leming and George E. Dickinson.

I have assignments due each week in which I will be required to answer questions from the textbook and submit written posts to the online discussion board. Always looking for ways to make the best use of my time and knowledge, I like to repurpose any material I write and share it with others. Thus, as the class progresses, I’ll post excerpt of my assignments and share what I am learning on this intriguing subject.

While both are based on collecting data via observation and reasoning, there are two areas of study in which the topic of death and dying is approached by the social sciences: natural and social.

Natural sciences use a biological approach and social sciences use a sociological approach. The sociological approach also takes psychological and anthropological aspects into account and therefore leans somewhat toward the natural sciences.

The psychological approach looks at developmental life stages and attitudes from the cradle to the grave. This includes cultural differences and how the media desensitizes the masses regarding death denial.

The anthropological approach looks at the rituals people use to deal with death and celebrate life. It also assesses the emotional responses people have toward disposal of the body. A subfield ofanthropology uses bone identification, past and present human and animal remains to determine age, sex, and physical characteristics.

A sociological approach studies four theories: 1. structural-functional, 2. conflict theory, 3. social exchange, and 4. symbolic.

1. The structural-functional approach looks at the positive aspects and the balance in family, religion, economic, and political that death brings. All parts of society need to function well in order to keep things running smoothly.

2. The conflict theory focuses on the negative aspect and the inequality of the dying process i.e.: access to medical care for some. It deals with the lack of resources, imbalance, and things not going smoothly in society.

Both the structural-functional approach and the conflict theory studies funerals, relationships, returning to normal life after losing a loved one, body disposal, and funeral rituals in relation to social status i.e.: who and how many attend the funeral, where the service is held, and how property is distributed when the estate is settled.

3. Social exchange shows the social rewards and sacrifices people make to attend a funeral, the cost of burial, punishment for not attending or holding a service for the deceased. What does it cost to bury the body? Should the family have a celebration of life (party) and invite people to have a meal together and share memories of the deceased? What would such a celebration cost? Is it worth the perception of affluence it might give the family?

4. The symbolic approach addresses symbols as a component of human behavior. What will people think if I don’t go to the funeral service of my friend or loved one? This one drives home to me. I had a severe emotional reaction to a friend’s death two years ago. I was crying so much over his murder that I was unable to attend his funeral. I couldn’t keep my emotions calm enough to avoid embarrassing myself and upsetting his grieving family even more than they surely were.

I left for a pre-planned vacation out of the US while my grandmother (whom we call Nanny) was in the hospital. Per her request, I’ve agreed to play piano for her funeral when the time comes. I left, not knowing whether she would pass away while I was away or if she would get well enough to come home. Therefore, I drove five hours to see her before I left. That gave me peace of mind and the ability to enjoy my time off.

Chapter 2 of the text went into detail to show that defining the point at which death occurs is as impossible as defining when life begins--a very important part of a controversial book that I wrote and published in 2007 about embryonic stem cell research ( There’s no way everyone is going to agree on one particular definition of when life starts or ends.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Intimate Encounters With Death

When I took the quiz on page 72 of the Sixth Edition of Death, Dying, and Bereavement by Michael R. Leming and George E. Dickinson, I realized that I have had an intimate encounter with death many times and at an early age.

When I was just a child, my family and I would stop by the funeral home on the way to or from church to pay our respects when an elderly member of our church was lying in state at the funeral home. Viewing corpses was not uncommon or uncomfortable for me as a child and it doesn't disturb me now.

I remember seeing my maternal grandmother sitting at her mother's bedside when she was dying. I was thirteen at the time and I’m sure this influenced my view of the dying process and prepared me for my current situation. My mom is caring for her mother who is in the dying process.

What about you? Are you comfortable discussing death and dying? How intimate are you with death? Click here to take a survey. You may want to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog or sign up for an email reminder (below) so you will know when I post the answers in a few weeks.

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You might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife available on

Saturday, October 10, 2009

State of Mind, State of Health

Mind over matter. What you think about comes about. God helps those who help themselves.

You've probably heard all those quotations, but never are those statement so relevant than when someone is trying to recover from an illness. If someone is given a diagnosis of cancer and is told he or she has six to eight months to live, it's amazing how the patient will conform to those expectations. My aunt decided to live the rest of her days to the best of her ability and she has already outlived her predicted time allotment. My grandmother (Nanny) is another case in point.

Nanny fell and broke her hip and arm last November (2008) and had two surgeries to correct the damage. Her mind was set for recovery and she worked hard every day to regain her strength. She cooperated with her physical therapist and exercised to keep her joints mobile and her muscles toned. After this last bout in the hospital, she has given up. She says she "can't"do it anymore. She refuses to eat or believe that she can get better. She constantly asks for pain medication. She's 93; I'm sure she hurts all over. But, we have this tug of war between her body and her mind to deal with.

