Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grandma and a few other things

We laid grandma to rest on Friday morning right next to my grandfather. The weather was terrible. It was rainy, very windy and very cold. We took some of the flowers home with us because we new that if left outside they would end up scattered all over the cemetery. During the viewing, I approached my grandmother and she seemed like a hollow shell. Her body, while physically present - seemed completely vacuous. I whispered in her ear (as I had Monday when she died in the hospital), "guide me to where you're now." I think that same desire - the hope of seeing our loved ones again after death - is shared by anyone who has ever lost someone they cared for.

I wondered, perhaps out of fear, how the end would eventually come for my grandmother. She was elderly and one of my biggest distresses when she was alive was getting a phone call at work from my mother telling me that my grandmother had abruptly passed away. Many years ago I selfishly prayed that when the end would come for her that it would come gradually, as to allow myself time to prepare. She lasted eight days after her heart-attack, so I guess my prayers were answered. It's been almost a week since her death and I still can't completely digest the idea that she's gone.

I want to thank all of you again (gosh, I can't thank you enough) for your prayers and for all your kind thoughts. This has been incredibly tough on me and on those of us who loved my grandmother. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

On a side note, have any of you heard about Near Death Experiences? I was once ready to blow them off as new-age quackery or a neurological condition brought on by great stress. Then I met Father Jude. Father Jude was a Dominican (O.P.) priest visiting my diocese and I was giving him daily rides from the rectory of my perish to my church. I can't quite recall the topic of conversation, but I do remember, while riding in my car, that he cited some of the described experiences of those who have had an NDE as proof that there was an afterlife. It seemed odd to hear something like that coming from Father Jude since he is very traditional when it comes to the Catholic faith. Apparently, the number of people who have had an NDE is quite large, and mainstream scientists who are investigating the phenomenon believe that human consciousness separates from the brain at the time of death. Some of the commonly described experiences of those who have had a Near Death Experience are feelings of great joy; seeing a beautiful light; profound peace and incomprehensible love; a review of one's actions and their impact on others; a sense of leaving their bodies behind; observing events - such a doctors and nurses working to revive them - while they were clinically dead; when they return, many experience complete change in their outlook on life/ they way they treat other people. There have also been accounts of people who have visited a less than peaceful place. A place of great distress and unpleasant images (you draw your own conclusions). I recently watched the BBC documentary The Day I Died and I was amazed by the number of mainstream scientists who have taken an interest in these experiences. They are focusing their attention on people who were clinically dead (no heartbeat, no breathing, no brain activity) and who also report an NDE.

So what do you think of these near-death experiences? Are they an indication, a hint, a gift given to a few as a glimpse of the world to come? Do you know of anyone who has actually had one? Love to hear your thoughts on this subject matter. The links below are of the documentary The Day I Died, which is comprised of six videos on YouTube. Try to approach them with an open mind.


Katie Alender said...

Tom, as silly (or whatever) as it sounds, it was actually an Oprah episode about near death experiences that made me look beyond my fire-and-brimstone evangelical beliefs. (Silly because it's Oprah, but actually a really key moment for me.) The show was about parents whose children had died, and they were describing the peace the children found in their final moments. It was really powerful. I'll look for that documentary!

Hope you're finding solace and comfort this weekend.

Adrienne said...

My Mother "spoke" to my husband and I shortly after her death. We had attended to all the details and were sitting at the dining room table having something to eat (it was quite late). I something to the effect of I wondering if she was ok and at that moment the dining room light dimmed (a lot). None of the other lights in the house were affected.

My grandma died when I was 9 years old and I still miss her.

Shirley said...

A funeral in the rain echos the sense of sadness and loss we feel, but remember too that water is a symbol for grace. It's a blessing that she had a week to prepare for death,and I'm sure all the prayers for her during that time were a great benefit to her soul.
It seems to me that NDE must be a gift from God; a glimpse of what awaits that can profoundly change your life, hopefully to help lead your soul to heaven. I like the story Fr. Corapi tells of his friend who was suffering greatly before his death, and just before he died, said "you can't imagine the joy!" I hope that death for me will be a passage into joy.

kris said...

