Brenda Cooper

Reading Recommendation: Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who and What You See Before You Die, by David Kessler

I picked this up because of my recent experience in hospice with my little brother, Russ, who died of cancer.  The book is simple:  a series of stories about being with the dying and hearing them talk about deathbed visions.  Note that these are different than NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) where the person comes back.  The stories are all sort of Chicken Soup for the Soul style stories – simple, simply told, and an easy read. They are all from the viewpoint of the people who work with or the dying.  The patients were pretty much beyond writing by this time.  Russy, for example, talked about writing back to his niece Chloe who had sent him a beautiful letter, but he really didn’t have the fine motor control needed to write by the time we read him Chloe’s words.  Based on what I saw, most of  those dying in hospice are not capable of recording their stories.

The book helped to me, and I can imagine that it will be helpful for anyone who has or will experience the loss of someone they love dearly.  Interestingly, we read an article about it in the paper while Russy was still alive but already in hospice.

Kessler discusses people seeing their mother, other dead loved ones, planning for trips, and being in rooms crowded with people waiting to see them.  Some of the visions recorded in the book  appear to be in line with people’s religions, but many of them had no religious connotation at all.

While Russy was medicated, and so we can’t know that what he saw wasn’t attributable to the drugs, he spoke of being on a sailing journey during his last few days.  He saw people in the right-hand corner of the room, although he didn’t appear to recognize them.  The doctor at the hospice talked to us about the journeys and said that it was common for people to speak about traveling in the modes they had most often used just before death, and we are a sailing family.  Once of the last things Russy had wanted to do in the months before he went to hospice was go sailing, although he never managed to get there.  No only do I find comfort in the idea that he managed to sail in spite of his illness, I found a lot of alignment between what we experienced and what Kessler talks about in this book.

I realize it’s not my usual type of recommendation, but hey – a writer needs to read eclectically, right?  And what better book than one that echoes real life (and death) so well.

3 Responses so far

  1. 1. Jack Skillingstead

    Very interesting. I’ve had a life-long interest in this sort of thing and want to read this book.

  2. 2. brenda

    I can probably loan it to you– it’s a fast read.

  3. 3. Matt Buchman

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Brenda, but appreciate your adding to my required reading stack. Didn’t know we had sailing in common…