Deathbed Visions: “It Doesn’t Matter Why They Happen, It Matters That They Do”

I held my grandmother’s hand as she lay dying in the hospital.  She had been paranoid in the previous days, claiming the doctors were trying to kill her and even claiming to see aliens attempting to steal her away.  Today, however, was different.  As her hand lay limply in mine, Oma, as I called her, turned her face toward me, eyes bright and gleaming, cheeks flushed and a look of wonder on her face.

“They were here last night.  They came to see me.”

“Who, Oma?” I said, “The doctors?”

“No”, she said wonderingly, her voice lowering to barely a whisper, as if she were confiding some special secret. “My father.. and my brother.  They were here, singing and reading poetry to me.”  She smiled broadly and relaxed back into her pillow, deeply satisfied.

Although her father and brother had passed away decades before, they were very dear to her in life.  Her father was a part of a barber shop quartet, and both of his children grew up to be musically inclined.  My grandmother played the piano, a talent she passed on to me.

She passed away a few days later and I knew exactly who welcomed her home.

Looking back, I find it interesting though not at all surprising that her deceased mother had not figured in her deathbed visions.  While she had worshiped her father and loved her brother dearly, my grandmother had a rather cool relationship with her mother.  It makes perfect sense that her mother might have known that appearing during the dying process would be stressful for my grandmother, which convinces me that this wasn’t a hallucination.  When people hallucinate, generally, the visions are convoluted, anxiety-producing and non-nonsensical.  This couldn’t have been more perfect than if my grandmother had designed it herself.  What about the aliens?  Well, at first I thought that was simply paranoia, but now I believe that she might have been initially visited by light beings, perhaps her guides, that she misinterpreted as aliens.  Perhaps this is why her father and brother were sent in; to calm her and help her transition home.  On the other hand, its possible the alien sighting was due to over-medication.  I don’t know, but I don’t doubt the rest of her visitation.

Hospice nurses report these types of events as a matter of routine.  The occurrence is so commonplace, that they use these visions as a sign of impending death, and a signal to call loved ones.  These visions happen generally when a person is experiencing an extended dying process, from illness or old age.  Even patients who are in coma or unconscious, have dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s may experience something known as terminal lucidity.  Prior to death, people who couldn’t speak or recognize loved ones suddenly open their eyes, and address the gathered family with complete clarity and lucidity.  This may also be incorporated into a deathbed vision, where the dying person simultaneously addresses the living and the vision of their deceased loved ones in turn.

Steve Jobs was said to have a deathbed visions.  His final words as he looked out past his family were “Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow.”

Roger Ebert, in the week before he died, also spoke about a vision:

“The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn’t know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: “This is all an elaborate hoax.” I asked him, “What’s a hoax?” And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn’t visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can’t even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.”

Here are some additional stories of famous deathbed visions.  Although the stories are anecdotal, it is true that the phenomena has been recorded for centuries, if not longer.

In a study conducted between 1959 and 1973 by the parapsychologists Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson, they reported that 50% of the tens of thousands of individuals they studied in the United States and India had experienced deathbed visions.

Medical science has accepted that deathbed visions do occur with statistically significant frequency, but opinions differ as to the cause.

Called death-related sensory experiences (DRSE), doctors attribute deathbed visions to either hallucinations caused by high doses of medications, such as morphine given in hospice environments, or cerebral hypoxia; a lack of oxygen in the brain.

Although no formal conclusive study has been done, it is reported that deathbed visions occur world-wide, and throughout history in subjects both medicated and non-medicated.  Certainly, many people die without the benefit of hospice care and yet deathbed visions are continually reported.  If it were causal with narcotics only, we might see an increase in highly ordered visions in all patients taking high doses of morphine, and yet only those close to death have these very particular types of visions.

