Death and Dying: Good-bye Experiences

70During the past thirty-two months since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I have shared my grief, and in turn others have shared their grief with me, telling me stories they never told anyone else. I have heard incredible tales of signs and dreams and feelings of connection to the one who has left earthly life behind, which makes me realize that something is going on beneath the surface of earthly life, though I don’t know what.

Although I concede that near death experiences exist, I do not believe that NDEs are necessarily an encounter with those who are dead. We humans are so incredibly complex, that these experiences could be an as yet unknown state of consciousness, such as a dream state, or maybe even a dip into the collective consciousness. I’ve heard of too many people who saw the white light, saw their loved ones begin to draw near and then immediately recede as the nearly dead person returned to consciousness. It seems peculiar to me that the dead have nothing better to do than wait for someone to begin to die, to hurry and don their earthly bodies to rally round on the off chance that the person will die, and then shrug off their earthly personas and go back to doing whatever their disembodied selves were doing before being called to reception duty.

On the other hand, there have been an incredible number of instances of people saying good-bye before they left the earth for good.

Sometimes the good-byes were said while the people were still alive. I’ve heard many stories of perfectly healthy people who visited and called family and friends they hadn’t seen in a while, and then a few days later they had an accident or a heart attack and died. It was as if part of them knew they were going to leave this earth, and they were saying good-bye even though they didn’t consciously realize that is what they were doing.

Sometimes the good-byes were said after the people were dead. A boy’s grandmother stopped by to tell him that she would be okay and not to spend his life in sadness. A woman whose husband died in an accident never got a chance to say good-bye before the hospital removed his body, but that night, she felt a kiss on her cheek and his whispered words that it didn’t matter, that he’d already been dead when he reached the hospital. A woman who swam too far out into the ocean and was floundering in panic heard her mother tell her to relax, that she would be okay, and later found that her mother had died at that very moment. A woman who lost her husband had incredibly rich and coincidental experiences every Monday during the first six months after he died. She could even feel his anger, but now, eighteen months later, he is finally leaving her alone to find her own way.

And sometimes the messages come in dreams. One daughter planned to move in with her mother, and that night her father visited her in a dream and said he was glad, that her mother needed her. (The daughter told her mother to tell her father to stay out of her dreams.)

Even I had a good-bye experience. Two of them, actually.

For the last year of his life, my love and I argued about what I would do afterward. He thought I should go stay with my father where I would be safe and warm and fed, but I could not bear the thought of doing so. I’d just finished caring for one dying man, and I didn’t want to look after another. While he was in a coma during his last days, however, I finally decided to follow his wishes and come stay with my dad, and I told him so. Just a few hours later, he died.

At the moment of his death (or rather, when his breathing and his heart stopped), I did not feel anything except a moment of relief that his suffering was over. I watched the nurses clean his body and shroud it in a blanket, then I waited numbly for the funeral director. After she took away his body (in a black SUV, not a hearse), I left. The highway was dry, but about halfway home, my car suddenly went careening, around and around, back and forth, totally out of control. (I assumed I hit a patch of black ice, but that was such a peculiar night, I can’t say for sure.) I thought I was going to die, but oddly, I never left the road. The car finally came to a halt facing the wrong way on the highway. I was fine. So was the car. As I sat there gripping the wheel, I wondered if he had stopped by on his way out of this world to save me, to leave me a final reminder to be careful, or maybe give a shake of his ghostly head at this evidence of my carelessness. (He always worried that I wasn’t careful enough.) I remember feeling him leaving this earth — like a breath passing over head — but to be honest, I don’t know if I really felt his leaving at the time or if the impression was something my mind created later to explain the bewildering event. It was after this particular near death experience (as out of control as the car was, it truly is amazing that I survived intact), that the feeling of his goneness slammed into me, and I never again have had any sense of his presence in my life.

What was he doing for those hours before he left this earth? Finishing his dying, possibly. Closing down systems of the body and brain that have yet to be discovered. From grief, I have learned the power of our lizard brain, learned that there is way more to the brain — and human biology, psychology, and consciousness — than is in our textbooks.

