When I was in college one of my professors of psychology was a student of the great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, who differed from Sigmund Freud’s interpretation of the subconscious as solely represented in sexual terms. To Jung it contained a deeper level of memories transmitted through countless generations, an accumulation of ancestral images gathered through millions of years, timeless images and symbols whose latent emotional content is the same for everyone.
It would not be until long after Jung died that the 3.2 billion letters of the human genome were identified in 2003. Had Jung known of the intricacies of the project and its significance to his own beliefs, I’m sure he would have refined his own early analysis of the transmittal of memories through generations to reflect those findings.
Think of it, with DNA you can be linked to your ancestors at the very beginning of time. And that’s the point I’m trying to make. Are they connected to you throughout your life?
I think you will recall that in every ‘near death’ experience that you’ve read about, the person had the feeling of travelling along a shaft of light, and in the distance sees a welcoming figure in robes. But, he/she doesn’t make it all the way to the robed figure because he/she has been rescued from death and brought back to life.
Some would believe it is God, or perhaps St. Peter, welcoming the soul to Heaven. If so, His days are overly occupied since there are billions of people on earth and there must be at least thousands of them that die each day. Instead of God, is it too much of a stretch to imagine it as one of your own ancestors welcoming you to the other side? I think that is far more likely, and while I have no proof, I would ask only that you allow me to present some past experiences that might lead someone to that view.
First of all is the matter of clocks. Whenever a close relative dies a clock stops in my household. It is always so and it is an alerting sign that I’m sure to shortly receive a phone call to that effect. Though actually it can sometimes be wrong or perhaps premature. For example, my wife Christine, while chinking are newly built log home, had a terrible accident. She reached too far to chink a crack in the log and caused the ladder she was standing on to topple sideways. Her foot unfortunately caught between the step of the ladder as she was falling and caused every bone in her ankle to be broken. She was taken to the local hospital emergency room and the doctors there had the good sense to know that it was beyond their ability to repair (the foot was just dangling, only held in place by the skin attaching it to the leg, every bone in the ankle broken). So they sent her by ambulance to the hospital in Bemidji and to the care of Dr. Johnson, a bone surgeon there. While I couldn’t go in the ambulance with her I went back to the apartment we were sharing and as I entered I heard the clock she had inherited from her grandfather who was a judge in Louisville racing around the 12-hour cycle, the hands going so fast that they were practically spinning and every bell and chime in the clock loudly going off. I might mention that the clock had never worked since we owned it, nor had we ever wound it. I told the clock to be quiet that as soon as I was dressed I was going to drive up to the hospital in Bemidji and see what could be done. At that point, the clock stopped its racket and I left for the 60-mile drive to Bemidji. A few months later, the cast was taken off her leg and she was able to walk without even a limp. Though, fortunately, she never went back to chinking the log home.
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My son, David, who was living with me in an apartment on Embassy Row in Washington at the time of my mother’s death, recalls that not only did the clock stop but the second hand went backwards.
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My daughter, Kyle, who was a science major in college theorizes that one of the fundamental laws of physics is that energy is neither created nor destroyed, so when we die our energy/consciousness still exists somewhere and that maybe our souls are in a sense recycled. (Kyle also mentioned that a person she worked with had the same experience with clocks stopping when a close relative died.)
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My daughter Sara, a chaplain explains, when the people you work with die all the time, you learn to look for, what I call, death cues; when you encounter the cues, you know it won’t be long. That’s when you notify family. As a Hospice Chaplain, I have come to accept the death cues as a normal rite of passage and they are as simple to read as a massive, green sign on the highway—bold-lettered and pointing to the nearest exit.
When I first encountered the death cues, Sara writes, however, I assumed my patients were hallucinating, experiencing dementia or affected by end-of-life drugs. Did I believe the dead could communicate with the living? No. In fact, my theology told me this would be a big no-no. Forbidden. Necromancy—even the word sounds disgusting to me. With my degree in Bible and Religion and a Masters in Exegetical Theology, I felt pretty confident about my belief. Calling up the dead, according to the Hebrew Scriptures was something that could land you under a pile of stones—a capital offense (Leviticus 20:27). I could rattle off several scriptures that condemn consulting the dead but you can do your own Google search and look them up. There is an interesting passage, though, that I do want to point out in 1 Samuel 28:3-23, where it appears that the God of the Bible allows a Medium to conjure up a dead prophet in order to give King Saul a final exhortation before his own death. So, what’s that about? Thought it was forbidden. As I have tried to figure out my theology around this issue, I think I may be arriving at some weird conclusions. But let’s back-track—what are the “death cues” that I was alluding to at the beginning of this post?
Almost without fail, before a patient dies—and this could be days, weeks, maybe a couple of months, or hours before they die—they will often see and/or talk with loved ones who have died before them. Maybe a mother, a father, a brother, sister, spouse, grandparent, friend and in one case I know of, a beloved dog and cat. One patient of mine had been married twice and had lost both husbands. She told me one day that her first husband had visited her the night before and had reclined reassuringly next to her in the bed. She didn’t think it odd at all. I knew then that she was not long for the world. Death cue. On a subsequent visit, she shared that her second husband had visited and he had simply sat at the foot of her bed.
I have so many stories related to this. It no longer seems strange to me. Often, patients will reach in the air as if they are longing to embrace the loved one. Often they talk to them. Often they see them. One patient, though no one else around her could see the pooch, was petting her invisible, deceased dog.
So, how does a Bible-loving, God-fearing individual like me make sense of this theologically? Firstly, I have had to make room for mystery. Do I understand how the Internet works? No. So how can I understand those thin spaces between this kingdom and the next? Wonder is a wise tutor and I have learned to let her abide in me.