Secondly, the visions are highly ordered and sensical.  They typically make sense to the individual and the observers when described, and overwhelmingly these visions contain descriptions of people who are deceased.  Hallucinations caused by a dying brain wouldn’t disginguish between the living and deceased, and one might suggest that hallucinations would contain people, place and images of the patient’s current surroundings and recent life, not deceased family members who may have died decades before.  The conspicuous lack of living family members in the visions argues against the hallucination hypothesis.  Lastly, a brain starved of oxygen wouldn’t produce clear, logical and ordered hallucinations.  A lack of oxygen in the brain renders complex structures less able to create images, sound and memory, thus you would expect hallucinations to be fragmented, disjointed and nonsensical.

CNN Article: Do the Dead Greet the Dying?

The jury is still out on what causes deathbed visions, but should we be fortunate enough to live to an old age, we can be assured that when our turn comes, we will be comforted by beautiful visions and the outstretched arms of parents and friends who died years before, welcoming us home.

In the end, “it really doesn’t matter why they happen, it matters that they do.”

What’s your opinion on deathbed visions?  Have you ever witnessed one yourself with a loved one?  Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments – I’d love to discuss them with you.

17 thoughts on “Deathbed Visions: “It Doesn’t Matter Why They Happen, It Matters That They Do”

  1. This should still be more than quite a comfort to those who may be dealing with any loved one who might be in a similar situation. Though impossible to truly quantify the only thing that will ultimately matter is belief itself. It is simply because we believe in something that it may impress such a reality upon us. In this case I for one am overjoyed that you were able to find the comfort in your grandmother’s passing due to such a simple gesture as a pleasant encounter with her closest and dearest past relations. It seems as if the encounter for her would not only help to prepare for her own transistion but would give her the confidence in what was yet to be. Dismissing fear and confusion for much more desirable things like hope and love and true joy in a moment when others may not yet understand. There gives a sense of it becoming a joyful occasion to the ones who are blessed with such a comfort. Whether it be just the spirit a way to happily become free or be it a true transitional greeting, I know the experience itself only matters to that individual but it leaves me hopefull of a situation that typically would be devoid of such emotional experience…
    So I thank you for sharing such a deep , personal , and evocative experience with us all. Hopeful that it will touch many others….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Will,

      What a beautiful, eloquent comment; thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I’ve heard it said by some scientists that this could be simply an evolutionary trick to ease the dying process in humans, which explains why DBVs are so similar around the world. Although I don’t believe that, even if it were true, its wonderful to know that our last moments may be filled with such wonder and joy. As with my grandmother, to see the extraordinary change from terror of death, to absolute acceptance and happiness is a miracle, regardless how or why it happens. Thanks again, Will, for sharing how you feel with me – its nice to know that that someone is listening on my little corner of the net.



  2. My dad was in the hospital in Tucson after being rushed there by ambulance from our home in Safford, Arizona. He had been in the hospital in Safford, came home, but had a relapse when I had to tell him my Uncle Everett, mom’s younger brother, had passed. It had been very traumatic that fall because mom had passed that September after suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years, and Unk’s passing was the last straw for the man. The folks had married when they were 19, their marriage spanning 57 years, and, of course, dad took her death very hard.

    My daughter and my brother were sitting with him, and he kept asking them to pick up a bag of quail he insisted was under his bed. He even had the nurse look several times–he could see it, but no one else could. He also insisted mom was by his bed, urging him to “hurry up, or we’re going hunting without you!” My Uncle Everett had been buried that day, and dad said he stood in the door of his room, laughing.

    We stayed until we had to leave because my daughter had to work the next day, and two of my granddaughters had school. My brother stayed a bit longer, then, when dad drifted off to sleep, he returned to his job in Phoenix. When we got back to Safford, we went out to eat because neither my daughter nor I felt like cooking. When we got home, the telephone was ringing off the hook—it was the hospital—dad had passed away just a little while before. My brother returned to Tucson to take care of matters there—one of the hardest jobs of his life, he said.

    The family went to the local funeral home, made arrangements for dad’s funeral, although we had to laugh because the one color dad hated was yellow–but that was the only color the flower shop had as their new shipment hadn’t come in. The sprays were very pretty, though.

