If You Are Facing Death
"Life is only a
preparation for death. Death is only a passage to a new life. Upon
dying, life has not been taken away, it is transformed. True life is
beyond time and space in Eternity."
- OLIVIER MESSIAEN
Perspectives on Death, Life and Love
Eternea offers information and resources for those who may be facing
imminent death, in order to help ameliorate the anxiety, fear or pain
often experienced when one is confronted with the prospect of one’s
mortality. We sincerely hope that the content on this web site can
provide solace, comfort, or even inspiration.
Considering the preponderance of evidence in accounts reported by
those who have had spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) and
particularly near-death experiences (NDEs), the scientific team of
Eternea believes that death is not the end of one’s existence and that
consciousness survives physical death. Death marks the end of one’s
physical body, but not the end of one’s non-physical existence,
consciousness or soul. These observations are not presented as
“religious” conviction. Rather, they are supported by the empirical
findings from credible research by frontier science.
Some of the challenges that accompany the death and dying
- Coping with physical pain;
- Coping with fear, anxiety and emotional or spiritual distress;
- Concern about separation from loved ones or transition to the
- What can one expect when death comes?
Coping with physical pain
Modern medicine has developed a spectrum of advanced techniques for
pain management. There are innovative pharmaceuticals to reduce most of
the pain associated with a terminal illness. In addition, there are
excellent complementary treatments that can help mitigate pain without
the side effects of some medications. And often the combination of
both traditional and complementary medicine offers the most successful
Hospice organizations by and large do an excellent job of helping the
patient/client manage his/her pain in a tolerable way, while maintaining
lucidity and consciousness during the last days. This enables a patient
and his or her loved ones to enjoy the benefit of continued meaningful
interaction for as long as possible. Hospice offers additional resources
to assist with other practical needs that arise during a terminal
illness, such as putting affairs in order. Their programs consider the
patient and his or her family to be the unit of care, for the process of
dying involves challenges not only for the person who is ill, but for
all loved ones and caregivers as well. They also offer ongoing
bereavement support to surviving loved ones.
No one should die alone or in fear or in pain given the availability
of hospice care in nearly every community across the United States. To
find the location of a hospice near you, please contact:
Hospice & Palliative Care Organization
Your physician can help you determine if and when hospice care may be
appropriate, and most can facilitate a referral to a local hospice group
for a consultation.
Coping with emotional or spiritual distress
It is natural that fear, anxiety, or emotional or spiritual distress
can arise as one faces the end of one’s lifetime.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, the Swiss-born psychiatrist who started
the hospice movement in the United States, wrote several best-selling
books about death and dying. She devoted much of her celebrated career
to treating the needs of dying patients. She was among the first medical
doctors, if not the first, to develop specialized expertise in caring
for the psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill
In counseling her dying patients, and often in her public lectures,
Dr. Kübler-Ross made frequent use of the metaphor of a butterfly. She
caterpillar calls disaster, the butterfly calls liberation.
Your perspective is all-important in how you view or react to
impending death. Dr. Kübler-Ross would inform her patients that by
shifting their perspective on what happens as death nears, they could
effectively resolve or retire fear, anxiety, sadness and depression.
Using the butterfly metaphor, Dr. Kübler-Ross would explain to her
patients and students that the caterpillar does not know it is about to
become a beautiful butterfly, so it fears, resists and fights the
natural transformation it is undergoing simply because it does not know
any better. It only knows existence as a caterpillar and it clings to
that particular identity. However, if the caterpillar could somehow know
it is about to enjoy rebirth as a magnificent butterfly, its transition
into that form would be a welcomed, happy and joyous occasion. The
butterfly is no longer earthbound like the caterpillar. It takes flight
and enjoys a whole new refreshing view of things. And, so it is when the
spirit leaves the physical body, shedding its cocoon, to take flight and
climb to an entirely different vantage point on the whole of existence
and ultimate reality.