So what does all this mean? I don’t know, and that’s the truth of it.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

29 Responses to “Death and Dying: Good-bye Experiences”

  1. Rose Chimera Says:

    I didn’t notice a change in the room when my husband died. Driving away from the hospital I kept hoping for a call from the hospital to tell me a miracle had happened that he was alive and well! It didn’t happen though. A few hours later I was taking a shower and my husband was just suddenly “there”. In my head but not quite he was there though. He was happy, healthy and completely restored and he said, “Don’t worry, it is so much better than what they say. I’m good to go.” Wait! What? Mike?! He was gone after he told me that though, he had no more words for me. BUT he was definitely gone. And then I felt it, him gone. What was he doing those first few hours from when they pronounced him dead and he visited me. Waiting for me to be alone? Waiting for me to open? I don’t know. But I do know it happened. Makes one wonder though, with all the stories of people as you relayed, and our own personal experiences. Makes ya go hum……

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      What a wonderful story! I didn’t feel any change in the room when he died, either. And as I said, I wonder what actually happened that night on the road home, but I do know the car spun around and around. And I do remember what I thought. But the breath of a breeze as he passed over head — did I feel that or did I make it up? I like to think he visited me on his way out of this life. Odd that you also didn’t get the good-by until a few hours later. Hmmmm . . .

      • Rose Chimera Says:

        No one would believe you, or me, or anyone else unless they’ve experienced something similar. Maybe its a gift to us–those left behind–that others don’t get. And yes, the did I feel that or did I make it up crossed my mind. But there was just something…different about it. I don’t know what it was and have no words to describe it, but I KNOW in my heart and soul it was him. I don’t use that phrase, “I’m good to go.” But he did. Its a military thing I think and he was former military. It seemed to me that he used that phrase so I’d KNOW it was him and not my dreams, wish, desire and hope. I think God gives us what we need sometimes in exactly the way we need it. Did Mike say that to me? I don’t know. Did God let him? I don’t know. I do know that NOTHING in this world could convince it did not happen. Even if it sounds crazy to someone else. It happened. And it helped. And that’s all I know. And its almost enough.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          It’s like me and the road. I’ve been saying all along that I hit a patch of black ice, but I don’t know the truth of it. The highway was dry. It had only snowed a few flakes. So where did the ice come from? And why would I have skidded? I never did before. It was a totally bizarre experience.

          It’s good to talk about this, so thank you for your responses. I’m going to have to begin to embrace life and charge full speed into my future, but I do worry about leaving him behind. Isn’t that strange? He’s already gone, but I still worry about him. Maybe this will help me stop worrying about him, help me accept that we now have two different paths and that I am now responsible for my own happiness.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            I fully understand what you mean by “leaving him behind”. I really do. Its something I’ve been dealing with lately. I finally moved his portrait out of the main room I live in, I moved some memorial stuff I had from his funeral, and I’m going to list my house for sale. Its time to leave this place…BUT does that leave him behind? I worry about that emotionally. Intellectually I know that’s silly, he’s gone and the way things work he’ll find me. He wouldn’t be offended if I left because he’d know that I’m not leaving him, I’m leaving the absence of him…maybe that helps?

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            What we know and what we feel seem to come from two different parts of our psyches. Wise comment — that you’re leaving his absence! Yes, it’s the absence that’s so hard. I can live on my own, and I can deal with the loneliness, but his absence still looms over me. From the beginning, I’ve thought of being here with my father as a transitional stage, and I’ve been afraid of what comes after, but perhaps there’s nothing to worry about. Maybe I’ll be able to leave his absence behind.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            Maybe its as simple as this: Yes I can survive without him but I don’t want to yet I know I have to and he would insist that I do.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            That’s the way it’s been for me these past 32 months, but now I’m getting an inkling that I want to grab hold of life and run wild and free.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            Me too! Me too. I’m growing tired of wearing the label of widow I guess. Or it feels like the widow’s shroud that keeps me down. It might be time to shrug it off and start to live. Again? Or live for the first time. That is my goal, my objective, my plan. Its hard though because I don’t know how or maybe don’t want to without him. That’s the rub…its mandatory and non-optional but I don’t want it. *sigh*….there’s no hope for it though. One must accept what is real and then deal with it. Hit the ball and move one I guess. It is easier said (written) then done though. I did spend some time thinking I’m just going to bide my time until my time comes then I can be reunited. But…dang, he died young and I’ve got a lot of years left apparently so that isn’t going to work. If I was 70 or 90 then yup that would be a good plan. But I’m not. So I have to figure out a new life, as a widow, as a new person who is unattached, trying to negotiate the rough waters. Ok, I’m up for a challenge, I guess. I don’t want to. I just want to bide my time…ok that’s not working. So….ok who am I now? THAT is the question you and me and others in our position have to find out. THAT is the questions we seek answers to. THAT is the puzzle we lack the pieces to solve. But I’m ornery and I will solve those questions!!! I just don’t want to. Because I miss him madly, I miss him like I miss him like a part of me…the living part…has been cut out. I know its a “so what” get on with it. But that just doesn’t help.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Yes — If I were 80 or 90, I’d just forget the whole the whole thing and wait for the end, but I have too many years left. I will not molder away as if my life were nothing except an adjunct to his. Our life together wasn’t like that anyway. We did everything together — cooking, errands, chores. We were equal partners in our life and our business, but during that last decade, his growing weakness skewed things. It was just a matter of putting our heads down and taking one step at a time, and somewhere along the way I lost my sense of self.

