Death may simply be an alteration in consciousness, a transition for continued life in a non-material form.” Edgar Mitchell
We’ve seen it again and again. A terminally ill patient has been unresponsive for days yet just before his death he suddenly becomes lucid and is able to communicate. Is this just a coincidence or is there something more going on?
Terminal lucidity is a term used to describe the unexpected return of mental coherence and responsiveness in a patient who was previously incoherent. Family members and even some medical personnel may see this as a sign of recovery only to find that death is imminent. Is there a logical explanation for this phenomena and how can this be explained to the patient’s grieving family?
First off, it is important to understand that terminal lucidity is nothing new. In fact, one of the most incredible cases on record occurred in 1922 with a woman named Anna Katharina Ehmer (1895-1922). Ehmer was severely disabled and lived in a mental institution located in central Germany. Reportedly, she never spoke a word her entire life until the day she died when she suddenly began singing for about 30 minutes before she passed. Since then many such cases have been reported and science is finally starting to study the phenomena.
While working on my book, A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side/New Page Books, 2017, I had the honor of interviewing Professor Alexander Batthyany, PhD who is conducting a study on terminal lucidity involving patients with Alzheimer’s disease. His findings have thus far suggested that normal cognition can occur despite a nonfunctional brain. Batthyany is a professor at the University of Vienna in Austria where he teaches courses in the behavioral sciences and philosophy.
As you may know, Alzheimer’s disease kills nerve cells in the brain and patients eventually lose normal brain functioning and suffer from memory loss. Yet, in many cases, many become coherent right before death with no known changes in the brain. The nerve cells, for example, don’t suddenly become alive allowing patients to say their final goodbyes yet these cases of terminal lucidity are clearly happening.
Thus far, science has no explanation for this. Professor Batthyany has called these deathbed phenomena “close to a miracle,” however, he admits, “I am not sure whether miracle is a good word but it is deeply mystifying given what we know about the relationship between mental function and brain integrity.” (A Call from Heaven: Personal Accounts of Deathbed Visits, Angelic Visions, and Crossings to the Other Side/page 26).
But maybe the answer is not a scientific one but a spiritual one. Perhaps a higher source is allowing those on their deathbed to bid a proper goodbye to their loved ones. Regardless of which stance we take, we cannot deny that these deathbed phenomena are taking place.
One of the most recent cases on record involves a doctor by the name of Scott Haig in New York. An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Haig wrote about a patient named David who passed from lung cancer which eventually spread to his brain leaving him both motionless and speechless.
David’s brain, he explained, was completely destroyed. Yet just before his death, David suddenly woke up and was able to converse with his family. He said his final goodbyes and after about five minutes he went comatose again and passed within the hour.
Interestingly David’s wife was a nurse at the same hospital and witnessed the occurrence. Doctors may not understand how these cases of terminal lucidity are taking place. We also don’t know why many experience it while others don’t. But of more importance is the fact these cases are happening and are, in fact, very real.
A biologist named David Searles once said, “Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of ocean.” It may look like the end when we are looking at the horizon because that is as far as our eyes can see. But when we die we will all come to know that death is only a transition. It is not an end but rather a new beginning that is not limited by the constraints of a dying body.
As an author and afterlife researcher for over 15 years, I have been asked many times if dealing with the death of a loved one is easier for me given my stern beliefs in an afterlife. My answer is always the same. Yes, it’s easier but, no, it’s not easy. Losing my loved ones hurts but I do find comfort in the knowledge that life continues. I do find comfort in the knowledge that the bond of love is the one thing that transcends death. Nothing is stronger.