New Book: ‘The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences’ (Updated)

New Book: ‘The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences’ (Updated)

Apr 12

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After The Daily Mail published three articles featuring excerpts from Dr. Penny Sartori’s new book, The Wisdom of Near Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully, they were inundated with near-death experience stories from their readers…

Our astonishing near-death stories… by some of the thousands of you touched by our thought-provoking series by an intensive care nurse
Daily Mail
January 28, 2014

Original Link

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Daily Mail January 2014 Series

(Excerpts from Dr. Penny Sartori’s new book, The Wisdom of Near Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully)

Is this proof near-death experiences ARE real? Extraordinary new book by intensive care nurse reveals dramatic evidence she says should banish our fear of dying
By Penny Sartori
Daily Mail
January 24, 2014

Original Link

People who’d experienced these strange and intense visions all seemed to be saying the same thing: death is nothing to fear. Could they be right, asks Penny Sartori.

Can you foresee the death of a loved one… and choose the exact moment you die? These accounts from an intensive care nurse will astonish you
By Penny Sartori
Daily Mail
January 27, 2014

Original Link

Penny Sartori reveals the stories of those who have foreseen the death of relatives — and how we may be able to control the timing of our own deaths.

The children who have near-death experiences — then lead charmed lives: Study reveals youngsters as young as six months can have lucid visions
By Penny Sartori
Daily Mail
January 28, 2014

Original Link

Intensive care nurse Penny Sartori reveals how children can have such experiences and how this can affect their lives.

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Excerpts from Dr. Penny Sartori’s new book:

Miraculous Healing

“This near-death experience had two significant effects on his life. First, Tom says, it completely removed any fear of dying.

“Even more extraordinary is what happened to his right hand, which had been frozen since birth into a claw-like position.

“(This had been noted on his hospital admission form, and his sister has since signed a statement confirming it.)

“Yet, in front of me, soon after his near-death experience, Tom opened and flexed that same hand. This should not have been physiologically possible, as the tendons had permanently contracted. What had caused this sudden, seemingly spontaneous healing? Even now, science has no answers.

“But when you study near-death experiences, as I have for the past couple of decades, you grow used to phenomena that defy all rational explanation…”

From the first article in the Daily Mail series

Shared-Death Experience

“…the extraordinary phenomenon known as ‘shared death experience’.

“This is admittedly rare, but two separate cases have been reported to me by relatives who were present at a deathbed.

“The first took place in 2004 in the north of England. A dying woman in her 70s was unconscious in a hospital, with her family around her bed. Her husband, Peter, and son, Harry, were holding her hands, and her daughter, Gail, had placed a hand on her forehead.

“Subsequently, I interviewed both Peter and Gail separately about what they’d seen. According to Peter, he suddenly noticed a bright light a little distance away. As he watched, a tall man stepped forward from the light with his hands outstretched. Then his unconscious wife seemed to rise from her bed and walk towards the man.

” ‘He was waiting there as if to give her a welcoming hug; there was a sense of peace and love,’ Peter recalled.

“His daughter, Gail, appears to have had a fuller experience of the same vision. ‘All of a sudden, I could see Mum walking into the distance on a path,’ she said. ‘Around her head was like a sun, and on her right-hand side, I could see the silhouette of some people.

” ‘[Then] I saw this tall person — I don’t know who he was. When she reached him, he took her into his arms as if in a warm embrace that was full of love.

” ‘Mum’s breaths got shallower. And then there were no further breaths and the scene disappeared.’

“Naturally, the family was devastated at their loss. But, unlike Harry, who’d seen nothing at all, father and daughter had what Peter described as ‘big smiles on our faces’…”

— From the second article in the Daily Mail series

Patients Control When They Will Die

“…conversations with invisible people aren’t the only signs that have been widely noted at the bedside of a dying person.

“Numerous reports by healthcare workers have recorded other bizarre phenomena, including: a change in temperature, a light around the body, the malfunctioning of electrical equipment and the stopping of clocks. There have also been incidents of glasses smashing — without human intervention — at the moment of death.

“In addition, I’ve come to realise during my 17 years as an intensive care staff nurse that some patients actually have control over the timing of their deaths.

“The first time I noticed this was one Sunday morning, when I was looking after an elderly woman called Jean Hunt. She’d been suffering from heart failure and her husband had visited her religiously every day for a week.