Here is what I am thinking and I am positive my views are not always in line with my Dad’s but here are some of my thoughts. Although, the Bible makes it clear that summoning the dead is a big, fat no—it seems that there are exceptions when it comes to certain people on the other side reaching out to us. Samuel the Prophet was permitted to give King Saul a message, albeit, if you read the passage it seems he was kind of put off by the fact that Saul had summoned him, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” says a grumpy Samuel. Weird, but there we have it.
Here is my idea—in the New Testament—Mark 12: 27, Jesus states that God is not the God of the dead but of the Living. He references the Hebrew Scriptures and calls to mind the time when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” It is all in present tense. He didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham,” because that would infer Abraham is dead, instead, the inference is—all these people are living. So, maybe it is okay for the Living to talk to the Living? I am certain it isn’t okay for me to seek out the dead but if the Living from the other side seek out me, it may be because I am about to die in order to join the Other Land of the Living—heaven.
The most famous example of the Living from the Other Side appearing to the living on this side, in my book, is the case of the newly deceased Jesus appearing to His disciples three days after he had been crucified (Luke 24:36-49). Think Easter.
There are several other passages related to Jesus’ appearing after death. Google it.
Here is one final biblical (would you expect anything else from a Bible student?) example of the Living from the Other Side appearing to the living on this side—it is in the New Testament—Matthew 17—and it is what is commonly referred to as the Transfiguration. While Jesus walked the earth, He had a moment with His disciples, Peter, James and John, in which He reveals His true being … “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
Moses and Elijah had died centuries before but there they were showing up in all their glory having a talk with the earthly living. So, maybe there is a biblical case for the earthly living having a chat with the heavenly living, after all?
I do know one thing, however, you will never find me near a Ouija board or consulting a Medium. Now, on the other hand, if it is my time and my beloved Bull Terrier/baby-dog sister, Ripper, wants to swing by and let me pet her fat tummy and scratch behind her ears , hey, I am all for that but just know that if I ever tell you a story about how Ripper has come to visit me, it will definitely be a death cue … or a Life cue … or a “I am about to start a new life cue … on the Other side cue.”
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Now for a quite different experience in the world of the paranormal. When I was a teenager finishing high school World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific. I had a very troubling dream one night. I was in a bomber that was hit and was about to go down in a lake. I saw the two military pilots in the plane’s cockpit trying to make a safe landing in the lake. I also saw some of the crew waiting to abandon ship once the plane set down on the lake. All of the people in the plane were in uniform. In the dream, the plane did skid to a stop on the water and I could see land in the distance. That was the point where the dream stopped. A few weeks later we received word that Lyle Slaughter a friend of myself and a boyfriend that my older sister, Eleanor, had intended to marry after he returned from the war had been killed when his plane went down on a lake near the Swiss border with Germany. Eleanor was at that point in Michigan working in a factory making bombers. It seems that Lyle and the other members of the downed plane had been captured by a German patrol boat even though they were actually in neutral waters on the Swiss border. Lyle tried to escape by jumping into the water and attempting to swim to shore. One of the German boat guards, who had already recorded his name and thought it was Jewish, shot him as he was swimming to the neutral shore. Since I was sent to Germany just before the war there ended, I found out the name of the German guard and where he was imprisoned. I remember going to his cell with a Czech pistol with the intent of killing him. But, the guards frisked me and took the pistol away (fortunately as I look back on it*.) But, even to this day I remember the man standing in a darkened cell and wondering why I was staring at him with such intense hate. I have never understood why I was the recipient of the dream instead of my sister, but maybe it was because Lyle didn’t know where she was in Michigan. Anyway, as the dream was streaming through my sleep, I knew later that I was looking at it through Lyle’s eyes.
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* If I had shot the prisoner, I’m sure I would have spent several years in Leavenworth and received a dishonorable discharge.
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I will be 93 in a couple months, so obviously my time on earth is running out. You already know my fixation with clocks. I have a small bedside clock with an illumination switch so that if you wake up in the night you can press the switch and see the time. But, of course, you need to press the switch to check the time. Except I found that for weeks exactly at midnight the clock would light up automatically without my pressing the switch. I then went to a surgeon that did removal of moles only to find that I had two on my back that looked to be cancerous. The surgeon was able to remove them and assured me that he had removed all of the cancerous material around them so they were unlikely to come back. The bedside light abruptly stopped illuminating at midnight. I might add that my sister Grace had years earlier died of cancer of the leg. If that was a warning from her I will likely never know, but it was definitely a warning from someone on the other side. Since once the operation was over the bedside clock stopped illuminating at midnight.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
I decided in a fully intentional way to liven up this column with the suggestion that perhaps one should recognize that relatives on ‘the other side’ might appreciate a little more recognition. So, instead of the bedside prayer we all learned as children I was about to suggest a revision: “Now I lay me down to Sleep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” So, instead of that old standby I was about to suggest: “if I should die before I wake, I pray my ancestors my soul to take.” But as I tapped the first letter on my computer keyboard, the entire column you have been reading–every word in it–disappeared. I was dumbfounded! There was no logical explanation. Not only had it completely disappeared but it reappeared in its entirety three days later as if by magic. Every word above the ‘STRANGE BUT TRUE’ line which I have just typed. Sorry, but I don’t have an answer for that. Just a lot of wild guesses. One other thing worth noting: previously every night at midnight my bedside battery clock flashed on without me touching any of its controls. I had always presumed it was ‘a sleep well’ signal from those ancestors on the other side. Since this fiasco happened a number of months ago, the clock hasn’t turned on once at midnight!