Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022 |
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Death and dying have been on my mind a bit lately. Two friends on the Mainland and one on Kauai have heard doctors share that dreaded phrase — “You only have months to live.” I first heard it for my father and maternal grandmother, at the same time 37 years ago. Nana was soon, within months of hearing the news. I spent as much time with her as I could, holding a presence of love and caring while she dozed off and I mastered needlepoint.
It was important to me that she felt cherished, loved and a part of the family always. This was before hospice, so visiting her meant going into the “death ward” of the hospital where the “dying patients” would be. A kind man told me that she still had time, because she wasn’t breathing with the death rattle. I was horrified. What was that! It’s the sound of fluids in a person’s airways and signaled the end back then.
Drugs insured that she was in no pain. I told her I loved her and always would. Others came of course, and it was nice to see family members I didn’t see often. My sisters and I sang for her on Thanksgiving Day, but I had a class to teach in Cincinnati soon after, and was there at her actual passing. Before I left I looked into her eyes clearly and said, “You’re in God’s hands now and He loves you.” She looked back with those beloved warm brown eyes smiling, and said, “Yes, I believe so too.” It gave me peace within the grief when it came.
By the time I was sitting by my father’s bedside almost two years later, I’d studied and learned as much as I could of what death might be like, and how to prepare him. While Hospice was not available in Long Island at the time, Mom had read about how it worked in England, and I agreed to help her create that experience as best we could at home.
We brought a hospital bed into our living room and took turns being with him, sleeping on the sofa at night. I learned all manner of personal care which I will spare you of, and a neighbor who was a nurse was able to suction his lungs when they filled. Now there are patches patients wear to prevent that.
Hospice care is amazing. It’s humanizing for the patient and supportive for the family. My mother became a Hospice volunteer for over 25 years because of this experience. We are lucky we have one on Kauai. Call 245-7277 or check out their website at kauaihospice.org.
We all believed that Dad would go to heaven, but what was the process? I read “Life after Life” written by Raymond Moody. I’d also read the Bible, and Edgar Cayce, and Dion Fortune’s “Through the Gates of Death.” Moody’s book was the most helpful for me. It was a collection of stories about people who had what is now termed “near-death experiences.”
These people had been clinically dead, with no heartbeat or maybe no EKG movement, but who came back to life. This wasn’t exactly a new idea for me. At age eight my parents were building a house and the tile layer told us about how he had died, been in a coffin, and as it was being lowered into the ground started knocking on it. It was opened. He recovered and seemed to be strong and fine. It was a mind opener for me.
Moody’s studies told of people who died having common experiences including impressions of being outside ones physical body, visions of deceased relatives and/or religious figures and experiences beyond our normal understanding of space and time. People sometimes heard buzzing sounds, or felt like they were going through a tunnel and toward the light. They experienced a “life review” and an incredible sense of being loved unconditionally. Many didn’t want to return to their tired bodies and conflicted world.
The day before my grandmother died, she told my Mom that she saw her mother and brother. My husband’s stepgrandmother was part Native American. She told him that she saw the white horses who were coming for her, which is part of her peoples’ tradition. Recent studies show that we experience our “greeters” according to our traditions and beliefs.
It is very difficult to speak to someone whose dying is imminent about death. Hospice says that you shouldn’t bring it up until they do … even though you want to tell them that the people who have crossed over and come back saying that they have no fear of it, and feel no pain, just love. So now I’ve said it. Show this to your family before they’re sick.
My dad was a decorated World War II pilot and pilot for Pan American World Airways. He’d tell me that he was a “fatalist”… “If it’s my day to die, I’ll die.” I placed the book “Life After Life” within reach, but I don’t believe he picked it up. So I’d run a few ideas by him. I’d also ask him if as a pilot he’d seen any extraterrestrials to make it seem like I was just interested in the science of everything, or if he’d seen a green flash. He’d seen the flash, but no ETs, and he was open to seeing loved ones on the otherside meet him. He sang in the church choir and had a relationship with Jesus. I just wanted him to be at peace when he passed.
Edgar Cayce said that it’s helpful to direct the dying to seek the “great white light” as they cross over. That might have been too much for Dad, but I used another Cayce technique to teach him about it. Apparently within the first 10 minutes after one falls asleep and the last 10 minutes before one wakes up, you can make helpful suggestions to the subconscious. So when Dad dropped off I told him that when he passed, he should seek the great white light.
He seemed to overcome any fear of dying because we all believe he chose his moment to die. The family was gathered around as it was change of shift time, at 2 am. Our neighbor had come to administer the dreaded lung suctioning, because the “death rattle” was occurring, and we didn’t want Dad to feel like he was drowning. Well, the tubes went in, and he pulled them out. We heard a light hic, like a quiet soft part of a hiccough, then he turned his head on the pillow and stopped breathing.
“Seek the Great White Light Dad!” Look for Nana and Gramps, You are loved, we will miss you, and always remember you. Tears, hugs, more tears, hugs, and then we just began saying the 23rd Psalm assuring us of God’s abiding love and care, even “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
We lit candles and brought flowers in to surround him. He looked beautiful and peaceful. I’d read in “Through the Gates of Death” that when the soul leaves the body, it needs some etheric energy, which had been provided by the body. Two great sources were fire and flowers. Isn’t it interesting that we send flowers for funerals, and candles are burned in the evening? I don’t know about the science of this, but I’ve always had candles and flowers at the ready when our family members are getting ready to go home.
One of those friends I mentioned earlier with months left to live has just finished writing a book which is soon to be in print called “The Dead Saints’ Chronicles.” He believes that NDEs should be studied by everyone, since we are all going to die eventually and it helps to be prepared. Saints bridge Heaven and Earth.
Dannion Brinkley wrote a book “Saved by the Light.” He tells his story of being a bully as a child, but found success in the military killing people. One day he was talking on a home phone when it was struck by lightning. His heart stopped. In his life review he said he experienced the effects of the choices he’d made to hurt people by feeling exactly what he’d done to them. For example, if he’d punched someone, he’d feel the pain of his punch. When he’d killed someone he’d feel the pain of that death, plus the pain of the loved ones who lost that someone.
He became a hospice volunteer and a really nice guy. He teaches people about the other side and has no fear. As a result of his first electrical shock, he had heart damage and had to have heart surgery. He died again. This time he felt the effects of the love and compassion he shared with others. Let’s learn from this!
There are many websites about NDEs, here’s one of the best: near-death.com
There are members of a group that seems to speaking everywhere these days. International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), they’re at iands.org
These dead saints offer amazing stories, often studied by scientists. You’ll really understand that even death won’t do us part. I’m glad I taught my children when they were little, as they had to face it with the death of a sibling. I want to warn you though, I can get lost in these stories for hours, as I believe that they somehow expand my awareness of the greater life that is. The good side is that it is an easier way of learning about the other side than going there oneself.
Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org
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