“Unused to being separated from Jean, who’d been chronically ill for ten years, he was very anxious. But, that morning, her condition was stable so he’d been persuaded to accompany his mother on a day trip.

“An hour after he left the ward, Jean’s blood pressure suddenly began to drop. She died not long afterwards, and we all blamed ourselves for encouraging her husband to go on the day trip.

“That’s when it occurred to me that Jean may have chosen her time of death. And, since then, I’ve known many patients to die while their families were taking ‘a quick break’.

“One I particularly remember is Sam, who was in his 80s. His family had been with him almost constantly for a week, and one day I suggested they have a break in the canteen. It was 2pm and they’d been keeping vigil since 8am.

“Within minutes of their departure, Sam was dying. I ran to fetch his family in the canteen, but he’d gone before we reached his bedside.

“Why would anyone deliberately choose to die alone? It may be that love is sometimes the only thing keeping a seriously-ill patient alive — and the absence of loved ones makes it easier to let go. I’m by no means the only person who’s noticed this. Hospice and palliative-care consultant Dr John Lerma has reported that 70 to 80 per cent of his patients waited for their loved ones to leave the room before dying.

“Some patients, on the other hand, appear to be waiting for a specific event to take place before they can permit themselves to die. This could be a wedding or birthday, or the arrival of an estranged family member.

“In one memorable case, a male patient was expected to die very soon, yet lingered for days longer than expected. Finally, he died on the day that a crucial insurance policy became valid, thus ensuring his wife was financially secure…”

— From the second article in the Daily Mail series

NDE Children Live Charmed Lives

“In the Eighties, Dr Melvin Morse — who worked at an American paediatric intensive care unit — decided to carry out research on children who’d had NDEs and see them again at regular intervals. The results were astonishing.

“Ten years on, his 30 childhood NDE survivors, many of whom had their visions when their hearts had stopped, appeared to be leading charmed lives. They were good at schoolwork, they were mentally stable, they had empathy for others and not one of them had become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“According to Dr Atwater’s own vast NDE data-base, child survivors are likely to have long-lasting relationships when they’re older — while people who have NDEs as adults, for some reason, have a higher divorce rate than average. In addition, the child survivors had lower blood pressure than average, and more sensitivity to light and sound.

“Intriguingly, their tolerance of prescription drugs decreased as they grew older.

“Dr Atwater also found that many considered themselves to be spiritual. However, their spirituality was often quite separate from the religion in which they’d been brought up.

“In a few cases, church ministers had actually complained that children who’d experienced NDEs were disruptive — because they had asked questions clerics had been unable to answer…”

From the third article in the Daily Mail series

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HUGE INTEREST IN NDES FOLLOWING SERIALIZATION OF MY BOOK THE WISDOM OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
By Dr. Penny Sartori
January 27, 2014

Original Link

I have had an overwhelming response since my book has been serialized in The Daily Mail (see below) on Saturday 25th January, Monday 27th January and another two articles planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. There have been many comments on the Daily Mail website and it is very encouraging to see so many people speaking so openly about their experiences.

It’s really great to see this really important subject being taken so seriously.

I just wanted to write a quick post to say thank you to everyone who has sent comments to the blog and emailed me in the past few days to share their experiences with me. I will reply to everyone but it may take some time as there are so many emails to read.

It may also take a while to reply to the comments on the blog as I have also been inundated with media requests but I will reply as soon as I can.

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Dr. Penny Sartori Links

Dr. Penny Sartori’s Website
Dr. Penny Sartori on Twitter
Wikipedia on Penny Sartori

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Wisdom of Near Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully
By Penny Sartori
Published on 2014-02-18

Book Description

Original Link

This book considers a wide range of experiences of dying patients that Dr. Sartori has encountered during her nursing career. It focuses on the near-death experiences (NDEs) of patients Dr. Sartori has nursed as well as the hundreds of cases of people who have contacted her over the years. Many people take NDEs at surface value and are mis-informed about the full extent of this highly complex phenomenon. This book examines all aspects of the NDE and Dr. Sartori emphasizes that by pathologising the NDE we are missing out on very important insights which can empower us to live fulfilled and meaningful lives.

