It’s been quite some time since I posted on the site. Pressures of other work have kept me away but also I tend to write when I have something I want say rather than to fill a space.
My sense on increasing anticipation and excitement about the forthcoming Afterlife Awareness conference in March at Virginia Beach has prompted me to write about the potential of near to death experiences to transform understanding and ways of considering death and dying.
I have written before about the Afterlife Awareness Foundation, which is an Oregon based non-profit corporation dedicated to furthering awareness and education about death and the afterlife. I am attending and speaking at their forthcoming conference and really looking forward to it—check it out at www.AfterlifeConference.com. There may be places still available.
This conference is breaking through traditional boundaries with the range of presentations across the whole spectrum of research, science, practice and experience and in so doing is exactly the kind of mix that I think is needed to more fully understand these experiences and what we be learn from them. Speaking at the conference will be a number of people who have been ground breaking in their own research and publications—Dr Raymond Moody, who published Life After Life in 1975, coining the term ‘near death experience’ and he continues capture public interest with his work on the near-death experiences. Dr Melvin Morse, a pediatrician, who has studied near-death experiences in children for over 15 years and has several books on the subject such as Closer to the Light and Parting Visions, will also be speaking. As will Louis LaGrand, who has written extensively on the extraordinary experiences of the bereaved, I am a great admirer of his work and look forward to meeting him.
Alongside these speakers are numerous practitioners in the area of spirituality, for example Kelsey Colins, a Unity minister, hospice chaplain and author of Exit Strategy…Leaving this Life with Grace and Gratitude. She is also a mother whose son committed suicide at age 28. Her experience with his death altered her spiritual perspective, and led her to help grieving individuals understand that suicide is not a sin or an evil act, but an opportunity for the soul to seek healing and expansion for itself and others.
Terri Daniel, the organizer of the conference will be speaking about The Metaphysics of Forgiveness. Terri was to speak at a conference in Dublin last year and I was looking forward to hearing her then. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to make it but now I am going to Virginia to hear her get to grips with what really is a difficult area. As she says, ‘most people believe that forgiveness means condoning or accepting transgressions that have been committed against us by others. But when viewed with Divine eyes, one realizes that there are no ‘others’ in the universe. By releasing the concept of blame and healing the emotional wounds and fear-based beliefs that we carry from one lifetime to the next, a new form of forgiveness can emerge in which there are no tragedies, no traumas, no victims and no perpetrators… only souls journeying together on a path to wisdom and awareness’.
There is also increasing acceptance of people with mediumistic skills and expertise, as one way of understanding and helping with grief and it’s great to see so many practitioners from this arena presenting at the conference. Although some remain skeptical of these abilities, certainly in scientific and academic communities, I have had direct experience of how helpful it is to feel in contact with deceased loved ones and a degree of understanding of just what a difficult and skillful task mediumship is. The degree of skill required is poorly understood and possibly the area has not been served well by some practitioners in the past—but that’s also true for almost any other area or field, finance and banking in recent years is one that springs to mind!
I’ll be speaking about harnessing the transformative power of near to death experiences and the state of anticipation I’m experiencing about the forthcoming conference has reminded me of many experiences related to me in research I conducted in an Irish hospice and which are featured in my book, Sociological and spiritual aspects of palliative care in Ireland (2011).
While the experiences surrounding death and dying can be difficult and painful, especially for those left behind, looking at it from a different perspective—that of the person who is dying—shows that there is a potential to see this differently. Sally, one of the home care nurses that I spoke with, told me about her own personal experience with her aunt who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
‘My aunt of seventy-nine was diagnosed with cancer. And I remember I was doing the bereavement work [educational course], she was down in the hospital. So I had been doing the bereavement and all the care of the dying and I said, well, I am going to help her and get her to come to terms with her dying. … She told me about her diagnosis and I remember saying to her “how do you feel?” she turned round to me and said, “I can’t wait”. I said, “what do you mean?” And she said “I am sitting here and I am having conversations with my twin” and all her sisters who had died before her. She was in that other place and communicating, this was real for her, with her friends, her sisters…. she couldn’t, it wasn’t that she couldn’t wait but that she was ready and she was in that other halfway place where they had come and she was ready for her next adventure and I will never forget that.’
Near to death experiences have a lot to tell us about different ways to consider the experiences of death and dying and I am looking forward to finding out more and I’ll keep you posted.