            I’m learning how to dream impossible dreams, thinking of doing things I never had any interest in doing and maybe still don’t, but I want more of life than I have, so I am training myself to think outside the lines of my life. (For example, flying to England with no plans of what to do once I got there.)

            I still yearn to talk to him one more time, still miss him, still want . . . and yet this is what I have.

            I believe there is something wonderful in my future, and from the way you talk, and your willingness to embrace yourself and your future, I bet there is something wonderful waiting for you, too. It might take years, but it’s there.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            I will tell you Pat, I’ve been reluctant to say how long its been for me, its been 32 months for you but its been 6 years this month for me. My reluctance is..its been longer for me but it isn’t easier. I don’t want to depress you. I don’t want to darken your door step I don’t want you to lose hope that it will get better. It has been a long time for me, but it still hurts a lot. I still miss him a lot. I tell people, when its new for them that it gets easier, not easy, but easier. And it has. Its gotten easier. I can breath now and I don’t cry all day, every day. But I still cry, I still miss him, I still want him. And its been 6 years!!! He was IT for me. That’s that. But I don’t want to be that pathetic widow bringing everyone done. I want to give hope to others like you, like me that have lived it. I can laugh now. I can eat again. I can have fun again. I miss him when I do that. I wonder if that will ever go away. Maybe not because I think we were that funky thing called “soulmates”. Unfortunately if we were then its harder to get past then just being “in love”. meh…..I’m talking too much….

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            No, you’re not talking too much. You’re saying the things you need to say and I need to hear. I bet you haven’t had anyone to talk to and to voice all these conflicting feelings. Because they are conflicting feelings — yearning for what was, being forced to accept what is, getting inklings of what can be.

            You had a traditional marriage, where you put him first. I didn’t have that sort of relationship, and besides, I had all those years of his being sick to gradually wean myself away, which is why my grief shocked the hell out of me. I thought I’d already dealt with my grief and gotten over him. Life is bizarre at times, isn’t it?

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            As far as happiness, yes I guess we’re in charge of that. Each of us. I don’t think its obtainable though, not the way it was. Peace is what I seek. Peace and acceptance and…something else. I don’t know yet what that something else is. I’m a work in progress on that stage.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            I never wanted happiness, but I want something now. Maybe adventure? Maybe feeling alive? Maybe just the feeling that I’m not wasting his death and my life? I have the idea that if I continue to live the way we did when he was alive that I am doing him a disservice, as if his death was a gift to me, setting me free, and I am throwing it back in his face. It’s strange to think these things, especially in light of the horrendous grief I experienced, but still, the idea is there.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            You never wanted happiness? I gleaned my happiness from my husband, if he was happy. I had not clue what made ME happy. I want to know now. Yes, its an interesting thing…as you said…you’re set free. But you weren’t in prison. When he died I asked my friend, what do I do now? I had so many years of making sure he was happy, making sure we did what he wanted to do, even down to the food on the table, or the furniture. When he died, I knew I had invested too much of myself in him. I knew it because I had no clue who I was, what I like, didn’t like, wanted to do, didn’t want to do. I can’t do that again…but it was fine with me when he was alive. I felt he deserved it. I didn’t know I deserved it too, if that makes sense. So its the finding who we are after the fact that is the real WORK. Indeed it was/is horrendous grief and pain and confusion and loss. But…what now? Its almost as if we’ve been swimming in the sea called life and they were our life preserver. We now must learn to swim RIGHT NOW! whether we like it or not. But I don’t like the water and you don’t like the color blue! (I do like water and you probably like blue), but its that basic. A whole new life that we did not want, did not ask for and did not prepare for.’s madness but it is what it is.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            I always thought other things were more important than happiness — truth, loyalty, honesty, purpose. You’re right — I wasn’t in prison. I was doing what I wanted to, at least mostly. His long illness trapped both of us in an ever-narrowing life of financial problems and stay-at-homeness. But still, love is a trap in a way — you care for the other person and want what is best for him. You prefer to be with him instead of going off on adventures by yourself, because life with him is an adventure. But now, we need to figure out what we want, where to go from here. No, we did not want this life, did not ask for it, and did not prepare for it, but every once in a while now I get that end-of-the-school-year feeling of anything being possible. It’s this feeling that catapults me back into grief, but every time I come out of the bout of sadness, the feeling is just a bit stronger. We will be stronger.