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The results of her hospital research and that of others could not find a physiological or psychological explanation for these experiences and they can no longer be ignored or explained away. The crucial point of this book is that NDEs undoubtedly occur and have very real, often dramatic, life changing after effects. Further to that, the wisdom gained during the NDE can be life enhancing and have hugely positive effects on those who don’t have a NDE – all we have to do is take notice and hear what these people have to say.

A greater understanding of NDEs can not only enhance the way in which we care for dying patients but also revolutionize our current world view. This book encourages readers to take notice of and incorporate the wisdom and powerful message of NDEs into their own lives.

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Research on Near Death Experiences (NDE): 
The Findings and a Case from an Intensive Care Prospective Study
By Penny Sartori, Ph.D.
April 26-27, 2012
Bioethics Forum

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Is this proof near-death experiences ARE real?
Extraordinary new book by intensive care nurse reveals dramatic evidence she says should banish our fear of dying
By Penny Sartori
Daily Mail
January 24, 2014

Extracted from The Wisdom Of Near-Death Experiences by Dr Penny Sartori.

Original Link

As a nurse, I’m always cheered when I see a patient who appears to be making a good recovery. That certainly seemed the case with 60-year-old Tom Kennard, who’d been suffering from sepsis after surgery for cancer.

After a couple weeks in the intensive care ward, he was well enough to be moved from his hospital bed to a chair. Moments later, however, he suddenly slumped into unconsciousness.

There was no doubt at all that he was out cold. He responded neither to my urgent questions nor to the painful pressure of my Biro on his fingernails.

Worse still, his skin became clammy, his oxygen levels dropped and his blood pressure plummeted — clear signs that his condition had become critical.

As I quickly gave him extra oxygen, I called out to the other nurses in the intensive care unit. Four of them immediately flocked to Tom’s bedside, and we gently helped return him to his bed as we called for a doctor urgently.

He was still unresponsive when the doctor arrived, followed a few minutes later by a consultant.

Indeed, Tom didn’t regain full consciousness for another three hours.

Yet, during those three lost hours, he had apparently gone on a life-changing journey. His first sensation, he told me afterwards, was of ‘floating upwards to the top of the room. I looked down and I could see my body on the bed. It was lovely, so peaceful — and no pain at all.’

In the next moment, the hospital ward had disappeared and he’d entered a pink room, in which his father was standing next to a man with ‘long black scruffy hair and nice eyes.’ For a time, Tom talked telepathically with his father.

At some point, he became aware that something was touching him. Once again, he was back on the hospital ward ceiling — looking down at me and the doctor.

I was putting a lollipop-shaped instrument into his mouth to clean it, he recalled later.

He could also see a woman beyond the cubicle curtains, who kept twitching them to check on his condition.

Indeed, I can personally verify that everything Tom ‘saw’ while unconscious was 100 per cent accurate — down to the swab I used to moisten his mouth and the names of the consultant and of the physiotherapist lurking behind the curtains.

While all this was going on, Tom heard the man with the scruffy hair say: ‘He’s got to go back.’ This came as a blow: he remembers desperately wanting to stay.

Shortly after that, he told me, ‘I was floating backwards and went back into my body on the bed.’

His pain was excruciating, but he could still vividly recall how peaceful he had felt in that pink room. ‘Pen,’ he told me, ‘if that’s death, it’s wonderful.’

This near-death experience had two significant effects on his life. First, Tom says, it completely removed any fear of dying.

Even more extraordinary is what happened to his right hand, which had been frozen since birth into a claw-like position.

(This had been noted on his hospital admission form, and his sister has since signed a statement confirming it.)

Yet, in front of me, soon after his near-death experience, Tom opened and flexed that same hand. This should not have been physiologically possible, as the tendons had permanently contracted. What had caused this sudden, seemingly spontaneous healing? Even now, science has no answers.

But when you study near-death experiences, as I have for the past couple of decades, you grow used to phenomena that defy all rational explanation.

Take, for instance, the case of Fred Williams, a Swansea pensioner in his 70s who was suffering from the final stages of a terminal heart problem.

One night in hospital, he lost consciousness and we feared he was about to die.

But he somehow managed to keep his faltering grip on life. And when he eventually came to, I noticed at once that he looked very happy. My colleagues also remarked on this.

By the following morning, Fred had recovered sufficiently to see his anxious relatives.

