Through the visions
and experiences common to all dying people,
you will learn more about the spiritual
journey that begins with death. According
to recent studies, only about 10% of people
are conscious shortly before their death.
Of this group, 50% to 67% have DBVs. The
following are excerpts from Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon's
excellent book, One Last Hug Before I Go,
reprinted by permission. Also included are
Melvin Morse's book,
Parting Visions, his research on DBVs.
can be found in the literature and lore
of all ages, they were rarely mentioned
in the scientific literature until the late
1920's when they were studied by
Sir William Barrett, a physics professor
at the Royal College of Science in Dublin.
He would never have considered examining
such a topic had it not been for an experience
told to him by his wife, an obstetrical
surgeon. On the night of January 12, 1924,
she arrived home from the hospital eager
to tell her husband about a case she had
had that day.
She had been called
into the operating room to deliver the child
of a woman named Doris (her last name was
withheld from the written report). Although
the child was born healthy, Doris was dying
from a hemorrhage. As the doctors waited
helplessly next to the dying woman, she
began to see things. As Lady Barrett tells
she looked eagerly towards part
of the room, a radiant smile
illuminating her whole countenance.
lovely, lovely," she said.
asked, "What is lovely?"
I see," she replied in low,
do you see?"
brightness - wonderful beings."
It is difficult to describe the sense of
reality conveyed by her intense absorption
in the vision. Then - seeming to focus her
attention more intently on one place for
a moment - she exclaimed, almost with a
kind of joyous cry:
it's Father! Oh, he's so glad
I'm coming; he is so glad. It
would be perfect if only W.
(her husband) would come too."
baby was brought for her to see. She looked
at it with interest, and then said:
you think I ought to stay for
turning toward the vision again, she said:
- I can't stay; if you could
see what I do, you would know
I can't stay."
story thus far was compelling, skeptics
could still argue that it was nothing more
than a hallucination due to lack of blood
or triggered by fear of death. Indeed Sir
William Barrett may have made that very
point to his wife. Then he heard the rest
of the story. It seems that the sister of
Doris, Vida, had died only three weeks earlier.
Since Doris was in such delicate condition,
the death of her beloved sister was kept
a secret from her. That is why the final
part of her deathbed vision was so amazing
She spoke to
her father, saying:
"I am coming," turning at
the same time to look at me,
saying, "Oh, he is so near."
looking at the same place again, she said
with a rather puzzled expression:
has Vida with him," turning
again to me saying, "Vida is
she said, "You do want me, Dad;
I am coming."
all this have merely been wish fulfillment
expressed in the form of a hallucination?
Barrett considered such an explanation,
but he rejected it because among
the apparitions of the dead was
someone whom Doris had not expected
to see. Her sister, Vida, had died
three weeks before. This explains
why Doris was a bit surprised when
she saw her sister. This story was
so inspirational to Barrett that
he undertook a systematic study
of deathbed visions. His was the
first scientific study to conclude
that the mind of the dying patient
is often clear and rational. He
also reported a number of cases
in which medical personnel or relatives
present shared the dying patient's
of Sir William Barrett did not contribute
to the theory that these visions
were a form of wish fulfillment.
In fact the deathbed vision often
did not portray the type of afterlife
the dying expected. For example,
Barrett reported several children
who were disappointed to see angels
with no wings. In one such case
he described a dying girl who sat
up suddenly in her bed and said,
"Angels, I see angels." Then the
girl was puzzled. "Why aren't they
wearing wings?" If deathbed visions
were simply a fantasy of the mind,
says Barrett, why did this little
girl see something different from
was an eleven-year-old patient of
Melvin Morse who was dying of lymphoma.
In his last days, he was hospitalized
with severe, untreatable pneumonia.
Though he was having difficulty
breathing and was in constant pain,
he was given very few drugs such
as morphine and Valium because they
made breathing more difficult.
days before John died, a circle
of loved ones gathered around his
bed. They were startled when John
suddenly sat upright and announced
that Jesus was in the room. He then
asked for everyone to pray for him.
three a.m., John sat up again, startling
the four people who had gathered
around the bed to pray.
