Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dead People Say Hi!

I'll put my snarky comments in RED

This by David Kessler on Oprah.com

(OPRAH.com) -- Throughout my years of working with the dying and the bereaved, I have noticed commonly shared experiences that remain beyond our ability to explain (remember this phrase) and fully understand. The first are visions.

As the dying see less of this world, some people appear to begin looking into the world to come. It's not unusual for the dying to have visions, (read on. . .you'll find it's about 4%) often of someone who has already passed on. Your loved one may tell you that his deceased father visited him last night, or your loved one might speak to his mom as if she were there in the room at that time.

It was almost 15 years ago that I was sitting at the bedside of my teacher, Elisabeth K├╝bler Ross', when she turned to me and asked, "What do you think about the deceased visiting those on their deathbeds to greet them?"

I replied quickly, showing my knowledge back to her: "You're speaking of deathbed visions, most likely caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain or a side effect of morphine."What's wrong with this suggestion?

She looked at me and sighed, "It will come with maturity."

Oprah.com: 4 healthy ways to grieve

I thought to myself: "Maturity? What did maturity have to do with anything?" Now, years later, I look at the events we still can't explain that happen at the end of life and realize what Elisabeth was saying.

It would be arrogant to think we can explain everything, (Unless you can!) especially when it comes to dying. My mother died when I was still a preteen. My father remained an incredible optimist his whole life, even when he was dying. I was busy trying to make sure he was comfortable and pain-free, and at first didn't notice he had become very sad.

He told me how much he was going to miss me once he was gone. And then he mentioned how much he was saying goodbye to: his loved ones, his favorite foods, the sky, the outdoors and a million other things of this world. He was overcome by sadness I could not (and would not) take away from him.

My father was very down-hearted for the next few days. But then one morning he told me my mother, his wife, had come to him the night before.

"David, she was here for me," he said with an excitement I had not seen in him in years. "I was looking at all I was losing, and I'd forgotten that I was going to be with her again. I'm going to see her soon." He looked at me as he realized I would still remain here. Then he added, "We'll be there waiting for you."

And this can't be because of lack of oxygen, etc. to the brain because it was YOUR father?

Over the next two days, his demeanor changed dramatically. He had gone from a hopeless dying man with only death in front of him to a hopeful man who was going to be reunited with the love of his life. My father lived with hope and also died with it.

Oprah.com: Why birth is not a beginning and death is not an end

When I started compiling examples to include in my book, "Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die," I was surprised by how similar they were. In fact, it was hard to pick which ones to use because they were all so much alike.

You know, we have 2 legs, 2 arms, spleens, hearts, etc. Why should it be surprising when humans have something in common?

Now I realize the very thing that makes them repetitious is also what makes them unique. As someone who has spent most of my life writing, teaching and working with the dying, I can't prove to you that my father's vision was real. I can only talk about my experience as a son and about countless other occurrences that take place every day.

I don't doubt the vision was real. I only doubt that real dead people were 'visiting'.

I used to believe the only thing we needed to alleviate was the suffering of the dying by providing good pain management and symptom control. I know now that we have more -- we have the "who" and "what" we see before we die, which is perhaps the greatest comfort to the dying.

Some interesting and unexplainable items about deathbed visions:

There's that word again. Unexplalinable? or Unexplained so far?

• Visions people experience at the end of life are remarkably similar.

already spoke to this.

• The dying are most often visited by their mothers. It shouldn't be too surprising that the person who is actually present as we cross the threshold of life and take our first breaths once again appears at the threshold as we take our last breaths.

Wow, how very scientific. First off, what's the sample size and how was the research done to allow for 'most often'. How about orphans? Who visits them? What about mothers who beat their kids. Do they still get to visit? And, what's with the flowery language there? Oh wait, this is from Oprah.com. Next!

• Hands passionately reaching upward to some unseen force is witnessed in many deathbed encounters.

That's data?

• Visions mostly occur toward a corner of the room.

• Those family members at a deathbed are not able to see the vision or participate in the conversation.

• Visions usually occur hours to weeks before death.

• Visions don't seem to appear in other frightening situations where death is not likely, such as stuck in an elevator, lost in a foreign city or lost hiking.