To their astonishment, he told them that he’d been visited — while unconscious — by his mother and grandmother, both of whom were dead, as well as by his (living) sister. They’d just stood by his bedside, keeping vigil. ‘I couldn’t understand why my sister was there as well,’ he remarked.

Unknown to him, his sister had actually died the week before.

Fearing the news might jeopardise his recovery, his family had kept it from him. Poor Fred never learned the truth, and died a week later.

But possibly the most extraordinary case I know of personally is that of a Moroccan woman in her late 30s, who ran a clothes business.

In November 2009, Rajaa Benamour had an anaesthetic injection for minor surgery, after which she found herself mentally scrolling through her entire life, right back to her birth. This was followed by what she could only describe as a rapid review of the creation of the universe. After being discharged from hospital, she started trying to find books about what she’d learned during her vision.

Eventually, she realised that she had somehow acquired an in-depth understanding of quantum physics — despite never having previously known anything about the subject.

This motivated her to study the subject at university level.

The professor in charge of her studies was astounded. The knowledge she’d already acquired, he said, could not have come either from studying student textbooks or taking a quick course.

Stranger still, he was puzzled by some of her scientific theories — yet they’ve since been confirmed by papers published in physics journals.

As a staff nurse who’s worked in intensive care at British hospitals for 17 years, I’ve seen thousands of patients die.

Some were heavily drugged or hooked up to numerous machines; many were no longer able to speak.

Back in 1995, I began to wonder: is death so terrible that we must do everything in our power to delay it with powerful drugs and machines? What is death, anyway? What happens when we die? Why are we so afraid of it?

So I began reading about death — and eventually came across the concept of near-death experiences, or NDEs. People who’d experienced these strange and intense visions all seemed to be saying the same thing: death is nothing to fear. Could they be right? My scientific training told me that NDE’s were almost certain to be hallucinations. Or wishful thinking.

But, in the end, I decided to embark on a PhD on near-death experiences, while continuing to work in intensive care.

I began my eight-year study as a cynic. But by the time it ended, I was convinced that near-death experiences are a genuine phenomenon.

So what exactly is a near-death experience? At its simplest, it’s a clear and memorable vision that occurs when people are close to death — though only a small percentage of us will have one.

Researchers now agree that each vision will contain at least one of several recognised components, such as travelling down a tunnel towards a bright light, meeting dead relatives, or having an out-of-body experience.

As the person ‘leaves’ his body, he may hear a buzzing, whistling, whirring or humming sound, or a click. Another common component of NDEs is a beautiful garden with lush green grass and vividly coloured flowers. There may be a stream or river in the background. Some people enter the garden, while others reach a gate or barrier — and know that they’ll die if they go through it.

Throughout an NDE, hearing and sight become more acute, and awareness is heightened. Often, the experience has been described to me as ‘realer than real’.

Time ceases to have meaning. In many cases, it feels as if the vision has lasted for hours though the person may have been unconscious for only a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes, it feels as if time speeds up; sometimes it goes slower.

After I started talking in public about my own work, hundreds of NDE survivors started writing to me with their own personal tales — and all of them had similar elements.

Far from being attention-seekers, most of the people I interviewed had previously told only one or two people what had happened to them. Indeed, it’s often the case that people who’ve had NDEs are afraid of being ridiculed or disbelieved. Some who’ve reported an NDE have been misdiagnosed as having a psychiatric illness — often post-traumatic stress. And I know of one woman who was told she had unresolved emotional conflicts and ordered to take tranquilisers.

Yet NDEs are not a new phenomenon at all; they’ve been reported throughout history.

They also feature in some of the greatest books in history — including the Bible; The Republic, by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato; and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, an ancient religious text about the interval between life and rebirth. It’s only in the past few decades, however, that scientists have tried to discover what causes NDEs.

The most common theory is that they’re a quirk of the brain when it’s starved of oxygen. But this now seems extremely unlikely.

As oxygen levels reduce in the blood, the brain becomes increasingly disorientated, confused and disorganised. I’ve witnessed this happening many times. And I can assure you that when most patients regain consciousness, they’re usually dazed and bewildered.

This is in complete contrast to those who’ve had an NDE.

With great clarity, they report structured experiences that, in many cases, remain vivid in their minds for decades. In other words, not at all what one would expect from a disorganised brain with greatly reduced blood flow.

