Smoke or mist leaving the body
There have been reports of individuals seeing a mist or a smoke like substance leave the body when someone dies. To date there is no definitive report about the frequency of these occurrences. These occurrences have been seen by family and friends at the bedside of the dying person and also by health professionals. On occasion two people have witnessed this incidence at the same time. Reports of this smoke or mist leaving the body during an NDE have not been recorded. It may be this does not occur during a temporary cardiac arrest or other severe illness or it has not yet been observed and reported.
A woman reported at the time of her husband’s death, seeing him lift his arms toward the ceiling as he saw hands reaching down for him. At the moment of death, she saw a mist leave his body and move upward (Lawrence, 1997).
A physician on a golf course went over to help a man who apparently had had a heart attack. At the moment of death he saw something like smoke or a white form separate from the body. He had not seen any such occurrence before (Fenwick and Fenwick, 2008, p. 161).
This is also a phenomena that has been reported for decades. William Barrett in his book, Death Bed Visions, originally published in 1926, described several instances of a vision of mist leaving the body of a dying person. In one case a shared experience occurred. A dignitary of the Church and his wife both saw what they described as a ‘delicate veil or mist’ leave the body of their son as his breathing ceased (Barrett, 2011, p. 83).
Besides seeing this vapor or mist leave the body at the time of death, there are other indications of something barely visible leaving the body at the time of a person’s death. A daughter reported being with her father, who was a hospice patient, collapsing in her arms as he prepared to go out for a doctor’s visit. He was completely dressed and had put on his transition (Photo chromatic) glasses which were clear in the house because of the low light. At the moment of her father’s death, his transition glasses turned from clear to dark as if being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light (Lawrence, 2010).
Radiant faces, the presence of light and a burst of energy
Hospice professionals and family members report some patients’ faces develop a glow at the time of death. This radiance changes the patient’s look to a much younger age. This is a report of this experience by Donnelly & Battley (2010).
As a patient begins the dying process, it is not unusual for that person to look up and raise his or her hands. Lawrence & Repede (2013) analyzed 60 hospice charts in which they found three (5%) of the retrieved charts with descriptions of patients raising their hands at the time of death. In one case the following notation was found: “Twenty-three minutes before death the patient opened his eyes and raised his arms up - arms fell and then patient expired (p. 634).” The researchers also surveyed 75 hospice nurses. Sixty-five said they had seen or heard from family members in the previous 30 days that the patients had raised their hands before dying. The hospice nurses each saw or heard about at least three patients a month raising their hands at the time of death.
In a separate report, (2010) Lawrence illustrates this phenomena in conjunction with post near-death experience and the mist leaving the body. A man who had had a near-death experience eight years before was now on a hospice program dying from cancer. The NDE was not related to the cancer diagnosis. The man was not afraid to die: in fact he said “I can’t wait because I know I will feel that wonderful feeling of love again.” His wife was with him when he died. He raised his hands toward the hands he saw coming down toward him. As he died, his wife saw mist leave his body with his final breath.
Shared death experiences and veridical perceptions
On occasion a dying person will hear music. There have been instances during which a family member or friend present in the room will also hear the music. When one or more people have the same transpersonal experience it is referred to as a shared death experience.
Barrett (2011) described the following incident.
Just after dear Mrs. L’s death between 2 and 3 am, I heard a most sweet and singular strain of singing outside the windows; it died away after passing the house. All in the room (except Mr. L.) heard it, and the medical attendant, who was still with us, went to the window, as I did and looked out, but there was nobody. It was a bright and beautiful night. It was as if several voices were singing in perfect unison a most sweet melody which died away in the distance. Two persons had gone from the room to fetch something and were coming upstairs at the back of the house and hear the singing and stopped, saying, ‘What is that singing?’ They could not naturally, have heard any sound from outside the windows in the front of the house from where they were at the back (p. 76).
There are many incidences of those individuals who are near-death, out-of-body, having near-death visits, deathbed communications and after death communications experience events they could not have known about given the location or physical condition of their body. Sabom (Sabom, 1982 ) studied reports of descriptions of resuscitation procedures by those who had a cardiac arrest and reported an NDE compared to those with no NDE. The patients with an NDE were more accurate describing resuscitation events at a statistically significant level.
A patient with an out-of-body experience described the nurses’ break room at night when the nurses were making popcorn. A man who had a near-death visit reported seeing his deceased mother and sister at the foot of his bed. He had not been told his sister had died (Lawrence, 1997).
Shared after-death communication
ADCs typically occur to one person at a time. On occasion, more than one individual is able to see a deceased person at the same time. Here is an example of a sister and sister-in-law seeing a deceased person at the same time. What is unusual about this occurrence is they both noticed he no longer walked with a limp.
During his memorial service, I looked out the window and saw Donald walking towards the church! His body was not solid, and I could see the trees behind him. He looked a bit younger and seemed to be whole – and he didn’t have his limp anymore! He was wearing a plaid shirt that he liked and a pair of trousers. He looked very peaceful and happy, like he was out for a stroll. Donald walked up to the window as if to beckon me to come with him. Then he just disappeared. After the service my sister-in-law, Joyce, said, “Did you see Donald?” I was quite surprised and said, “Yes!” She said, “I saw him too!” (Guggenheim, 1995, pp. 289-290).
Choosing the time of death
Our understanding of death is that it occurs because of changes in the functioning of the body to the degree it is no longer life sustaining, like severe hemorrhage, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure. Most often our biological paradigm explains the cause and time of death. Often times, though, people who are terminally ill and imminently dying, exhibit some control over the actual time they die.
Sometimes a dying person will wait for someone to be present to die. Sometimes the opposite happens – they wait until everyone leaves their room to die.
Spouses who die soon after the other
There are numerous accounts of couples who have died shortly, usually within six months, of each other (Salkeld, 2011; Kindela, 2013; Sims, 2009; Ruiz, 2013). Some of these reports involved an unexpected death and others from terminal illnesses. The explanation for these deaths range from the spiritual intertwining of souls to extreme grief response.
Most doctors and scientists believe the healthier spouse’s death is due to the physical stress of losing a loved one. The phenomena has been romanticized somewhat by referring to it as the Broken Heart Syndrome, more professionally known as Takatsubo cardiomyopathy. Severe stress, particularly in postmenopausal women, can result in the left ventricle of the heart taking on a balloon-like appearance. This is a treatable and reversible condition (Nykamp & Titak, 2010). It is extremely important the surviving spouse be provided comfort, support and medical care. Grief can be physiologically devastating as well as psychologically so.