Deathbed Visions Research of Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon 

Carla Wills-Brandon photoDeathbed visions (DBVs) are a different phenomenon than after-death visitations. After-death visitations are visions of deceased loved one(s) by people who are not near death. DBVs usually occur when someone is very close to death and they see visions of deceased loved ones who greet them to help the dying make the transition of death. These experiences can even take the form of a near-death experience. DBVs can occur even days before a person dies. Many terminally ill people will experience these visitations to help prepare them for when they cross over to the other side. DBVs also occur to family members in the vicinity of a dying loved one to reassure them that their dying loved one will be safe and will live on. Carla Wills-Brandon ( has researched, in depth, the universal phenomenon of the DBV and has included her findings in her book, One Last Hug Before I Go. Complete with her own personal encounters, and those of numerous other DBV experiencers, this revolutionary work explores DBVs throughout history, from ancient Egypt to modern-day America.

 Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Early Examples of Deathbed Visions
3. John's Preview of Heaven
4. It's My Time To Die
5. It Felt So Good 

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  1. Introduction

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 examples from Melvin Morse's book, Parting Visions, his research on DBVs.

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 2. Early Examples of Deathbed Visions

Although 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 it:

Suddenly she looked eagerly towards part of the room, a radiant smile illuminating her whole countenance.
"Oh, lovely, lovely," she said.
I asked, "What is lovely?"
"What I see," she replied in low, intense tones.
"What do you see?"
"Lovely 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:

"Why, 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."

Her baby was brought for her to see. She looked at it with interest, and then said:

"Do you think I ought to stay for baby's sake?"

Then, turning toward the vision again, she said: 

"I can't - I can't stay; if you could see what I do, you would know I can't stay."

Although the 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 to Barrett.

She spoke to her father, saying:

"I am coming," turning at the same time to look at me, saying, "Oh, he is so near."

On looking at the same place again, she said with a rather puzzled expression: 

"He has Vida with him," turning again to me saying, "Vida is with him."
Then she said, "You do want me, Dad; I am coming."

Could 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 vision.

The work 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 her expectations?

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  3. John's Preview of Heaven
John 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.

Three 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.

At about 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, double jump!"

At four 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.

By dawn, 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 go." 

"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 place.

"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.

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  4. It's My Time To Die
The following 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.

At 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 to ignore. 

"It's as though he was right there in the room, talking to me face to face."

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.


Suddenly, 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.

Perhaps 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.

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  5. It Felt So Good
The following 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 process.


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 to me?"

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 that!"

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."

When 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.

He looked 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 on.

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