            I’ve been meeting some incredible women lately, women who have lost their husbands, women who have gone on to become strong and vibrant. It takes a long time, but there is life for us if we are just willing to accept it. This I believe.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            “We will be stronger. ” I think we are as strong as we ever needed to be. There are many that would have crumbled under the pressure. I know this. God gives us what we can handle. And I suppose we’re terribly strong, even if we don’t want to be! After my husband died, 4 months later I was hit with lawsuits funded by my inlaws. To add insult to injury…but I got through it. Again, God gives us what we can handle. Perhaps what we need to remember, to remind each other is that, we are strong we are capable, we will manage and THAT is why God did this. To prove to ourselves that we CAN…..we can…do whatever. Honestly I’d prefer NOT to have such a lesson but it is not always up to us to decide the path of our lives. It is up to us to make the best of it though.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Oh, my. Lawsuits? As if dealing with grief weren’t enough. I guess I’m lucky we ended up with nothing, so there was nothing for anyone to want.

            It’s been wonderful talking to you tonight, Rose. Thank you.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            Yes lawsuits. Something we did not factor in. We knew his ex-wife viewed him as a sort of welfare but we had no idea that she’d attack after he died. Maybe she wasn’t going to, maybe she didn’t consider it until Mike’s parents, my dear loving inlaws financed it. I don’t know what evil lurks in their hearts. Part of what I write on the blog is trying to negotiate that mess. I wrote about it when it was happening and title it Courtroom drama or something like that. When I think about it I just shake my head. I worked for an attorney for years and years, they hired one, then two, clearly they never knew me, or who I was or who their son was. But Pat, the hardest thing was fighting them in court because Mike died from pancreatic cancer and at the same time I’m caring for my mom who was dying of pancreatic cancer. How I didn’t lose faith in God I do not know. But I didn’t. Maybe its because I know that God didn’t create cancer, MAN did. But I thought, ok REALLY?! Mike died, now mom and I have a lawsuit to save my house in between? Fact is stranger than fiction. And trust me, there’s a book in there just waiting for me to write! lmao!

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            So much trauma! Just goes to show how very strong you are and how very strong your faith is. You will be okay (even if sad). I know it.

          • Rose Chimera Says:

            I think that truth, loyalty, honesty and purpose brings you happiness. Its not more important than breeds happiness. At least it does for me.

  2. cmchristian74 Says:

    First, I’d like to say that I am sorry to hear of your loss. I tend to think that the distance between life and death, or this plane and the next is paper thin. I think there is so much we aren’t meant to understand which only deepens the mystery. I lost my grandmother two years ago, and after she passed I felt her one night by my side as I was crying over her passing. In my heart I could hear her voice telling me, “I am fine, you are fine. Stop crying-it’s all gonna be just fine.” Another time in a dream she gave me the most beautiful flowers and very clear instructions on how to care for them. She hugged me good-bye and I asked her what it’s like where she is. She looked at me and said, “Death is like life only different.” I like to think these experiences are genuine, and lots of NDE do to. And if it helps us deal with the hurt-so be it. Wish you well.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I like that — “Death is like life only different.” Oddly, for me, I don’t much care if there is anything beyond this, but I like to think of him safe and happy and fulfilled. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  3. Tracy Says:

