Many spiritualists see death not as an ending, but rather a transition to a different plane or realm of existence. Throughout history, religious leaders have shared differing visions of what happens after death, but despite the claims of the faithful, much about death still remains a mystery. However, some experiences with death seem universal across cultures and faiths, and one similarity reported by those who have had near-death experiences in recent years is encountering past loved ones on their journey to the other side.
While scientists and medical professionals sometimes dismiss the experiences of dying patients as medically induced or as the body’s last-ditch effort at preserving sanity in the face of impending death, relatives of the dying tend to believe the accounts. Many report feeling an overwhelming sense of peace, as they knew their loved one had caring spirits waiting to guide recently deceased souls to their next destination. Patients who return to the earthly plane describe the experience as comforting, as well.
Do We Ever Really Lose Our Loved Ones?
As long ago as the Neolithic period, Chinese people engaged in ritualized worship of their ancestors. The idea that a part of their forebears remained with them after their body died was an integral part of their society.
Many people in the west believe their soul ascends to heaven after death. Christians often refer to death as going home to Jesus. The souls of departed loved ones arrive as a person lays dying to offer them comfort and prepare them for their journey to the Promised Land. Muslims likewise believe in the continuity of the soul, although they do not define heaven as an actual location, as many Christians do.
Spiritual people who follow no particular faith nevertheless question what happens when the soul leaves the body. Some believe the soul eventually returns to the physical plane through reincarnation. Others think the soul goes on, but on a different plane of existence than the one here on earth.
Relatively few people who have returned from near-death experiences describe their brush with death as frightening. Most describe the experience as soothing and forgiving. Others report a celebration of departed loved ones welcoming them.
In the days and weeks preceding death, many hospice workers and family members report the dying holding conversations with people not in the patients’ room — or at least, not people visible to others. Some talk to departed family members in their sleep, while others do so while otherwise lucid. Many dying patients will also reach their arms out as if they’re trying to grasp someone’s hands or embrace them.
It’s Not Just Medication
Some health professionals assert that the experiences dying patients have represent nothing more than side effects of various pain medications. However, people living in areas of the world where access to modern medicines and care run scarce still report similar experiences with their dying loved ones. These stories have existed long before Vicodin.
From a physiological standpoint, medical professionals report that as patients near death, their dreaming activity increases significantly, and dismiss near-death reports as nothing more than the brain’s way to brace itself against the inevitable. However, the link between dreams and death have flowed from the pens of literary greats as early as Shakespeare, who in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy asked, “…what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?” Many spiritualists and religious leaders consider dreams as portals for communication between this world and the next.
Given the prevalence and widespread reports of encountering deceased loved ones in life’s final hours, the refusal of some to entertain the thought that our soul goes on baffles believers. But the words of naysayers cannot erase the feelings of peace, forgiveness and love both the dying and their family members experience. Often for those who have had someone close to them pass, little doubt remains in their minds of the existence of the afterlife.
Finding Comfort in Life’s Final Hours
The experiences of those who have come near death and those who have watched their loved ones pass comforts more than just immediate family. Many of us can find solace in knowing that the human spirit’s journey may not end when the body draws its final breath. The idea of being reunited with passed loved ones, even if briefly, could make the transition to the next plane a reason for celebration, not despair, for many.