reply to post by Gregandgemma
In response to your OP:
A family-member worked in an aged-care home many years ago, when we were both quite young. She was my first source of information about death and
told me that many usually-cantankerous or depressed patients wore beatific smiles when discovered dead. Back then, death wasn't a topic of polite
conversation and there were few if any books readily available, so what she said was a revelation.
She also told me, in awed tones, that some patients who'd lain basically unresponsive for weeks or even months, seemed to be happy and talking to
'invisible people', shortly before they died. This information was my first inkling, basically, that people didn't just 'stop living' in the
manner of movie deaths. I was intrigued.
Decades later, at another function, I was introduced to a woman who'd apparently had a long career as a nurse. By this time, I'd read several books
about death/dying and took the opportunity to ask if patients did see (and or were comforted by) deceased friends and family as their own death
The nurse immediately brushed any such suggestion aside. She very coldly informed me in the most absolute of tones that she had never, in all her
nursing experience, seen anything to support such a suggestion. Then with an odd smile, she took another drink and moved away. I've never known
what to make of that woman. I nodded politely, but decided I didn't believe her .. basically because she appeared to me to derive satisfaction from
what she'd said.
Approx. two years earlier, I'd received information from a source I considered to be much more genuine and reliable from an elderly neighbour. This
woman had an extremely sharp mind, travelled widely and prided herself on her physical stamina. Although then approaching her 80's, she'd travelled
alone to Santorini, for example, then on through Greece. A few months after her return, she took another lengthy tour: this time through England and
Scotland and then on to the US. She did not suffer fools at all and was unfailingly practical and straightforward.
One day, in response to encouragement, she revealed that she'd chosen to nurse her husband at home, whenever possible, during the time he was dying
of cancer. As it grew close to the end, she said, her husband had diminished almost to a shadow. Then, one day he'd awoken almost like his old
self. He'd been chirpy, voice strong and wanted to be out of bed. He'd suggested the family (adult children and grandchildren) come over for the
day and they'd all had a wonderful day together, during which my elderly neighbour's husband had remained energetic and active, playing with the
children, helping with the bar-b-que, laughing and very much his old self.
Then, late in the afternoon, he'd suddenly become tired and my neighbour and her children helped him into the house and down the hallway to his room.
During the trip down the hall, the dying man had repeated two or three times with a fond smile, ' Come on, Mother Smith .. keep up, don't dawdle'
-- and he'd looked behind him and down the hall as he said this.
Again, when he was in bed and surrounded by his family, the man had looked through the crush of bodies, saying, ' Come closer Mother, I can't see
you back there behind the others. Come closer where I can see you.'
My neighbour said her husband died during the night. He'd had his 'last good day' she told me. I hadn't heard the term before, so she explained
that according to folk wisdom, the dying are granted one final 'good day' before they die, during which they're happy and strong.
Then my neighbour told me that she believed her husband's mother, 'Mother Smith', had come to take her husband 'home' and had been there with the
family in the hours before he died. My neighbour was convinced that her husband had seen his long-dead mother and this was why he'd jokingly called
to her as they made their way down the hall and later, as the family gathered around his bed.
'Mother Smith' had been a tiny little woman, apparently, and due to damage to her legs, shuffled slowly. She had died in the Blitz in London in
WW2, said my neighbour .. yet her son, in his dying hours, had seen her clearly and spoken naturally to her, in Australia, some 12,000 miles and fifty
years later -- urging his tiny mother with her damaged legs to 'keep up' with the rest as they made their way down the hallway.