First, I'm so sorry for your loss Tom. My heart goes out to you and I will be remembering you and your family in my prayers.

As to near death experiences, I'm certain some of it is physical, but I've no doubts there is life after death- so if people are revived and come back and happen to remember something of what lie beyond this life, I'm not sure why that is something to be skeptical about.

A wise priest said to me once, "life and death are so intimately connected, they kiss"... the veil between them is very thin.

Mike and Kim said...

Blessings of rain on your grandma's burial day. Makes me think of the verse, Hosea 6:2 I think,...."He comes to us like rain..."

My brother-in-law has had some electrical issues with his heart over the years...and he "flat-lined" for a bit. He said he remembers a bright white light and an overwhelming sense of peace...kinda like that "ahhhh, now I feel so good." He "came back" to eight doctors standing over him, paddles in hand, ready "jump start" him if necessary. Thank God that was not necessary!

I pray this is a magical Holy Week for you, and that God gives you many signs that He has your grandma pillowed softly in His arms.

Melody K said...

I agree with Shirley, that a NDE must be a gift from God.
I have read an account of Therese of Lisieux' deathbed, how she said, "My God, how I love You!", and gazed in rapture, for about the time it would take to say the Creed, and then died. She apparently saw something before she passed.
I hope you find comfort during the Easter season.

Owen said...

I am sorry to learn of your loss. Peace be with you and may your Grandmother rest in peace.

Some time ago wrote about an experience I believe I had between my long deceased father when praying for the souls in Purgatory; the line in the litany that says, for those for whom no one prays. My dad died as far as anyone knew without faith, indeed, rejecting faith in God. I was an evangelical minister at the time and could only grieve in my understanding of once it is appointed unto man to die and then the judgment. However, years later as a Catholic, not thinking of my dad at all and praying the litany I spoke that line and heard in as near to an audible way as possible his very voice speaking my nick name, a name known only to my childhood family and which I have never spoken or written to anyone. I responded in quite tears, I love you dad. And, yes, he responded, I love you _________.

I don't go in for much spooky stuff but I have to say, I am convinced that was real and that he somehow made it into the grace of God and on to the mercy of Purgatory.
O = art
luminousmiseries = poetry

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tom: There is a story, I'll have to find it maybe Terry knows, of a priest who was very New Agey and "hip" and then had an NDE and came back and embraced the Truth of his vocation. I know it's on DVD or video. I'll send Terry a note.

Owen said...

Fr Steven Scheier is the priest. Here's a link to an article in a Traditional Catholic forum:

Hope this helps.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ah, thanks Owen!

Blessed Easter to you, Tom!

paramedicgirl said...

Tom, so sorry to hear of your grandma passing away. I hope you are doing well. It is a blessing that God allowed you eight days to spend with her, to be near her and pray for her in her final days. May God bless you this Easter season.

Tracy said...

Thinking about you Tom and keeping you in prayer:)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Hi Tom! Miss you.

portal said...

I don't think it's strange or silly at all. Those twilight moments are beyond are comprehension. Who can understand it?

not only NDE where the person is "dead" and goes somewhere else before returning, but also those MULTITUDE of experiences where those who are on the verge of death have loved ones come to THEM.

as someone already said....the veil is very thin. Very thin indeed.

so sorry for your loss tom! peace on you.

paramedicgirl said...

Oh, Tom, where are you?

Mike and Kim said...

Glad I'm not the only one wondering where you are???!!! I miss your sharings.

Hope all is well and peaceful.

jessica said...

I miss you too Tom! Still praying for you. Hope things are going well with you.

Tracy said...

I miss you Tom!! I think of you often and you are in my prayers.

Shirley said...

I'm continuing to pray for you, Tom. Don't forget that when you go under in deep water, you have to come up for air at some point!