The poet Kahlil Gibran expressed the same sentiment in his classic
book The Prophet:
You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or
fields. That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the
wind. It is not a thing that crawls into the sun for warmth or digs
holes into darkness for safety, but a thing free, a spirit that envelops
the earth and moves in the ether.
This would I have you remember in remembering me: That which seems most
feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined. Is it
not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your
But you do not see, nor do you hear, and it is well. The veil that
clouds your eyes shall be lifted by the hands that wove it. And the clay
that fills your ears shall be pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.
And you shall see. And you shall hear. Yet you shall not deplore having
known blindness, nor regret having been deaf. For in that day you shall
know the hidden purposes in all things. And you shall bless darkness as
you would bless light.
As death approaches, people sometimes fall into spiritual distress
characterized by a deep state of resignation, withdrawal, sadness and
depression. They can be overtaken by a profound identity crisis,
realizing the body will soon cease to function or exist. If they are
like the caterpillar, they may believe that they are only their bodies;
their self-worth may be based on financial status and material
possessions, or on social and lifetime accomplishments. And when these
things begin to slip away, some may wonder what is left? What becomes
of “me” if “I” can no longer define “myself” in these terms?
Most religions offer deeply rooted perspectives on these questions,
which can provide comfort for those who share their respective beliefs.
Additionally, the messages from those who have had near-death
experiences, from a broad range of cultures and religions or
non-religious backgrounds, when taken in aggregate, can offer a measure
of hope and a glimpse into the continuum of what is called
The late former Beatle, John Lennon, put it this way in his song The
Ballad of John & Yoko: “Last night the wife said ‘Oh boy, when you’re
dead, you don’t take nothin’ with you but your soul.’ Think!”
An arguably universal agreement is that death is the great equalizer
and that which transforms us from earthbound physical existence –
caterpillars if you will – into spiritual beings – or butterflies no
longer encumbered by the cocoon, liberated to take flight and explore
domains and dimensions not imaginable from the earthbound perspective.
Dr. Kübler-Ross has suggested that we can allay the fear, anxiety,
sadness, and depression that may come about when facing death by turning
the dial of our inner mind’s eye to a different frequency. By shifting
the perspective about who we really are, focusing upon our larger,
truer, eternal “butterfly identity” instead of our earthbound, temporal,
physical “caterpillar identity,” we can triumph over the ordeal of
physical death, seeing its essence of transition rather than finality.
The challenge, and the source of hope, is in understanding the
spiritual self. And, while it is not easy for anyone to hear a doctor’s
diagnosis that “you only have a short time left to live, or that you are
going to die from a terminal illness,” that is the precise time to
recognize that such statements apply only to the physical body and not
to the true spiritual self. We are not solely our physical bodies, and
death is not the end. As Wayne Dyer says, “we are spiritual beings
having a human experience.”
We encourage you to read and consider the information posted on this
web site. See if it resonates with you. Explore the possible
affirmation of your own beliefs, echoed in the personal accounts of
others. Explore the possibility of new perspectives.
Consider more ponderings of Kahlil Gibran, writing in The Prophet:
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide
unto the body of life, for life and death are one, even as the river and
the sea are one. In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent
knowledge of the beyond. And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your
heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he
stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. Is
the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the
mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling? For what
is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its
restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to
climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly
Concern about loved ones and about transition to the unknown
Even if one feels prepared spiritually and mentally for death, it is
natural to be concerned for loved ones and to have questions about what
to expect at the moment of death. For insight into these matters, we can
look to consistency in reports from those who have had
near-death experiences (NDEs) or witnessed
nearing-death awareness (NDA), which are detailed on this web site.
These types of experiences offer us the best information regarding the
process of dying and separation of the soul or consciousness from the
People who have reported NDEs have not actually died in a legal or
medical sense, in that they returned to life. They were characterized as
being “near-death” because they lost cardiac and respiratory abilities
for a time, rendering them unconscious. In that sense they have been
closer to actual irreversible death than the rest of the population.
