Hospice Workers' Stories

The afterlife is a distant, confusing notion to most. However, for workers who specialize in aiding dying patients, known as hospice caretakers, the afterlife is a far more solid place than a religious ideal or comforting dream for the dying. Visions of deceased relatives and angels are frequently debunked as the product of a dying brain. Yet, the sheer volume of reports of otherworldly experiences from the dying and the common ground they all share despite religious, cultural, and geographic differences raises questions and suggests these waking dreams are valid experiences, not mere hallucinations.

As Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon mentions in One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions, hospice workers are extraordinarily accustomed to deathbed visions. These can be experienced as glimpses of the afterlife or otherworldly sightings of angels and passed loved ones. However, how does one know that these visions are more than just chemical reactions that take place in the brain as death approaches or mere side effects of medications? Trudy Harris, author of Glimpses of Heaven: A Hospice Worker Tells of End of Life Experiences, an experienced hospice worker, explains how her patients' phenomenal stories caused her doubt to fade:

In the beginning when my patients were explaining these experiences to me, I was very skeptical. I began to hear the same stories over and over and over again…. After twenty plus years of caring for hundreds and hundreds of patients and hearing the same scene played out over and over and over again, the skepticism went away.

In Death-Bed Visions: The Psychical Experiences of the Dying, William Barrett states: “If these otherworldly visions were simply hallucinations, how could countless patient stories match? In fact, there have been several sightings of angels by dying children who were surprised to find their holy guides arrived without wings.” Hospice workers and doctor reports of their dying patients' visions from Europe, Asia, and the United States were found to have eerie similarities. Aside from minor religious differences, the deathbed visions of these patients were consistent.

Hospice is a set of specialized services emphasizing palliative rather than curative treatment to help patients and families cope with terminal illness. The patient and family are both included in the care plan by being provided a variety of services with quality rather than quantity of life as the main purpose.

CASE: KRISTINE

A young nurse new to the hospice field reported the personal, lifealtering experience of her first patient's death. Before the patient, an elderly woman suffering from terminal cancer, passed away, her primary nurse, Kristine, committed suicide. The woman was unaware that her nurse had passed away. Yet shortly before her death, she informed hospice workers that Kristine was standing by her bedside. Naturally, the young nurse and hospice workers were astounded and touched (Fawn, “Kristine RN Who Came Back After Death,” www.keen.com)

Facing Stigma

The stigma surrounding spiritual phenomena keeps numerous people silent about their otherworldly experiences. Elissa Al-Chokhachy defied societal reproach and commented about her personal experience as a hospice nurse of nearly two decades: “Originally, I thought it was really rare that people had these experiences of loved ones after they die…. I can now say it's quite common, but very few people talk about it. They don't want people to think they're crazy, and they're not even sure it's real or not.” Elissa has found that spiritual visions are so commonplace in hospice care that she wrote a novel detailing these experiences, titled Miraculous Moments: True Stories Affirming that Life Goes On.

Clearly this devoted hospice nurse and author has brought the myths surrounding deathbed visions into the light, granting them validity and allowing family members and healthcare workers to openly share their experiences.

“Spiritual Eyes and Ears”

Another hospice nurse, Trudy Harris, was inspired to write about the otherworldly events she witnessed working in palliative care after evidence of an afterlife surmounted her skepticism. Before delving into individual stories, Harris notes the eerie sense declining patients have about their impending fate: “No one has to tell them they are dying…. They have developed what I call ‘spiritual eyes and ears’ and seem to understand things in a way we cannot.” With such a vast amount of stories sharing common ground and inexplicable occurrences, many people find their uncertainty melt away.

Despite logical, scientific claims, one thing remains clear: hospice workers are witnesses to otherworldly events. Numerous healthcare workers who have had both the burden and blessing of working in hospice have observed the phenomenal experiences of their patients. What was previously thought to be hallucinations from a dying brain is brought into question as valid, true experiences and evidence of an afterlife.

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