    I deliberately set dad’s funeral for later in the week, thinking his sisters in Missouri and Kansas would want to attend, as well as his sister in Prescott, Arizona. I knew his brother in Ohio couldn’t come as he was very sick himself. I hate to admit it, but not one of those people even sent a card! The sister in Arizona did send a rather small spray, saying it was from all the siblings, but it didn’t ease the hurt—I am still bitter about it, and dad was buried thirty years ago! He had a splendid funeral, though! He had made a great many friends during his short residency in Safford–farmers (dad had grown up on a farm, and never got it out of his system), truckers whom he met at the all-night restaurant in town, townspeople, the teachers from my daughter’s school, and all the neighbors—he even had the entire police force for traffic control—all five of them! My four sons acted as pall bearers for their grandfather—two of them in uniform—one Navy, the other one Air Force–the other two boys were already out of the service. One would have thought dad was a VIP from the amount of people who attended the services—there was standing room only, and some were outside due to lack of seating! It was thrilling!

    Dad had been a very unassuming man, enjoyed people, dancing, his grandchildren, and lived to see four of his great-grandchildren—he had a vast circle of friends who still miss him.

    Once, my mom made the remark that when she and dad passed on, she hoped my brother, Everett, and I would not forget them. Recently, Everett and I were talking about them, and I told him about that remark. He agreed with me—how could we forget them when they were our best friends? Hanging out with them was far more fun than our friends from school!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lee,

      Thank you so much for sharing this story – indeed, your father had a remarkable deathbed vision! I’m not sure if you watched the video attached to this post, but comments about having to hurry to go somewhere are very common – exactly like your father’s insistence that he not be late for the hunting trip. I am so sorry that you suffered so many losses in such a short period of time. It sounds like your father was a great man – judging by how many people whose lives he touched, and turned out for the funeral. Although you describe him as an unassuming man, it sounds like he was remembered by many. Please know that your father was at that funeral – and he knows how much you love him. Thank you again, so much, for sharing your personal story. I really enjoyed reading about your father and your family.



  3. Reblogged this on Does consciousness survive death and commented:
    Secondly, the visions are highly ordered and sensical. They typically make sense to the individual and the observers when described, and overwhelmingly these visions contain descriptions of people who are deceased. Hallucinations caused by a dying brain wouldn’t disginguish between the living and deceased, and one might suggest that hallucinations would contain people, place and images of the patient’s current surroundings and recent life, not deceased family members who may have died decades before. The conspicuous lack of living family members in the visions argues against the hallucination hypothesis. Lastly, a brain starved of oxygen wouldn’t produce clear, logical and ordered hallucinations. A lack of oxygen in the brain renders complex structures less able to create images, sound and memory, thus you would expect hallucinations to be fragmented, disjointed and nonsensical.


  4. I would like to talk with you about what happened to me when my mom passed away in the hospital. I did not die, she did, what happened was amazing. I also had several things happen to me in the days proceeding.


    1. Sorry for the late response, Dianna. I’d love to hear about your experience with your mom. Would you prefer to email me about it? My contact info is in the menu. Take care!


  5. Jenn-I watched my mom recently die (without any medicine) and she experienced death bed vision. It was truly surreal and I found it comforting knowing she is reunited with my dad and her parents. If you would like to hear my experience please email me at Please put in the subject death bed vision.

    Thank you.


  6. My dear father passed away from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) the last and terrible stage of emphysema on the 7th March 2016. Around a week or so before he was rushed to hospital, he said that his mum and dad visited him in our lounge room and on a separate occasion he dreamed of his mother appearing to him and crying. My mum and I knew right away that it was a bad sign/omen. He died around 4-6 weeks after the vision. He also complained of seeing a man in black waiting for him in the hospital. No one was there. A week before he died he was in the best of health he had been in years. He was the dad I remembered. He was Joking and he was breathing for the first time in years without using oxygen tubes. We thought it was a miracle. We wish it was.

    Another strange vision (this time through a dream) happened to my mother a few weeks before my dad died. She had a dream that a very tall man in green was in our lounge room. She couldn’t see his face but he said to her, you need to go to church and light a candle and pray right away.

