The Hospice Butterfly Book says:
"He or she may claim to see or have seen places not presently accessible or visible to you. This does not indicate a hallucination or drug reaction. The person is beginning to detach from this life and is preparing for the change so it will bot be frightening. Do not contradict, explain away, belittle or argue about what the person claims to have seen or heard. Just because you cannot see or hear does not mean it is not real to your loved one. Affirm these experiences. They are normal and common. If they frighten your loved one, explain that they are normal."
Dad woke up this morning around 6am looking for the remote to turn off the TV. I could see that it was not on and had not been on since 11 last night. There was also no radio playing, though Dad was pretty sure he heard a children's choir singing.
At first I assured him there was no choir. Then I said maybe it was angels singing - giving him a foretaste of what heaven would be like.
"God, no," he responded. "It's horrible. It's nothing but a cacophony, not music."
Hmmm. I wonder what he was hearing.
After a pee and a pain pill, he settled back down but kept talking about turning the noise off.
Then he told me about some men in red flannel Dutch Boy pants and caps. They had handed him a piece of paper and told him to hold it. For how long he didn't know. Finally, he tossed the paper away only to find that it stuck to his fingers.
I asked about the men. They weren't saying anything, just standing there. He did not recognize them. He felt they were checking to see if he was trustworthy. He held on to the paper. A little while later with a swoosh of his hand he pushed them all off the bed, or out of his vision. And with that the men were gone.
Since Dad and I were talking about what he saw, I knew he wasn't asleep. I was sitting behind him so I couldn't see, but he said his eyes were open. It was a weird experience for both of us. Then we both fell asleep as if nothing had happened.
When he woke up, he was my same old, organized and let's-have-a-new-plan-for-my-daily-dose-of-laxative Dad.
When the confusion of the morning was over I got to spend some Mary time in the pool. I did a couple laps. Mostly It just floated on the current, around the perimeter of the pool. Looking up, I watched a layer of clouds glide on a current of air as if imitating my lazy circles. The birds were coming back to the feeders that I just re-filled and a few brave squirrels leaped from tree limb to tree limb to scarf up the seeds that were dropped on the pool deck.
As I relaxed I became aware of the current of life. We often go about our busy-ness without really tuning into the natural rhythm of things. We hurry here and there, get behind in tasks we feel are important, forget to listen to our body's need for rest or food. Sometimes we slow down to the point of sluggishness. But when we "let go" of all that, when we let ourselves move to the beat of our own drummer, we often glide through the course of our day.
I wonder if dying is like that, too. I'm sure there must be an element of fear in the dying process. Fear and denial, and anger. All those emotions that are so much a part of grief. It makes sense to me that it is not only those left behind that grieve, but also the one who is departing. Even if that person has a great faith and belief that being on the other side will be Paradise, it is only human to want to hold tight to life. Things known are always more comfortable than things unknown.
Like my Dad holding on to the sticky paper from the men in the red pants. He wasn't even aware that his hand was balled up in a tight fist. Once the men were gone, Dad opened his hand. His the tension he'd been feeling seemed to leave him too. He fell asleep on a current of calm surrender. Is that how it will be in the final stages of his life. When he is able to give up his still tenacious need for control, will he relax and cross over to the place where my mother waits with arms outstretched?
I'm not really sure about this all this stuff. I'm just trying to go with the flow.
Wishing you a peaceful journey,