In any case, if near-death experiences are due to lack of oxygen, then all patients who had a cardiac arrest would have one.

In fact, they do seem more likely than anyone else to have an NDE — but even in this group, the experience is comparatively rare.
In my own study, for instance, just 17.9 per cent of people who survived a heart attack had been through an NDE.

Another nail in the oxygen theory is that two patients in my own study actually had blood extracted at the time of their near-death experience. Their oxygen levels were perfectly normal.

Could NDEs, instead, be a side-effect of high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, which can be another sign of approaching death? Again, unlikely.

Although patients with high carbon dioxide levels can have out-of-body experiences and feel euphoric, their muscles twitch and jerk spasmodically while this is happening. That does not occur during a near-death experience.

Are NDEs merely hallucinations caused by drugs? Clearly not — as 20 per cent of the patients in my sample, including Tom Kennard, had received no drugs at all.

Indeed, when I analysed my research, I found that pain-killing and sedative drugs, particularly at high levels, seem to make it less likely that a patient will have an NDE.

In other words, well-meaning doctors who over-sedate dying patients may be denying them a natural and comforting final vision.

Furthermore, I also interviewed 12 patients who’d had drug-induced hallucinations. These were random and often frightening — such as being chased and stabbed with needles by drug dealers — but they bore absolutely no relation to NDEs.

Another theory is that near-death experiences are caused by endorphins, the opiates made by the body itself. But long-distance runners have high levels of endorphins — and none of them have experiences comparable to NDEs.

Moreover, if the body releases endorphins when we die, you’d expect everyone close to death to have a near-death experience.

Nor is it at all likely that NDEs are merely a kind of wish fulfilment, as it is sometimes suggested.

Most occur when a patient is taken ill unexpectedly, rather than contemplating their own death — so the individual simply doesn’t have time to think about what’s happening.

One thing is clear: research has shown that near-death experiences often lead to a spiritual reappraisal.

Some people undoubtedly become more religious after experiencing one — in a few cases even training for the priesthood.

Others feel that their particular religion no longer adequately supports what was ‘revealed’ or felt during their NDE.

Regardless of what they believe, though, they generally become more considerate of others.

Marie-Claire Hubert, a nurse who had an NDE when she was hospitalised with meningitis, went through a tunnel and emerged to find dead family members, former patients and even long-dead pets.

Now, she says: ‘I know for certain we do meet our loved ones eventually. It’s made me a better person and I try to do at least five kind things a day for other people.’

For some, their experience of what has been described as ‘unconditional love’ makes them re-evaluate what they do with their lives.

Quite a few have actually retrained to become nurses or doctors or started doing voluntary work in a hospice.

Pam Williams from Swansea had an NDE when she haemorrhaged after childbirth. While unconscious, she ‘saw’ a doctor bang on her chest, breathe into her mouth and insert a needle into her heart.

‘All the time this was happening, I felt fine: full of joy, peaceful, gently floating towards brilliant light.

‘Suddenly, in the distance, I heard my eldest daughter shout, “Mam”. I remember thinking, ‘Oh dear, Jacquie needs me,’ and I came back with a jolt.

‘I’m not a religious person but I [now] believe there’s a warm, peaceful, beautiful place after death.’

At the time of her NDE, Pam was an uneducated miner’s wife with four children. Afterwards, she says, she felt ‘a need to help and support others’ — so she trained as a nurse and, ten years later, became a sister on the coronary-care unit of a hospital in Sheffield.

Two lesser-known after-effects of NDEs — reported by many researchers — are that some people develop a new sensitivity to electricity or have problems with their wristwatches. Sometimes they don’t even connect the fact that their watch can’t keep time — or stops altogether — with what they’ve been through.

When I started asking the people I was researching if they’d experienced this, I discovered that many had.

One was a nurse — a colleague who’d had an NDE — who told me she’d stopped wearing watches after her own experience as they invariably didn’t work.

Those who’d had particularly intense NDEs reported even more problems. One woman told me that she ‘blows’ light bulbs regularly when switching them on — so much so that this has become a standing joke in her family.

‘I’ve also been thrown backwards and right across a room several times when using or touching electrical appliances,’ she said.

Disturbing in a different way were accounts from people who’d developed psychic tendencies after having a near-death experience. One woman told me she could subsequently foresee ‘bad things’ that were going to happen, and even predict when people were going to die.