Staying focused seems extremely difficult for her. One minute she's praying for Jesus to take her home. The next minute she's asking him to help her heal. A double-minded person is unstable in all her ways and need not expect anything to happen as a result of prayer. The universe is always willing to help us manifest our desires, but we have to be consistently clear about what we want. I'm not sure Nanny is able to do that. Her body is still too strong to succumb to death, but her mind is too weak to stay focused on recovery.

Our state of mind definitely affects our state of health. Life is all about choices. I hope we are all making choices that will help us stay as healthy as possible.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Friday, October 9, 2009

Dying and Humor

Nanny's skin is very sensitive and the least little touch gives her pain. I'm not sure how much of it is psychological since she complains that we are hurting her even when we aren't touching her.

When my mom and I were bathing Nanny and getting her ready for her doctor's appointment Tuesday morning, she was grumbling and moaning that we were killing her. Adamantly, she crossed her arms over her abdomen and assumed the corpse position and said, "Just go ahead and bury me!"

Mom and I both burst out in laughter.

"I think that's against the law, Nanny," I said. "Police arrest people who bury bodies while they're still alive."

Wednesday morning we were changing her diaper. Since she can't roll over to help us, this is a two-person task. I took Nanny's hand to help her find the rail on my side so she could at least pull to one side or hold on.

"You hurt my sore hand!" she yelled.

"I was being gentle, Nanny," I said.

"They stuck me too many times at the hospital. They made a sore on my hand."

"I don't see a sore on your hand."

"Take that sore and throw it away," said Nanny.

I pretended to grab the invisible sore and threw it out the window. "Now, it's gone."

"Okay, that's better. Thank you."

If it weren't for a good sense of humor, dealing with the dying process would be absolutely intolerable.

You might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who Cares for the Caregiver?

The October issue of BottomLine Health had a great article by Vicki Rachkner, MD titled "What No One Tell You About Caregiving." It really got me to thinking about all this around-the-clock hand holding and consoling we are doing for Nanny.

Mom and I are wearing ourselves out and Nanny is so incoherent at night that she doesn't even know where she is. Even though she talks all night, I don't think she is fully awake. It's kind of like sleep walking, but since she can't get up and walk, she's sleep talking. It's like she's dreaming and giving a verbal play-by-play account of her astral activity.

Our consoling does absolutely nothing to calm her down or deter her from talking incessantly. By depriving ourselves of much-needed sleep, we are feeling run down and that makes us frustrated when Nanny really needs our full attention during the day when she is awake. That's when we prep meals, feed her, bathe her, dress her, work on her physical therapy, talk to her, get her up out of bed to sit in her recliner. No caregiver can operate 24/7 without burning out.

I think we will turn off the baby monitor tonight, go to bed, and let her self-soothe. Let's hope for the best!

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Roller Coaster of the Dying Process

The process of dying can last for days, weeks, or even years. I suppose one could say that we are born to die and everyone is in the process of dying from the cradle to the grave. However, the dying process I'm speaking of pertains to the valley of death that those who are elderly or have a terminal illness go through.

That valley has many stages: the beginning of the end, the middle vale of waiting, and latter days of suffering when death is imminent. It's difficult to determine which stage the patient is in, because the dying process is accompanied by many ups and downs within the valley. One day the patient seems to make some progress toward recovering health and the next day, she takes a plunge and causes us to think the end is near for our loved one. The emotional, mental, and physical path doesn't seem to be a straight one; it seems there are circles and loops that intersect and make us wonder, "Haven't we been here before?" It's kind of like playing the game, Candy Land. Your turn. Oh, you got Queen Frostine; you're almost home. I got a purple card. Uh, oh; you got Plumpy and you're back to the start.

Nanny has been going through this. After having a heart-to-heart talk with her early this morning in which she expressed her readiness to die, she was weak and decrepit from her three-week-long battle in which she has endured multiple medical complications including congestive heart failure. It seemed like she was giving up and didn't want to do anything to try to recover. Surely, the end of the end was approaching.

Nope, we're banking left and doing another loop de loop to revisit the valley of recovery!

The physical therapist came to work with her about two hours after our "I'm going to miss you" talk. Lo, and behold! She did her exercises with him and even stood to her feet with help from the therapist, me, and a walker. She stood twice--about five seconds each time--and was able to bear weight on both legs. This was a major feat for her because she has not stood up since she fell and broke her hip 11 months ago: the beginning of the end.

The ups and downs are like a roller coaster for the patient and the caregivers. We never know what a day (hour?) may bring, but it is sure to be an unpredictable adventure.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Leaving a Loved One Behind

It was emotionally difficult for me to leave my grandmother in the hospital and go ahead with our planned vacation to the Dominican Republic last week. My mind was not at ease and I felt like I was in a stupor the entire time I was there. One morning, I awoke having a dream in which Nanny, my mom, my brother, and I were running a relay race. Nanny had gone as far as she could and she was passing the baton on to us. I heard my brother say, “Something is wrong at home. Call us when you can.”