    My mother died unexpectedly and traumatically aged 47 sixteen years ago. My father and I were devastated. She visited me in dreams for several weeks after her death until one night I opened my eyes and found her sitting on the edge of my bed holding my hand and asking me to take care of my father. I visited him every day without fail for a year to ensure he was OK. I still watch out for him today. My mother visited my 3 year old son many evenings. She told him not to be sad, to look out of his bedroom window and see that she was the bright star in the middle of the view. He was just three years old and had never spoken like that before but would wake every morning to tell me he’d seen Nanny, she talked to him and she was still with him in the star. My mother also visited me and asked me to tell my father to start listening to her. I had no idea what this meant but told him anyway. A few days later he called me to say he’d been walking their dogs in the pouring rain when he heard Mom’s voice saying find a pen and paper, you have to write this down. He scrambled in his pockets and could only find receipts. He told me Mom’s voice said move under the trees out of the rain – this sounded much like her, practical and straightforward. He did and then wrote the most beautiful poem on the back of a handful of soggy receipts. My father isn’t a poems and lyrics kind of man and the language, tone and tempo were all my mother’s. She said she wad relieved she’d finally been able to contact him and we’d never be alone.

    I believe there is more than we understand, that the spiritual world is stronger than we imagine and that the bonds between people run deeper than our rational brains will often countenance.

    I too am sad for your loss and join you in hoping your love is safe, happy and fulfilled. I know my Mom is.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      What a lovely story. I am especially intrigued by the message she gave you for your father. How nice that your mother was able to comfort all of you. Maybe you needed her in a way that I didn’t need my mate, and that is why I never felt any connection to him after that night. His death was devastating, but not unexpected, and he left no unfinished business behind.

  4. sandy Says:

    I’ve always suspected that our dreams are not just symbolic replays of this earthly life but actually another life that we live on another plane. So visits from loved ones who have passed on are like visits. I remember after my brother died (and since I had been his primary caretaker it was more like losing my child) he came to me in a dream. We were walking around a lake surrounded by mountains and I was eager to find a way out of the mountains and he said, “there is no way out but its OK because everything we need is right here” . . . I guess that is why I am always happiest hiking high up in the Indian Peaks and especially around lakes. He visited my mother in dreams as well, We thought (and I still think) of him as an angel who did so much for so many in those brief 19 years. Mom asked that her ashes be scattered up by the Maroon Bells where decades ago we had scattered Dougie’s. I feel deeply that they are both at peace and even happy.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t have that sort of dream, but it’s wonderful that you do.

      It’s kind of funny, I hold two contradictory but simultaneous thoughts in my head — one) that he is permanently gone forever, totally wiped out and two) that he is not gone forever but has gone on to a higher plane than I will be going to so that while he still exists, he is still gone from my life, maybe forever. Strange the ideas one gets.

      I used to believe that we lived another life when we slept, that perhaps this life was really the dream and the other our real life, but I lost that belief many years ago, maybe because my dreams are always so horrible.

  5. leener814 Says:

    My husband’s first wife died seven days after giving birth and had no idea she was dying. But on the second day home with their baby, she walked out of their room in a trance-like state and said to him, “If something happens to me, promise me you will find someone, please find a mother for our son.” He reassured her that nothing was going to happen and that she was fine, but she wouldn’t be put off. “Promise me!” she insisted until finally he promised. A few days later as he sat alone in their home with their newborn son, he wondered how she knew and what that trance-like state she was in meant. Was it the start of her dying? Was it when the infection activated and told some level of her consciousness that she was going to die? She said several other things over the course of that week that he realized later were clues that she knew she was dying, even though no one else, not even the doctors, knew. But he did what she asked and found someone to love, someone who would raise their son lovingly with him. And when I entered the picture, his dreams and visions of her ended, as if she was guiding him toward me and once it was done, she moved on. There was no good reason for us to have met; the situation was bizarre and remarkable for its unlikely-ness. Did she intervene? We both believe she did. Maybe it’s just comforting to think that, but it’s certainly a story to tell our son. And comfort of any kind is good. Thank you for sharing your journey. I often read about this kind of grief so I don’t lose touch with the journey my husband has taken. Our lives together, no matter how beautiful, don’t replace anything. We merely keep going forward. But knowing where we have been helps us figure out where to go next. I wish you peace and blessings in your journey.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      What a lovely story, and how wonderful that your son’s mother chose you for him. I’d never heard of this sort of thing happening until I becames steeped in the world of grief — mostly I’ve heard of visitations after death — but it does seem as if some people are aware that they are going to die on some sort of unconscious level. Even healthy people with no reason to think that their end is near say their good-byes or begin setting things in order for those who will be left behind. If she was in a trance-like state when she insisted on the promises, consciously she probably had no idea she was going to die, but obviously, part of her knew it.

      You sound like a woman who knows she is blessed. Wishing you a happy new year.

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