There have been millions of reported NDEs from all over the world, and
historical accounts closely mirror contemporary accounts dating back to
Plato and ancient Greece. As such, the scientific team of Eternea and
many others consider NDEs to provide some sense of what to expect at the
time of one’s death.
What can one expect when death comes?
In the vast number of cases described by Dr. Raymond Moody in his
classic pioneering book entitled Life After Life, most people reporting
NDEs indicated that the dying process begins with a profound sense of
peace and well-being. This is soon followed by a floating sensation in
which the consciousness or spirit separates from one’s physical body,
ascending above it. In this out-of-body state, they report hearing and
seeing all that is taking place around them.
Next, a guide or angel appears, sometimes a deceased loved one or
close friend. Many report being escorted by the guide or angel through a
tunnel or vortex of some kind. At the end of it, they emerge into a
place of indescribable beauty, a realm of brilliant light, where they
encounter deceased loved ones and friends who come to greet them in what
they describe as a joyous reunion. They also report encountering a
radiant Being of Light, who they describe as a supreme divine presence.
This Being of Light welcomes them with unconditional love…a love which
they say is inexpressibly profound and comforting.
Upon encountering the Being of Light, they are shown a panoramic
review of their lifetime—everything they ever thought, said, or did
being instantaneously and simultaneously presented or shown to them, as
well as the ramifications or consequences of same in the lives of
others. Where they brought love and joy to others, they experience the
same feelings, exponentially. Where they caused pain or harm, they feel
this too, as if the pain or harm they caused is happening directly to
themselves. They say that no external judgment takes place during this
life review. Rather, they say they judge themselves in the presence of
absolute truth, knowledge and love. Where they were the cause of harm or
pain, they instantly and genuinely feel the need to atone.
Following the life review, typically, the Being of Light or a guide
or an angel informs them that they must return to their bodies to serve
some unfulfilled purpose on earth. In some instances, individuals are
given a choice to stay or return. All who return undergo a dramatic
change or transformation—becoming more kind, compassionate or
altruistic. They lose the fear of death entirely, and their belief in a
Creator or Supreme Being and in life after death or eternal existence is
solidified as well.
In NDA cases, observers by the bedside of a dying person report a
myriad of extraordinary occurrences. Oftentimes, they report that the
dying person, although unconscious and in the throes of death, will
utter words or names as if greeting some invisible entity that has
entered the room. Sometimes the dying person will speak in a language no
one knew they could speak, or may speak aloud to answer questions only
they can hear. Commonly, observers at the bedside of the dying person
may notice that a clearly discernable glow or halo settles over the
dying person just as he or she makes their transition. They also
frequently report dramatic changes in the facial countenance of the
dying patient as death approaches, often casting a deep smile, looking
quite relaxed and peaceful.
What can be inferred from this discussion is that death is nothing to
fear. It is as natural as being born. This is not to say it is easy or
effortless. Dying is a monumental affair and this discussion is not
intended to minimize it. Bidding farewell to one’s body, one’s earthly
identity, and one’s loved ones or pets, can be very painful and sad. But
as Gibran poetically states, it is when we reach the mountaintop that we
truly begin to climb, dance and soar.
- Alexander, Eben (2012). Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey
into the Afterlife. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Callanan, Maggie (2009). Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for
Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life. Bantam.
- Callanan, Maggie and Patricia Kelley (2012). Final Gifts:
Understanding the Special Awareness Needs and Communication of the Dying,
New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Kircher, Pamela (1995). Love Is The Link: A Hospice Doctor Shares Her Experience Of Near-Death
- Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth (1969). On Death & Dying. Simon and
Schuster/Touchstone. Reissued 1997: Scribner
- Moody, Raymond (1975). Life After Life. Mockingbird Books.
Additional books and references can be found at:
Books on related topics