    Finally this is what happened to me..
    Around mid August 2016, I awoke at around 3:15 – 3:30am. My room was dark. I looked towards the ceiling and noticed a small golden, sparkling light hovering. After around 3-4 seconds it floated up and went through the ceiling. It went straight through and left a misty residue/puff of smoke. I’m 39 years old and I have never experienced anything like this before. This happened around 5 months after dad passed away.


    1. Dear Danny,
      What a terrible disease; I know how devastating and painful a death from COPD can be. I am acutely aware of the pain and fear that your poor father must have felt in his last days, though once he passed, I can assure you that he felt better than he ever did before. It may be that he dreamed of his mother crying as she watched her son go through the difficulty of his passing. What you experienced with your father in the week before his passing is known as ‘terminal lucidity’. Although the term ‘lucid’ refers to clarity of the mind in most cases, it also applies to physical ailments. There are many people who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, even comas or terrible illnesses who suddenly rally right before they pass. Family often thinks its a turn-around of sorts, but these events – at least in a spiritual interpretation – seem to be an opportunity for the dying to have a chance to spend time with their loved ones, saying goodbye, dealing with regrets, etc. It feels like a type of spiritual gift that gives people a ‘good death’ by giving them and their families one last chance to have some happy moments. In terms of medicine, it’s a mystery why so many people have these incredible moments of clarity and health right before they die, but for many families, it is a miracle in a different way – the chance to say goodbye and remember their loved ones as they were. The dream that your mother had might have just been a way to prepare her for your father’s death in a way that is meaningful to your family. Perhaps so that all of you could take advantage of the time when your father would have that time to say goodbye. Your experience is incredible; I have often read spiritual transcripts and other experiences where spirits are seen as golden or white light. I would, of course, interpret your experience as a visitation from your father. He waited until you awoke to make sure that you knew that he is watching over you with love, and will always.
      Thanks for sharing your experience.


  7. I have a deathbed vision experience with a loved one I’d like to share. At first, I had no idea what was happening. I’d never heard of this so called deathbed vision phenomenon until after the first night caring for my father in his home when I decided to research his behavior.

    Our first night, it was me and my sister honoring our fathers wishes to be at his home under hospice care. Our father had cancer which had spread and there was nothing we could do ;however, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He handled it well and had chemo. He battled the illness for 15 months with no complaints or sickness. He lived a normal life until he got an infection. Doctors said after a CAT scan confirmed that there was no hope and suggest palliative care. My father agreed. I received that news on a Sunday back in Oct 2017 4 days later a Thursday my father was transported to his home where the home health care would begin. Hospice was only there once a day for roughly an hour or so each day. We were responsible for his medication regime and wasn’t really sure how long he had. He wasn’t in bad shape on that Sunday when I received the news. He was sitting up having conversation with us prior and the days after. He was eating but very little than what he usually ate. Nibble here Nibble there.

    He began his low dose of morphine while in hospital on an as needed basis. Only thing I noticed, he started falling asleep on ya and I thought side effect of the morphine. By Thursday it was a different behavior.

    He was restless and extremely agitated. He was shaking bed rails, cussing, and talking to people who wasn’t even there. He was seeing things as he followed them up on the ceiling and he kept saying, “this is so weird, i have never been through anything like this before, I feel like im dying.” He kept questioning whats going on. He also wanted us to get his pants and to put his watch on him as he said we need to leave. He wanted my sister and I to go with him. Where ever that was.

    At one point on first night, he needed my sister and I to hear him out. He called us in the room and said, “he went to heaven yesterday” (he was at the hospital then) as he stopped speaking and just stared straight ahead and said, “Jesus is here.” He rambled on all through the night talking to others and getting frustrated yelling at us to do something to the point we was beginning to think if we could continue caring for him. It wasn’t my father. I myself was sort of freaked out by his behavior. We was giving him his morphine every 4 hours and Ativan as directed and I think we held off on both of them as we began blaming them for causing his behavior. Boy Was we wrong! I don’t care what docs, or others say about how morphine or lack of Oxygen to the brain causes these haullicinations/visions. It’s not the morphine nor lack of oxygen!

