Do you have any last words for someone who is in the last hours of life? Then you should say it.
How does it feel to die?
As long as we humans have wondered why we live, we have been curious about death. For natural reasons, no one can tell us what it feels like to die, but those who have had near-death experiences have tried.
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One of the most famous stories comes from Francis Beaufort, the man behind Beaufort’s scale. He went to sea in his early teens and began drowning in 1791, 17 years old.
“A calm feeling of perfect silence overshadowed the violent feeling. I did not have physical pain either. It was actually quite pleasant to feel my senses. Even if they were stupid, the brain was not: its activity seems to be amplified in a way I can not describe. Thought after thought appeared, at a speed that is not only indescribable, but probably also conceivable for anyone who has been in the same situation, “ wrote Beaufort, reproduced by Scientific American.
Floats over the body
Well over 200 years later, Beufest’s history is still interesting. Many have told of a similar feeling of total calm just before one thinks one must thank oneself, especially if the situation is dramatic, as a drowning must be said to be.
In the book “Beyond the light” from 1994, a number of people describe their near-death experiences, and then many tell about the feeling of floating calmly around the room:
“I floated over my body. I could hear and see everything that was said and done. Then I left the room for a while and came back to where my body was, and I knew it was dead,Says a woman who was close to death on the operating table.
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Another woman, who had to have an urgent operation on her stomach, is one of several who say that the pain only became apparent when they “came back” to the body. Here is her description, reproduced by the British author Susan Blackmore:
“I lay over my body, completely painless, looking down at myself, full of pity for the pain I saw in my face. I floated calmly around. I was on my way to a dark, but not scary, curtain-like area. And I felt completely calm. But suddenly everything changed, I was thrown into my body again, very aware of the pain I felt ».
The brain responded to sound
This is hardly science. Of course, it is actually experienced for those concerned, but it is not enough to be able to state that “this is how it feels to die” – with two dashes below the answer.
After all, death is a very difficult subject for research. If you want to know what it feels like to die, you must somehow be able to talk to someone who has died. And it will be difficult!
Another option is to measure the brain activity of dying patients, as researchers at the University of British Columbia have done. Then, of course, you will not hear emotional depictions of the experience itself, but you will know something about what happens in the brain at the last moment of life. The report is published in Scientific Reports and presented by Psychology Today.
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Neurologists have measured the brain activity of so-called terminal patients, ie. patients suffering from an incurable disease and will die within the next few days or hours. Their activity was compared with a control group of young, healthy patients.
The researchers monitored the brain’s response to sound and discovered that the dying patients responded in much the same way as the healthy ones – even when they were a few hours from death.
They concluded that a dying brain responds to sound even when it is no longer conscious, and that hearing is the last feeling that disappears.
They hear, but do they understand?
Researchers have long believed that hearing and touch are active senses during the last hours of life.
– First it’s hunger, then thirst. Then speech, followed by sight. The last senses that go are hearing and touch, says James Hallenbeck, an expert in palliative care at Stanford University, to The Atlantic.
The latest study is still mentioned as groundbreaking because it is the first time you see such concrete evidence that dying patients belong to the last hours, and even though the rest of the body does not respond to other things.
The study’s lead author, psychologist Elizabeth Blunder, hopes the study can be a consolation to relatives sitting on the edge of their beds when someone they love dies. At the same time she makes reservations:
– It is uplifting to know that the brain reacts and processes the sound information it receives. But I can not say anything if the person they love understands what they are saying or if the dying person understands who is speaking, says Blunder.
Romayne Gallagher worked at St. John’s Hospice, the hospital where the researchers conducted the study, for 30 years. She often experienced that patients reacted positively when they heard the voice of someone they loved – even on the phone, writes CBC.
– Many relatives are scared and do not know what to do or say. Talk to them, play their favorite music! Such things, says Gallagher, and concludes:
– This is important, it gives the last days and hours extra meaning and shows that it makes sense to be present, either in person or by phone. It is comforting to know that you can say goodbye or express love.