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what happens at time of death?
Feb 9, 1998

My partner was recently taken from this earth by cancer that was somehow related to AIDS.

He had great difficulty accepting that after death there would something other than darkness and aloneness. He became incapacitated before we could speak about this fear. There were two ministers who prayed with us, and I know he was conscious during our prayers, although he was called "semi-comatose." He indicated he was pleased when one of the chaplains entered the room.

I'm now struggling with my beliefs about what happened to him after his body quit functioning. What happened to the energy? Was he aware on some level? Was his soul in the room? Was he feeling what his body was doing? Was he at peace? Was God with him?

He opened his eyes very wide the morning he died. he had not opened his eyes in 2 1/2 days prior. His eyes were so wide, he seemed to look at us, although his pupils were different in each eye and each seemed to move independent of eachother. He slowly closed his eyes after about 5 minutes. He died 2 hours later. I believe opening his eyes, he was indicating that he wanted to say good-bye, or maybe saw something so beautiful, he wanted to open his eyes. I don't know.

Looking for answers.

Please respond.

Response from Rev. Pieters

Your description of his eyes opening gave me goose bumps. I've observed many people who regain consciousness for a brief time in the hours before death. Maybe they are trying to say goodbye. Maybe they're seeing "the other side." It's hard to tell. But I have seen it, and heard it reported many times.

I believe that God was indeed with him, and that he is now at peace. There have been so many people who have reported similarities in near-death experiences. I had a near-death experience myself in 1986 from the side effects of a trial drug I took. I was acutely conscious of what was happening. I had the sense of looking down at my body and the health care workers for a moment, and then I floated in peace. I felt surrounded by all those who have loved me. It was an incredible moment of rest and wholeness.

Since that experience, I haven't been afraid of death the way I used to be. I've had numerous occasions, too, of sitting with someone as they died. From personal experience, then, I have faith that God is with us in our dying. For me, that affirms the sanctity of life. Having faced death so closely, I truly feel that can be an experience which affirms the wholeness of life, which can be seen as the ultimate healing.

I hope that you are engaged in a bereavement support group or grief counseling of some sort. It's natural to wonder about all these things when you have lost your loved one. And there are those willing to listen and talk with you about these issues. Maybe you could contact one of those chaplains. You can also find many books on the subject of "life after life" or "near-death experiences". I would recommend Stephen Levine's books, "Who Dies?" and "Healing Into Life and Death."

Keep doing the hard work of grief... going through it is the only way to get through it. And there are those who will keep you company on the journey.

You're in my prayers.

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