Dealing With Death - Reasons For Joy
By Patrick Delroony
People from every culture, religion, and time period
have always embraced a belief in life after death. It is
a belief that can be very comforting as we struggle to
cope with the loss of our loved ones and the approach
our own death. I recently had an unusual experience
while caring for my dying uncle that has tremendously
reinforced my belief that life is never extinguished.
My uncle had been battling several serious medical
problems for several years, and had been hospitalized
many times. During his final admission to the hospital,
his medical team concluded that there was nothing more
that medicine can do, and that my uncle's death was only
a few weeks away.
My family honored my uncle's request to die at home. We
committed to taking shifts caring for him around the
clock, and enrolled in a program that offered a daily
visit from a hospice nurse.
On one of her visits, the nurse gathered the family to
warn us about something we might observe. She told us
that sometimes when patients experience the kind of
gradual death that my uncle was facing, it is not
unusual for them to begin having conversations with
unseen visitors. She explained that some patients enter
a transitional phase where they seem to be straddling
the door between this world and the next, with one foot
in each realm. She told us that this was common and
natural, and not to be frightened by it.
Several days passed uneventfully until I witnessed that
exact scenario during one of my shifts. My uncle was in
a recliner dozing in and out of consciousness when he
suddenly lifted his head, opened his eyes wide, and
fixed his gaze on one spot in the room. He began
speaking to someone.
I asked him who he was speaking to, and he replied that
it was Frank. Frank was a deceased friend of the family.
I tried to ask more questions, but my uncle seemed very
annoyed with my interruption. He insisted that I remain
I certainly could not see or hear the visitor, but my
uncle seemed to be listening intently. He asked the
unseen visitor three questions. What job? What do you
mean my job is not finished? How much longer?
The experience was very brief, but it made a very
powerful impression on me. It left me with three
thoughts about death. First, the visit from my uncle's
deceased friend reinforced my existing belief that death
destroys a body, not a life, and it does not destroy our
I was also deeply moved by the reference to my dying
uncle having a job that must be completed. From the
perspective of the spiritual realm, there is meaning,
value, and purpose to all of our human experiences,
including our illnesses and death.
The third thought I had about this experience was the
realization that regardless of the circumstances
surrounding a death, nobody ever really dies alone. A
dying person is in the company of loved ones who have
preceded them in passage across the veil that separates
this life from the next. They will be in our presence to
guide us through the transition and welcome us to our
These thoughts can offer us the joyful hope of a future
reunion with our loved ones. However, that hope for a
future meeting can still leave us feeling empty in the
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