As my friend sat with her mother’s body in the afternoon following her mother’s death, she had an experience that she does not understand, and that I do not understand—an experience that touched her too deeply to be denied.
She had gotten up from her mother’s bedside to join her brother in the living room, but she stopped at the doorway and turned back to look at her mother.
“The air began to change; it was softer. I just felt something different. That’s when she whispered in my ear. It was a stage whisper—she had a theater background. She said, ‘Relief.’
“I knew that’s what she felt. She was ready. She’d decided everybody was on a good path; it was like she felt safe to go.
“As I was taking in this word, all of a sudden I felt this hand….”
She felt her mother scratch her back the way she sometimes had in life, although she was also aware that she was attaching the meaning of a hand to the sensation. But as she was looking at her mother’s body, the touch passed through her body.
“The hand went through my entire body from head to toe, touching every bit as a cross-section scan, starting at the crown of my head. It relaxed my face, jaw and neck, which I had felt relaxed before.
“When it got to the organs, that was a first, to identify individual organs and feel them relax. I’d never felt my organs before. I felt each one. Everything relaxed. This peaceful, easy thing went through my body. It was awesome. I wasn’t at all afraid. It was very lovely.
“Then gradually the softness of the air evaporated; it disappeared into the usual air.”
My friend didn’t tell her brother what she’d experienced.
“I was just wanting to keep it as my gift. I thought he’d laugh.”
After the memorial service, she told her daughter, who listened, and her son, who said there must be a scientific explanation.
She had experienced the soft air before—once stepping in and out of a church, another time at a conference for religious educators where others also felt it—and she has experienced it since, in meditation. She thinks it’s something that happens because your brain waves change as you meditate.
However, she had not before and has not since experienced anything like the whisper or the touch on her back that felt to be her mother’s hand but then passed through her body, through each of her organs. And this, she has no explanation for.
She believes that the energy of life is released when a person dies—that that, indeed, is what death is. But her mother had died in her sleep during the night, and it was afternoon when she felt her mother’s presence in her body.
“My son says it was a hallucination, but I experienced it as my mother whispering in my ear, as something outside of me. I don’t believe what it sounds like either. If I’d heard someone else tell it, I don’t think I would have believed it either.”
And then my friend said something I have said to myself about qigong experiences I thought might be figments of my imagination.
“It was such a foreign thing. How could I create that?”
I find my friend’s experience moving and thought-provoking.
I am touched by the bond between mother and daughter strong enough to manifest in this way. It is an experience I would love to have had—in general and also in the particular of feeling one’s organs, since I have never felt mine.
And, of course, I wonder, as my friend wonders:
What was it? What was the source of her experience? Was it entirely the product of her own energy system? Or was there something that came from outside? Was it indeed a gift from her mother?
Or was it some sort of realignment of the energies of the universe? After all, each of us is energy and the energy of a living being must somehow transform to become the energy of a dead body. And perhaps that transformation does take a period of hours or days or longer after what we define as death—something my friend said she has considered.
Perhaps we do death a disservice when a person breathes their last and we say goodbye, leave the room and call someone to take the body away. I’m thinking now of my mother and father….
My friend says it’s OK with her for there to be some mysteries.
I’m working on being OK with mysteries, too.
But if someone else I love dies, I think I will be less quick to conclude that since their physical body is no longer functioning, they are gone and that is that….