Messages From and To the Dying
My mother’s dementia was progressing. She was acting different. Saying she could see the children lining up, she could see her mother. She would point to where they were standing, lining up, or hanging out. With dementia, her sentence structure was jumbled but when she spoke about the children and her mother she had complete clarity of mind and speech. I sensed that she was preparing for death. I don’t know how I knew. I guessed that the comments that were said calmly and clearly seemed to come from a different part of her.
While speaking to a friend about these experiences, she told me to read Final Gifts. Final Gifts, written by Hospice Workers, Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, noticed when people where close to death they went thru a process. The authors wrote the book to help friends and families of the dying to understand the process and interpret the messages of the dying.
I would love to tell you that I ran out and bought Final Gifts upon the recommendation, but I didn’t. Weeks went by, until I finally called the library to locate the book. With spirit and luck on my side, it arrived the day before a large snowstorm which allowed me to curl up and read for an extended period. I quickly learned that my hunch was correct about my mother making plans for her next journey.
Let’s start with Chapter One. The first chapter, “It’s Time to Get in Line”, are almost the exact words my mother said when startled out of a nap. I was sitting next to her in a common room at the nursing home, while she and another man napped. Without a sound present, they simultaneously woke up with wide eyed expressions. The man was unable to speak but my mother explained, “She needed to get in line.” She wasn’t alarmed. Her speech was crystal clear. Callanan and Patricia say this is a common signal that death is near. It gives the dying and the friends and family of the dying an opportunity to heal, have overdue and much needed conversations, share loving and meaningful stories, and make plans and create instructions for the living. What a gift to understand this message and act upon it.
Another day, while having a repetitive conversation like one does with a dementia patient, my mother suddenly became quiet and stared into the distance. With complete clarity she said, “There is my mother.” while pointing toward what I can only assume was my grandmother, my mother’s mother. I couldn’t see anyone or anything but by the curious and clear look in my mother’s eye she saw her mother. In Chapter Seven, Being in the Presence of Someone Not Alive, the authors delicately and clearly speak about how the dying will see people who have passed on. It’s believed that the dying person is interacting with passed family members, friends, pets, or angels, or even spiritual leaders. During these interactions the dying person is calm, happy even. That was true of my mother’s experience. Besides speaking of seeing her mother often and pointing her out to me, she would mention the children who were lining up. She smiled when she saw them. I wished I could have seen what she was witnessing.