    In spite of his behavior, our father was in 2 world’s at the same time and he was able to be in this world when we asked him to be. Often I’d stand by his bed and say dad who am I? He’d say my name.

    Thursday, Friday, and Saturday was the 3 longest days ever but I wished I had them to relive again. I found out my father was experiencing Deathbed visions and he was giving us quit a show. For 3 days round the clock with no sleep even with morphine and Ativan, not to mention 2 increases were prescribed in those 3 days of both medicines to help relax him which didn’t work.

    In those 3 days, Our father spoke to his mother, his wife (our mother) and his son (our brother). All deceased relatives. He relived his past out loud (well it seemed as if he was reliving his past ). He kept saying he needed to get his 2 jobs back somehow ( he had lost 2 great jobs due to plant shut down in the 80’s ) to whoever he was talking to but at times it was to me. He’d call for me and I’d run in and he say, ” I need to sit up, eat, remove the catheter and get his 2 jobs back.” I said, “Dad I can’t remove the catheter. ” He asked,”will it be okay to leave in when he dies?” I was stunned by that question and I just reassured him that yes it’s ok to leave in when you die they will remove it after. He began telling his invisible friend that the catheter will be cut off he supposes and I chuckled at his comment.

    Like I said he was active for 3 days having death bed visions and life flash backs. He even mumbled once that his life was flashing before his eyes.

    By Sunday he was beginning to calm down a bit. I thought it was due to lack of sleep, no food, nor anything to hydrate himself but a moistened sponge to suck on. Did i mention that he was a really good patient though during all this? He’d lift his tongue up when you’d ask him to so I could give him his morphine and if i needed to roll him over he was very helpful and understood all the directions. Like I said, ” he was in 2 world’s at one time.”

    Sunday afternoon he yelled for me. I ran into room as he said, “I got my contract.” I said, “that’s great news dad!”

    Throughout the day he seemed weaker and weaker began soft mumbles instead of the out spoken words. By noon on Monday Oct 23rd he was comatosed. He didn’t move or twitch and the so called death rattle began….he never spoke another word nor opened his eyes and within 14 hours he went in peace and I liked to believe when he was awarded that contract that was when his new journey began.

    The whole experience changed my life! For the better. There is something worth dying for.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is not a deathbed story but when my mum past away I wasn’t there I was driving in my car me and mum were close just as she passed away my mobile rang as I answered it my neice was there she said nan just passed away a warm feeling went straight through me like God’s hand had touched me when I was driving I believe in God and I’ve felt the power of Gods touch it was a beautiful feeling I was comforted I believe from him I still miss mum can’t wait to see her again on that beautiful shore in the sweet by and by!


  9. My brother and I were sitting alone in the hospital Room. He was young and never knew any body who had passed. He then said that he saw his cat walking around and one of his friends he was delighted and happy they were there.(they were not there) The hospital curtain was pulled and asked me to pull the curtain back so he could see all the people behind the curtain. I pulled the curtain and said “there isn’t any one here” when I pulled the curtain back he kept telling me there were people behind the curtain. but not it a scared way. In a happy way. He passed a couple of hours later.


  10. I moved back home to care for my mom and dad when their health was declining. Unfortunately I never witnessed neither my mom or dad making any reference to any otherworldly beings when they were close to death. Both my parents passed away peacefully five months apart at home. My sister and I longed to have some sort of after death contact from mom and dad that they were ok but we never received any signs. Mom and dad passed away 39 years ago.


    1. I’m sorry Carol. It’s true that not everyone gets signs. In those cases, if you feel you want to pursue contact, you could try a reputable medium. I recommend the forever family foundation or the windbridge institute. As an aside, my mother didn’t get a sign from her mother until 16 years had passed. It was at a very critical time in her life. Sometimes we don’t get signs until we really need them. I’m glad your parents passed peacefully, that is a gift regardless. Thanks for sharing!


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