"There are beautiful
colors in the sky!"
he shouted. "There are
beautiful colors and
more colors. You can
double jump up here,
a.m. an extraordinary event occurred.
They were joined by a woman who
said that she had received a strong
premonition that she had to visit
John right away. She was not known
to John's parents, but her son was
a playmate of John's. She had no
explanation for why she would suddenly
visit John at four a.m. except to
explain that she had had a vivid
dream about John and had felt a
need to visit him that was overpowering.
it seemed that life was almost over
for John. His breathing was labored,
and his heart was pounding like
that of a marathon runner's. Even
then, little John had more to communicate.
Opening his eyes wide, he asked
his grieving parents to "let me
"Don't be afraid,"
he said. "I've seen
God, angels, and shepherds.
I see the white horse."
As sick as he was, John still begged
his family not to feel sorry for
him. He had seen where he was going,
and it was a joyous and wondrous
"It's wonderful. It's
beautiful," he said,
his hand held out in
front of him.
Soon he laid back and fell asleep.
John never regained consciousness
and died two days later.
John's visions and the incidents
surrounding them intrigued Dr. Morse.
John's mother believes that through
God's mediation, John communicated
with his friend's mother. Although
she knew he had been hospitalized,
it was during the period of his
most powerful visions that she had
her vision of John. Although Dr.
Morse has nothing scientific to
base it on, Dr. Morse believes coincidence
was too great for these periods
of vision activity not to be connected
in some way.
deathbed account was told to Melvin
Morse by a physician in Utah.
A five-year-old boy was in a
coma, dying from a malignant brain
tumor. He had been in the coma for
three weeks and was surrounded almost
the entire time by his family. They
encircled his bed and prayed constantly
for his recovery, taking only brief
breaks to eat and rest.
the end of the third week, the pastor
of the family's church came into
the hospital room and told them
a remarkable story. He'd had a dream,
he said, in which the boy told him:
"It's my time to die.
You must tell my parents
to quit praying. I am
supposed to go now."
The pastor was nervous about delivering
this message to the family. Still,
he said, it was a message too vivid
"It's as though he was
right there in the room,
talking to me face to
The family members accepted the
minister's dream as a message from
their son. They prayed, they touched
his comatose body, and they told
him that he would be missed, but
he had permission to die.
the boy regained consciousness.
He thanked his family for letting
him go and told them he would be
dying soon. He died the next day.
the most important aspect of this
story is its cathartic nature. This
family was allowed to assuage its
grief because they knew that their
son was ready to die. Their resentment
of life's process and of God's will
was replaced by the assurance that
something mystical had taken place.
report comes from Carla Wills-Brandon's
research and provides us with a
beautiful example of how medical
personnel can use these visions
to positively assist in the dying
Our son passed over on August 4,
1997. I believe he did have deathbed
visions. The first one happened
after he had a seizure. His heart
stopped, and after he came back
to life, he seemed all right. But
then he looked at me and said:
"Mom, what happened
I didn't want to scare him, so I
told him he had fainted. He replied:
"Whatever happened to
me was wonderful! It
felt so good! I liked
When my husband visited with the
doctor he told him what our son
had said. The doctor said to him:
"You do know that what
your son experienced
was a near-death experience."
the second vision took place, my
son had been unconscious for over
an hour. Suddenly, he sat up in
an upright position! This happened
very quickly. We were so shocked,
we didn't say a word to him. We
thought, "My God, he came out of
it!" so we just sat and stared.
toward the foot of his bed and then
up. He was looking as though he
were seeing more than one person.
He turned his head slightly from
side to side. The look on his face
was like he was confused with what
he was staring at. Then, after a
few minutes, he laid back down and
looked very peaceful. He returned
to his unconscious state and at
this point all we could do was hold
him. Not long after that, our son
went into cardiac arrest and passed