• Unlike traditional healthcare, the law treats a dying person's last words as the truth.

I don't get this sentence at all. Help me.

Oprah.com: Using technology to get through tough times

If you find the concept of a dead loved one greeting you on your deathbed impossible or ridiculous, consider what I finally realized as a parent: You protect your children from household dangers. You hold their hands when they cross the street on their first day of school. You take care of them when they have the flu, and you see them through as many milestones as you can.

Now fast-forward 70 years after you, yourself, have passed away. What if there really is an afterlife and you receive a message that your son or daughter will be dying soon? If you were allowed to go to your child, wouldn't you?

I would. Wait, is the Bear's game on?

While death may look like a loss to the living, the last hours of a dying person may very well be filled with fullness rather than emptiness. Or not! Sometimes all we can do is embrace the unknown and unexplainable and make our loved ones feel good about their experiences.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Possible Responses and Tips

• There's really no point in telling your dying father you think he's hallucinating or that his mom has been dead for several years and can't possibly be there.

Of course not that would be mean but I'll tell you you're full of shit.

• Instead of disagreeing, try asking him, "What is your mom saying?"

• Say, "Tell me more about your vision." Perhaps Aunt Betty is telling your father that it's okay to die or maybe they're reminiscing about growing up together.

• Say, "It's great that Aunt Betty is here with you," or "I knew that Mother would come to meet you," or "I'm so glad that Mom is with you now."

• Denying their reality will only separate you from your loved one. So join and explore this profound time of life.

The saying goes, "We come into this world alone, and we leave alone." We've been brought up to believe that dying is a lonely, solitary event. But what if everything we know isn't true? What if the long road that you thought you'll eventually have to walk alone has unseen companions?

What if monkeys fly out of your ass? Jesus H. Christ! Anyone can write a bunch of drivel by saying 'what if' over and over again!

I would welcome those of you who have had an experience of your dying loved ones being comforted by those already deceased to share these stories here with others. In sharing our stories, we will see that the journey at the end of life is not a lonely path into eternity.

How about sharing stories of no visions. My mom slide into a coma after a long illness and died. Period.

Rather, it may be an incredible reunion with those we have loved and lost. It reminds us that God exists and birth is his miracle that carries us into life. A deathbed vision is his miracle that carries us though the transition of death into the next part of our eternity.

Now we get to it. The whole premise is based on the unprovable existence of (probably the Christian) God. Also, we never hear why the hypothesis of lack of oxygen to the brain is wrong. Nice piece Oprah. America is doomed.


Here's another website with the same kind of "research" in other words they ONLY look at dying people who DO see visions but they don't look at how many dying people overall see visions. That's not research.

Here's someone doing actual research. This doctor interviewed cardiac arrest patients as they are very near dead at some point with no pulse, etc. He found

Out of the 63 cardiac arrest survivors that Parnia interviewed, 56 had no memories of any lucid experience. Seven, however, did. Parnia narrowed these down to four who clearly met all the criteria.


For me, the biggest question is why no more than a few percent have the experience, given that the circumstances seem to be the same.

And Finally:

It is unlikely that many sceptical scientists will be convinced. The science writer Susan Blackmore has researched the subject, having considered many case histories, but says, 'All things considered, I can see no reason to adopt the afterlife hypothesis ... The dying brain hypothesis, for all its shortcomings, does a better job of accounting for the experiences themselves'. Because we do dream and (sometimes) hallucinate, it might seem hasty to posit an afterlife on the basis of these experiences if there is a simpler explanation.

Notice that the writing of reasonable investigations of this phenomena is lacking in the flowery prose of the article in Oprah. We WANT to believe so the writing panders to that need.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Heaven is Intergrated!

This just in from CNN.

Well, that's nice. Since heaven is integrated (according to the pastor) then churches should be too except there is no way to know what the pretend place called 'heaven' is like. We have a human need to think there is a better life after this one but not one shred of evidence on which to base such a way of thinking.

So good idea to integrate your church but maybe just do it because it's the right thing to do.

Heaven can wait!

Wiccan? Pagan?

Article in the Trib this morning about a Wiccan minister. He says the religion is getting more acceptance in the mainstream and why not?

Their beliefs are no crazier than any other religion. From the Trib. . .