This has so traumatised her that she now rarely goes out — and then only when wearing headphones so that she can play loud music to distract her from her thoughts.

A colleague of mine who had a NDE at nine years old claims to have similar powers.

She says that ever since her vision, she’s been able to ‘read other people’s minds’ — which distresses her because she feels it’s morally wrong.

Can all these people — and the many more that I’ve interviewed — be delusional?

Or could there be far more to approaching death than scientists have ever acknowledged?

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Can you foresee the death of a loved one… and choose the exact moment you die? These accounts from an intensive care nurse will astonish you
By Penny Sartori
Daily Mail
January 26, 2014

Extracted from The Wisdom Of Near-Death Experiences by Dr Penny Sartori.

Original Link

Four years ago, children’s author Shelley E. Parker suddenly had a strong premonition that her fiancé was about to die. This made no sense at all. If anyone was going to die, it was more likely to be Shelley herself, as she was seriously ill with cancer.

But that night in hospital, her premonition was reinforced by a bizarre dream in which she met God.

She recalled every moment of it when she woke: how God had told her that it was time for Steven to go, and turned down her plea to take her instead.

At noon the next day, Steven, who was a helicopter pilot, was killed in a crash.

‘I now wonder whether I could have stopped him dying if I’d told him,’ says Shelley, 41, who lives in Farnworth, Lancashire. ‘But I don’t think I could have.’

There was no doubt in Shelley’s mind that she’d somehow tuned in to the future. Ten years before, she’d had another premonition — this time about a little girl. The healthy three-year-old was the child of friends and Shelley had seen her only a few times. One night, she had a ‘very vivid’ dream about her.

‘I was walking along a path and in front of me was this little girl with her auntie,’ Shelley recalled. ‘I’m not sure how accurate the image of the auntie was, as I’d never met her or seen photographs of her — I just knew that she’d died about 20 years previously.

‘The aunt said she was there to take the little girl to heaven. The child was dressed in pink and had a pink bucket and spade and glitter make-up on the side of her face. She was very happy and dancing around.

‘I woke up the next day and felt really unsettled. I thought about phoning the little girl’s father but then thought better of it, trying to rationalise that it was just a dream. That feeling of anxiety lasted all day.’

That evening, Shelley went to dinner with relatives. At one point, she glanced at her watch. It was 10.10pm.

‘Suddenly, all of the unsettled feeling and anxiety just fell away and I thought: at last I’m starting to relax.’

The next day, she learned that the little girl had died the night before — soon after 10pm. The cause of her death was a mystery.

Should we dismiss Shelley’s premonitions — and many others I’ve been told — as macabre coincidences? Or could they be a genuine phenomenon, experienced far more than people imagine?

Consider the case of Janice Wright, a British woman who was visiting friends in Virginia, USA. In the middle of the night, she told me, she’d suddenly snapped wide awake.

In her bedroom was her childhood nanny, whom she hadn’t seen in years, though they still corresponded.

‘In real life, she was well over 80,’ said Janice. ‘But in the vision, she was ageless and surrounded by an immensely bright light. She smiled at me, put her hand out and telepathically told me all was well.

‘I was shocked and stayed awake. The next morning, I told my hosts I thought my old nanny had died.

‘Later that day, a cousin called from England to tell me that’s exactly what had happened.’

How can we explain such accurate premonitions? Sadly, science has not even begun to find answers.

Similarly, no scientific theory has yet come close to explaining why a few people have near-death experiences — which can include visions of tunnels, bright lights and meetings with dead relatives.

Indeed, that was one of the problems facing me when I embarked on a PhD on the subject. Throughout my research, I was also working as a nurse in the intensive care ward of a British hospital. I was therefore able to learn at firsthand about some of the seemingly inexplicable events that can occur just before death.

To my mind, however, it’s too easy to label these as paranormal or supernatural.

Instead, I’m increasingly open to the possibility that our brains are separate from our consciousness. In other words, the brain may be channelling what some people call the soul, rather than responsible for creating it.

As a theory, it deserves scientific investigation. If proved, it would explain, for instance, why enhanced consciousness can be experienced separately from the body. And it would also help account for the extraordinary phenomenon known as ‘shared death experience’.