I felt sad because I know the dream means that Nanny is handing us the torch and that we will soon be carrying on without her. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions from something I heard in a dream, so I didn’t call to see what was wrong at home. I didn't want to feel more sad than I already did. To compound things, I went to pick up email and none of my family had given me an update on her. My mind went crazy. I was afraid Nanny had died and no one told me. I broke down and cried when I was lounging by the pool. Such paradise...

I finally got a report from my mom the next day. Nanny was still having some breathing problems that seem to come and go. Most likely from fluid build up. The hospital drained 1000 cc from her left side and sent her home with oxygen at 2 liters. Her stats looked good and she did not have a fever. That gave me some relief.

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How long?

My grandmother, Nanny, continues to suffer with congestive heart failure. She went to the doctor today (quite an ordeal for someone who has been bedridden for almost a year) and found that the fluid around her heart and lungs is increasing. She was referred to a pulmonary specialist and has an appointment next week to see if he can drain off some of the fluid like they did when she was in the hospital.

I wish my mom had more help here in Georgia. She's exhausted as the only caregiver for her mom. Even with the technology I have available, it's still difficult to work remotely. I'm not sure how long I can stay. I have to get home to Nashville before I start losing business. How long can my mom endure? How long before Nanny gets well or dies?

How long?

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


Monday, October 5, 2009

Denial When Death is Approaching

"When will my kids believe I am dying?" My Aunt Kat asked me when I last visited her. She has terminal lung cancer.

I could not answer as to why her kids and grandkids don't visit her, but I do know that when my grandfather was dying, I had a hard time watching him suffer. He lived right next door to me, yet I avoided going to see him because I wanted to remember him as the vibrant character I had always known and I was very uncomfortable being around someone who was dying. It's scary!

I didn't realize at the time how much I could have helped to relieve the caregivers (my mom, my grandmother, and my aunts) just by being there. Nor, did I understand how much my visits would have meant to my grandfather. Now that two of those caregivers are dying, I have decided to dive in and just feel whatever I feel. And, I won't lie--it hurts. I am spending as much time as I possibly can with them. It's not easy to watch someone struggle to take the next breath. It's not fun to be awake all hours of the night tending to a sick loved one.

I sat and held Nanny's hand for hours last night as she cried out to Jesus, "Please take me home, Lord!" I cried, too, and I have to admit that I was asking Jesus to take her soul with Him.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.
If I die before I wake,
I pray thee Lord my soul to take.

Tears come and go as my sorrow builds up and has to be released like a pressure cooker. I'm letting my own pain ooze out in small increments--just enough to keep from exploding when she does finally pass.

There's no use denying death. It will not go away. Like my Aunt Kat says, "Let's not pretend that there isn't an elephant under our living room rug!"

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife available on

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sundowners Syndrome

My maternal grandmother, Nanny, is having a bit of confusion, restlessness, and anxiety in the evenings. It usually manifests about 7 p.m. During this period, she doesn't trust that we are giving her the correct medications; she fights us when we try to feed her; and she cries and moans for hours, begging Jesus to take her home. It's heart wrenching and exhausting to be in the house with this energy.

It's like hitting a switch and Nanny changes into this insecure, forgetful, childish, and pitiful person that I've never known her to be. It's almost like she has Alzheimer's, but her mind was very clear before this last surgery, and it is still clear during the day. My daughter told me this type of mood disorder is called "sundowners syndrome." I looked it up online.

Sundowners syndrome, also known as sundowning, is a condition in which sufferers (particularly the elderly) experience periods of extreme agitation and confusion during the late afternoon or early evening hours. Some patients may be irritable toward caregivers or hospital staff. It is believed that sundowners syndrome is related to the decreased amount of light in the evening and night hours. It can be caused by drug interactions or stress associated with lower cognitive function. About 45% of elderly patients who have had anesthesia are affected by sundowners syndrome.

When sundowners syndrome hits in the evening, Nanny wants someone to stay in the room with her. If Mom or I hold her hand, she will doze off, but if she is alone, she can't sleep and she repeatedly calls us to come hither. We were up with Nanny for about four hours last night. No wonder my mom is exhausted. She's been staying up at night with Nanny for the past two weeks, and still has to handle meal preparation, keep Nanny's medicines on schedule, bathe her, change her diapers, and do all the household chores. Mom has been handling Nanny's care for almost a year since Nanny fell and broke her hip last November. Nanny was cooperating with physical therapy and eating well. Now she is so weak, she can't even roll over to help mom dress her.

My mom turns 70 this December. We are going to have to hire some help before this pace affects her health.

More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife may be purchased on