Do You See What I See? Do The Dead Visit Those Who Are Dying?

January 22, 2012 at 1:12 am (death, dying, how does it feel to die, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Do the dead visit those who are dying or is it just me? another reason I would love to find blogs or books by people who are dying.  most of what I have read encourages others who are living disease free lives. it is inspiring to read about someone who knows they have pancreatic cancer and yet lives to that last moment with all they have.  so many brave souls have gone before me.  although I truly see them as brave it is not a word I would use for myself.  my life is ordinary and I like it that way.  we enjoy a day of eating soup/sandwich and browsing the book store.  watching old movies, sitting side by side reading and sharing what we are reading.  husband and I never seem to tire of each others company and yet we treasure moments with family and friends.  that is not brave, that is a gift I selfishly give myself.  some give lectures and include hand stands, others make movies, some write for magazines.  in absence is the appearance of loved ones who have gone before that come in dreams. 

for the past few months I have been dreaming of those I have known over the years who have passed on.  this is of interest to me and husband as I do not tend to remember dreams.  that is not entirely accurate.  when I remember a dream it is one so vivid and prophetic that if I had not learned at an early age to accept them it would be maddening.  these dreams are so moving and comforting, somewhere in my psyche lies the origins I am sure and at the same time not sure at all.  the last one was of a young man named Danny.  when we were quite young he was in love with me and I he.  not in the romantic way though, he had recently confided in me his attraction to the same-sex.  being evangelical born again christians he knew his family would never accept him as he truly was.  this was in the early 70’s, i was legally married to a man who was more brutal than I have ever encountered in all my years and that includes my forensic patients.  my son was 2 and loved Danny. Danny loved him and we had decided we would be married and raise son as Danny’s.  loving him the way I did it was hard to see him sacrifice his own happiness although in my mind’s eye it seemed possible he could live his life and i mine within the same house.  after much discussion it was decided that he would go on a short getaway with a professor he cared for.  several days went by with no word from him. this was so not like him, his mother called, his brother called and finally the park rangers were called.  he was found with his friend in the back of the camper, there had been a sudden unexpected freeze that night they were camping and someone lit the hibachi. the two of them died of asphyxiation during that cold night.  you can only imagine being found several days after death was not a pretty sight.  something not thought of in years and never consciously in regard to the condition of the bodies when found.  this being pertinent only as it pertains to my confusion by this dream. 

when I have these dreams, and the focus now is on these few dreams of late, there has been no waking thoughts of said visitors during the past few days.  deep in sleep which is rare these days except during my visits from the past.  we are in a park type setting with people all around, he is as he was that last day, young, smiling and little crinkles around his eyes even then.  there is a pool, we slip in easily and drift to one end away from the few that might hear our conversation.  the words are not important it is him and we have that ease of old friends.  people are moving away from us, they begin to raise their voices and point to the sky.  flies are everywhere, not oversized like a real nightmare but the sheer number is enough to quicken my pulse and as I reach for his hand ( we must move right?) he smiles and says “it wasn’t like you would imagine, it was just going to sleep.  I saw myself like watching some interesting show but felt no attachment to the body laying there.  yes there were flies and much worse, don’t worry it will be easy when the time comes.”  then he said “you have a sinus infection, wake up and take care of yourself.”  at that I woke and realized indeed the early symptoms of a sinus infection.  it seemed the most natural thing to walk into the other room and he would be there. he was not of course.  husband might have been confused if he had been:) 

over the past few months there have been others, each passed in different ways and shared with me their experience and seemed reassuring that my own is coming closer, the rest of the message is not to despair.  though I am not anxious to go I have not worried it would be traumatic.  my question is … have those before experienced this? have they been written off as hallucinations or too much medication?  in the medical field it was named intensive care psychosis. my own grandmother was given that diagnosis at the time.  she seemed unnaturally focused to me and it was difficult to believe what the staff wanted me to believe.  now I ask again was that really what happened?  I am here to tell anyone else who experiences this that they are not alone.  if no one has then maybe I am not as lucid as I think.  then again…


  1. Maggie said,

    I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, but I’ve been a hospice volunteer for about 8 years and I can tell you others have spoken of these experiences. Your account is clearer than many, but one lady I knew held long conversations with people that the rest of us could not see — and afterwards told us what they were wearing and some of what they had said to her.

    As you noted, the medical profession has been slow to accept anything that they cannot ‘prove’ or at least ‘study’ … but I will tell you that our Hospice Training told us to accept that these visions are real to the patient and we should make no attempt to persuade the patient otherwise.

    It has often seemed to me that the difference between ‘hallucinations’ and ‘ordinary perceptions’ seems to simply be whether other people saw the same thing … as if voting on our experience would somehow make it more real, or less so. And yet, if two people are facing each other, anything that happens in front of one is likely to occur behind the other.

    Whether you are genuinely being ‘visited’ by the actual ‘dead beings’ or whether your psyche has conjured them from the subconscious, I don’t know — but I dinna think the difference is important to either of us. You are definitely not alone. And (my two cents, here) you sound pretty lucid to me.

    • sbcallahan said,

      Maggie thank you so much for your “two cents.” during my nursing days we were instructed to re-orient the patient. it may come as no surprise that I chose not to do that. as a psychologist the possibility of another explanation is ever at the ready. I do remember the same experience though with oncology patients, they often spoke to someone at length and could give such clarity of detail I never questioned if it were in fact being experienced as related. thank you for the work you do and here’s hoping of I go under hospice care that I am lucky enought to get someone who is as accepting and kind as you are. what do you think of the brochure that used palliative care phrase rather than end-of-life care or plain hospice care?

  2. Maggie said,

    I haven’t seen that particular brochure. In general I prefer calling a spade a spade, if not a damn’ shovel, but not everyone agrees. Recently (I wish I could recall where) I saw a nice essay that made the point that if we start calling Hospice care something euphemistic like “comfort care” we might really be saying that curative treatment is “discomfort care” — and raising the question of why we would want to position medical treatment that way.

    Most of the patients I have worked with have known they were in hospice care; many have been the ones to choose it, to encourage their doctors to give up invasive, painful treatments when the results weren’t adequate.

    On the other hand, I have worked a few times with dementia patients who were not being told they were “on hospice” because someone thought that would both raise their anxiety and convey the family’s lack of “hope” for them … but about half understood that they were dying, anyway, and were generally okay with it. I think, myself, that the living are often much more afraid of dying than people who confidently expect to have to do it sooner.

    I should mention that in the US far too many patients don’t come into hospice care until the last few days of their lives, even though they and their families might benefit far longer from the psychosocial support offered in the hospice system — special mattresses to prevent bedsores, social workers, pain relief both pharmacological and alternative, volunteers, home health aid workers, nurses, life review … there’s lots available to support both patient and family in the grieving process that begins long before actual “dying” starts.

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