This is admittedly rare, but two separate cases have been reported to me by relatives who were present at a deathbed.

The first took place in 2004 in the north of England. A dying woman in her 70s was unconscious in a hospital, with her family around her bed. Her husband, Peter, and son, Harry, were holding her hands, and her daughter, Gail, had placed a hand on her forehead.

Subsequently, I interviewed both Peter and Gail separately about what they’d seen. According to Peter, he suddenly noticed a bright light a little distance away. As he watched, a tall man stepped forward from the light with his hands outstretched. Then his unconscious wife seemed to rise from her bed and walk towards the man.

‘He was waiting there as if to give her a welcoming hug; there was a sense of peace and love,’ Peter recalled.

His daughter, Gail, appears to have had a fuller experience of the same vision. ‘All of a sudden, I could see Mum walking into the distance on a path,’ she said. ‘Around her head was like a sun, and on her right-hand side, I could see the silhouette of some people.

‘[Then] I saw this tall person — I don’t know who he was. When she reached him, he took her into his arms as if in a warm embrace that was full of love.

‘Mum’s breaths got shallower. And then there were no further breaths and the scene disappeared.’

Naturally, the family was devastated at their loss. But, unlike Harry, who’d seen nothing at all, father and daughter had what Peter described as ‘big smiles on our faces’.

‘There’d been such sadness leading up to my wife’s death — then this [vision] happened,’ he said. ‘The nurses and ward sister must have thought we were very insensitive because we felt this sense of elation and happiness.’

In the second case, a woman in her 40s called Laura was holding her mother’s hand as she started slipping into a coma. Then, suddenly, Laura said, her mother rose from her bed and began walking away. After just one pace, though, she turned around.

‘She looked so happy and well,’ said Laura. ‘Then she said: “Go back now — it’s not your turn.”‘

When Laura next looked at her mother on the bed, she was in a deep coma. She died three days later, without regaining consciousness.

I’ve since been told of several such experiences. What makes them particularly fascinating is that they can’t simply be dismissed by cynics as the product of a malfunctioning brain.

Why? Because, unlike conventional near-death experiences, they happen to people who aren’t close to death themselves.

But what about Laura and Gail’s mothers — the people who actually died? Were they, too, experiencing the vision? Evidence from other cases seems to suggest they were. My first encounter with deathbed visions in hospital was when I was a student nurse arriving for a morning shift.

‘Billy’s in bed six — he’s been talking to his dead mother since three o’clock this morning,’ said the night-shift nurse. ‘He’ll be gone by the end of the day.’

After the handover, I kept my eye on Billy Jones, who was 78. He appeared to be asleep, but throughout the morning, he was making gestures to some invisible person and seemed to be speaking to his mother.

The last time I saw him, he was asleep with a big smile on his face. He died a few hours later.

This was my first encounter with death in a hospital — and it wasn’t long before I, too, could sometimes predict when patients were about to die. Like Billy, they’d start calling out and gesturing to some invisible presence.

Sometimes, a patient is able to describe his vision before dying. A hospice nurse in Wales told me about a 65-year-old man, Ernest, who kept seeing people he knew to be dead at his bedside.

The medical team put this down to hallucinations and reduced his medication — but it made no difference. The figures kept appearing.

In the end, the hospice staff seemed more concerned about them than he was. According to Ernest, he felt no fear yet knew perfectly well that his visitors signified approaching death.

I imagine that this is what my own paternal grandfather must have felt. In the days leading up to his death 18 years ago, he often used to point to the doorway and whisper: ‘Look who’s here — they’re at the door.’ He told my grandmother that his dead father had been visiting him. But whenever he tried to talk to her about this, she’d have to walk out of the room.

She knew that the vision presaged imminent death and she didn’t want him to see her upset.

Older generations, who had far more experience of seeing loved ones die at home, often knew all about death-bed visions and what they signified. Indeed, they have been documented since Victorian times.

More recently, in the 1970s, death-bed visions were the subject of a large survey conducted in both the U.S. and India. This concluded that patients usually died within two to five days of the start of a vision.

Other research suggests that such visions result in a peaceful acceptance of death — whereas drug-induced hallucinations tend to cause anxiety or confusion.

But conversations with invisible people aren’t the only signs that have been widely noted at the bedside of a dying person.

