CLEVELAND, Ohio – Right before Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away, he was famously quoted saying, ‘Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow,’ but hospice caregivers who’ve witnessed thousands of patients say that’s just the beginning.
It’s a phenomenon witnessed around the world.
As a life is nearing the end, patients start to feel unsettled, often staring at the corner of the room.
“Every religious tradition, every wisdom tradition talks about these beings that come to get us when it’s time to die,” said Dr. Kevin Dieter with Hospice of the Western Reserve.
Witnesses say patients experience unexplained manifestations called “visions” or “visioning.”
They’re only visible to the patient – usually.
“The patient was visioning at that side of the room and this little two-year-old boy said, ‘who`s that sitting over there?” said Eric Bentrott, spiritual care coordinator.
At Hospice of the Western Reserve, they say entering a patient’s room is sacred space.
“I’ve had a number of patients who will all the sudden open their eyes like they`re startled, get a big smile on their face, take one last breath and they`re gone,” Dieter said.
Although they provide unconditional support, regardless of a person’s beliefs, they’ve also witnessed countless cases that defy logic.
“She goes, ‘oh, when did you get here?’ and I said, I`m Dave from Hospice, I`ve been here for awhile, she said, ‘not you.’ George and I turned around and looked and there was nobody behind me!” said volunteer David Lockard.
George was the patient’s long-deceased husband.
“She kept saying, ‘oh, you look so good’ and then I found out she passed away the next day,” Lockard said.
They say a parent or spouse is most common.
For one man, it was his beloved wife; for another, it was the family pet.
Skeptics say the visioning is nothing more than hallucinations brought on by drugs or disease, possibly the brain’s coping mechanism for dealing with death.
But Dr. Dieter says not every patient visions and those who do are entirely lucid.
“Folks who are dying still can have hallucinations, but they are qualitatively and quantitatively different,” he said.
“If you try to get their attention and you call them out of that there`s like a transition back to this world and they don`t like it,” said Lockard.
Most visions involve people already deceased, even if the patient doesn’t know it.
“About 2 weeks prior her son had passed away, they decided because of her condition they weren`t going to bother telling her,” Lockard said.
That woman, named Margaret, was bedridden for weeks and then suddenly got all dressed up.
“Her sister Dorothy walked in,” Lockard said. “She said, ‘Margaret, you look beautiful, what`s going on?’ She said, ‘Charles came to see me’ and she said he said he`s coming back to take me with him. She didn`t know he was passed away and the very next day she passed away as well.”
“A lot of times I notice a difference in the feeling from right before they pass away to after they pass away,” Bentrott said.
Hospice staff members – sharing their stories to help comfort you.
“It`s just like one of those things you want to say ‘wow!'” Lockard said.