In her last couple of weeks, when my mother’s mind seemed to be floating off somewhere else most of the time, she would sometimes lift her arms into the air, plucking at invisible objects with her fingers. Once, I captured her hands in mine and asked what she’d been doing. “Putting things away,” she answered, smiling dreamily.
This half-dreaming, half-waking state is common in dying people. In fact, researchers led by Christopher Kerr at a hospice centre outside Buffalo, New York, conducted a study of dying people’s dreams. Most of the patients interviewed, 88 percent, had at least one dream or vision. And those dreams usually felt different to them from normal dreams. For one thing, the dreams seemed clearer, more real. The “patients’ pre-death dreams were frequently so intense that the dream carried into wakefulness and the dying often experienced them as waking reality,” the researchers write in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Seventy-two percent of the patients dreamed about reuniting with people who had already died. Fifty-nine percent said they dreamed about getting ready to travel somewhere.
Jennie Dear on what it feels like to die.