Numerous reports by healthcare workers have recorded other bizarre phenomena, including: a change in temperature, a light around the body, the malfunctioning of electrical equipment and the stopping of clocks. There have also been incidents of glasses smashing — without human intervention — at the moment of death.

In addition, I’ve come to realise during my 17 years as an intensive care staff nurse that some patients actually have control over the timing of their deaths.

The first time I noticed this was one Sunday morning, when I was looking after an elderly woman called Jean Hunt. She’d been suffering from heart failure and her husband had visited her religiously every day for a week.

Unused to being separated from Jean, who’d been chronically ill for ten years, he was very anxious. But, that morning, her condition was stable so he’d been persuaded to accompany his mother on a day trip.

An hour after he left the ward, Jean’s blood pressure suddenly began to drop. She died not long afterwards, and we all blamed ourselves for encouraging her husband to go on the day trip.

That’s when it occurred to me that Jean may have chosen her time of death. And, since then, I’ve known many patients to die while their families were taking ‘a quick break’.

One I particularly remember is Sam, who was in his 80s. His family had been with him almost constantly for a week, and one day I suggested they have a break in the canteen. It was 2pm and they’d been keeping vigil since 8am.

Within minutes of their departure, Sam was dying. I ran to fetch his family in the canteen, but he’d gone before we reached his bedside.

Why would anyone deliberately choose to die alone? It may be that love is sometimes the only thing keeping a seriously-ill patient alive — and the absence of loved ones makes it easier to let go. I’m by no means the only person who’s noticed this. Hospice and palliative-care consultant Dr John Lerma has reported that 70 to 80 per cent of his patients waited for their loved ones to leave the room before dying.

Some patients, on the other hand, appear to be waiting for a specific event to take place before they can permit themselves to die. This could be a wedding or birthday, or the arrival of an estranged family member.

In one memorable case, a male patient was expected to die very soon, yet lingered for days longer than expected. Finally, he died on the day that a crucial insurance policy became valid, thus ensuring his wife was financially secure.

Even people who appear to be incapable of understanding what’s happening to them can regain some control on their deathbeds.

Recently, researchers in Britain and Germany have started investigating reports of people with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease or dementia suddenly becoming coherent just before they die.

This case comes directly from a good friend.

‘My mother, Peggy, while in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, was no longer able to converse with any coherency at all,’ said Lyon White, who lives in Sussex. ‘Her conversation consisted of what could only be described as ‘gobbledygook.’

As Peggy’s condition deteriorated, she had to be admitted to hospital. One day, Lyon heard her speaking as he entered the ward. She was having a conversation with her father, a much-loved policeman in Kent who’d been murdered while on duty. Among the things she told him was that she knew that her husband — also deceased — had loved her very much.

Lyon was astounded. It had been a long time since his mother had even been able to form a word, let alone a sentence. But as soon as he interrupted her vision, she once again lost the power to speak.

Why do such remarkable events occur at the end of life? Naturally, some of the people who’ve witnessed them invoke religion and the after-life. But, equally, many remain agnostic.

Whatever our beliefs, we should keep an open mind. And when death comes — as it must — it may not be as fearful as we imagine.

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RELATED LINKS:

Dr. Penny Sartori Website
• Dr. Penny Sartori on Twitter
Wikipedia on Penny Sartori

• NDE Articles on Pulse
• How Near-Death Experiences Are Changing The World
What Near-Death Experiences Teach Us
• The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth
The Light & The Life Review (v4.4, pdf)
The Essence of Near-Death Experiences In 8.5 Minutes
The Power of Prayer
Heavenly Humor
Angels
Shared Death Experiences
When Loved Ones & Friends Pass From This World To The Next
NDEs Absolutely, Positively NOT Caused By Malfunctioning Brains
NDEs & Hell
Historical & Cross-Cultural Near-Death Experiences
All About Emanuel Swedenborg
Celebrity Near-Death Experiences
• NDE Stories
• NHNE’s Collection of NDE Testimonials – Archive One
• NHNE’s Collection of NDE Testimonials – Archive Two
• NDE Take-Aways
• The Mustard Seed Venture – NewHeaveNewEarth Community Center
• NHNE NDE Social Network
• NHNE NDE on Facebook
• NHNE NDE on Google+
• NHNE NDE on Twitter
• NHNE NDE Bookstore

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