"We honor the ancestors by casting a magical circle of protection and invoking the divine powers in the form of a god and goddess," said Larson, a white-haired 63-year-old with a professorial air. "And there's chanting to create and build energy within the group, and sometimes a bonfire."

Is this crazier than thinking a guy somehow died for you sins? Is it crazier than thinking you are eating his body when you have a cracker? Is it crazier than thinking that someone rose up from the dead? And, who doesn't like a nice bonfire?

Also from the Trib.. .

"There's no formal book or scripture that's considered divinely revealed," Larson said. "Pagans don't have to reconcile a creation story written millennia ago with the findings of modern science. Consequently most pagans are quite comfortable with a scientific world view including such specific ideas as evolution."

Well, that's cool. You know, have any crazy ass religion you want but just don't think you then have some moral upper hand and for Darwin's sake. . .DON'T RUN FOR OFFICE. WE'RE BUSY!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tony Danza?

So, here I am minding my own business watching re-runs of Criminal Minds and what comes on but a 'reality show' with that BIG star Tony Danza apparently being a REAL teacher in Philly (I can only hope he got booed). I watched a little bit and then turned it off. Like all "reality" shows, it's as real as it gets. . . with a fucking videographer, sound, and light man following you around!

Actually, I've never watched any teacher shows. Room 222, Coach, ok maybe a little Mr. Cotter but that was totally for laughs. I think most of my fellow teachers are with me on this. No teacher show has ever come close. It's like turning a novel into a movie. Always comes up short. Every year, the job of teaching is another novel.

The good news about the Tony Danza opening episode was how scared he acted. Not was but acted and that's ok. The point is how completely terrifying teaching high school kids is. I don't mean at some 'tough' high school in Philly. I mean just teenagers in general. I taught at a very nice high school in a Chicago suburb and I'd have friends or associates who weren't in the teaching biz come visit sometimes and just walk through the halls with them at passing period and watch their faces. Oh my. That's a lot of teenage bizness right there in your face. You'd see the fear in their eyes. It's just too much for the un-initiated. I'd stop and tease the occasional kid. Acknowledge the occasional greeting from a student. Stop and stare at kids swapping spit. It's all good. But oh my. . . if you're not of this world. . . well, it's really something.

And if you're not shitting your pants before your first day of teaching EVERY fall then for fuck's sake go get your realtor license and get the hell out of Dodge. This IS scary. This IS important. A great teacher has to really believe that the works of Plato, Galileo, Sarte, Jefferson, Euclid, Hemingway, ARE important. The parents are depending on you. The KIDS are depending on you because in the face of having a long list of boring teachers under their belts they, like Cub fans, always hold out hope that this will be the year.

Do Not Disappoint

Now you may think that that means that you have to be Mr. friendly or Mr. fun or Mr. Funny. . . probably not. A good friend that I taught with was being eaten alive, EATEN ALIVE, by lower level kids who had pretty much given up on school. After a semester of that he went out and bought several suits of clothes and ties. He became the Hitler of science education. He had crazy rules and stuck to them: NO one goes to the bathroom . . . EVER! GO IN YOUR PANTS! No one can cross this line. . . EVER. Homework is due or I'm calling your parents...EVERY TIME. And so on. And you know what? They loved him. It was the direction they had been looking for for maybe 15 years.

15 years! Are you listening to this?

I quit teaching physics because I wanted to go sailing but that's only partly the reason. I quit teaching because I realized that I couldn't quite do it to the level I wanted to do it at any longer. For whatever reason. Burn out? I'll never know. Schools change. Administration changes. Kids change and it was all just too far for me to stretch. I quit for the good of education in general and for my own mental health. I never wanted to be THAT teacher and I felt I might be becoming him.

What is the commitment of nation's current teachers? That's probably too big a question with answers all over the place. The lure of teaching will always draw some and always draw some of the best but are those numbers diminishing? As long as we evaluate students, schools and, now, teachers via the standardized test I think we'll get fewer and fewer 'good teachers'. You know, a 'good teacher'. Hopefully, we've all had one or two and if you think back to them do you think they were driven by test scores or by their own love for Plato, Galileo, Sarte, Jefferson, Euclid, Hemingway, and the rest of the gang.