Sir William Barrett

Death-Bed Visions - The Psychical Experiences of the Dying
Publisher: Rider & Co.
Published: 1926
Pages: 123

Chapter 6: Visions of the Spirit of a Dying Person Leaving the Body

 - William Barrett -

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          THE following case, which is taken from the "S.P.R. Journal" (Vol. XIII, pp. 308-311), was sent to Dr. Hodgson by Dr. Burgess, an Associate of the American S.P.R. The vision was seen only by the husband of the dying woman, and by none of the others present in the room. The doctor who was present, Dr. Renz, testifies that the percipient, Mr. G., "was in a perfectly normal state before and after, and that there were features in the vision that would not have been likely to occur to him."

The percipient, Mr. G., states as follows:

"My wife died at 11.45 p.m. on Friday, May 23rd, 1902. Gathered round the bedside were some of our most intimate friends, the physician in attendance, and two trained nurses. I was seated at the bedside holding my wife's hand... Earlier in the evening, at 6.45, I happened to look towards the door, when I saw floating through the doorway three separate and distinct clouds in strata. Each cloud appeared to be about four feet in length, from six to eight inches in width, the lower one about two feet from the ground, the others at intervals of about six inches... Slowly these clouds approached the bed until they completely enveloped it. Then, gazing through the mist, I beheld standing at the head of my dying wife a woman's figure about three feet in height, transparent, yet like a sheen of brightest gold; a figure so glorious in its appearance that no words can be used fitly to describe it. She was dressed in the Grecian costume, with long, loose and flowing sleeves-upon her head a brilliant crown. In all its splendour and beauty the figure remained motionless with hands uplifted over my wife, seeming to express a welcome with a quiet, glad countenance, with a dignity of calmness and peace. Two figures in white knelt by my wife's side, apparently leaning towards her; other figures hovered about the bed, more or less distinct.

"Above my wife, and connected with a cord proceeding from her forehead, over the left eye, there floated in a horizontal position a nude, white figure, apparently her 'astral body.' At times the suspended figure would lie perfectly quiet, at other times it would shrink in size until it was no larger than perhaps eighteen inches, but always the figure was perfect and distinct...

"This vision, or whatever it may be called, I saw continuously during the five hours preceding the death of my wife. All through those five hours I felt a strange feeling of oppression and weight upon my head and limbs...

"At last the fatal moment arrived; with a gasp, the astral figure struggling, my wife ceased to breathe; she apparently was dead: however, a few seconds later she breathed again, twice, and then all was still. With her last breath and last gasp, as the soul left the body, the cord was severed suddenly and the astral figure vanished. The clouds and the spirit forms disappeared instantly, and, strange to say, all the oppression that weighed upon me was gone; I was myself, cool, calm, and deliberate, able to direct, from the moment of death, the disposition of the body, its preparation for a final resting-place.

"I leave my readers to determine whether I was labouring under a mental delusion caused by anxiety, sorrow and fatigue, or if a glimpse of a spirit world of beauty, happiness, calmness, and peace was granted to my mortal eyes."

The doctor who was present writes as follows:

"From my own observations I can most positively put aside a temporary acute state of hallucinatory insanity during the time of the vision just recorded... I knew Mr. G. well, and I had occasion to know that he never read anything in. the occult line; that everything that was not a proven fact was incompatible with his positive mind - so much so that during his vision (of which I did not know at the time) he asked me frequently if I thought he was going to become insane...

"As soon as Mrs. G. was dead, Mr. G., who for six hours was sitting almost motionless next to her, rose and gave all his orders in such a calm and business-like way that it surprised all who were present. If he had laboured under a hallucination his mind would not have become clear as suddenly as it did. It is now 2 1/2 weeks since the death and the vision. Mr. G. is absolutely normal physically as well as mentally. He has attended to his business as usual, and, besides, fulfilled many extraordinary duties.

"(Signed) C. RENZ"

Many well authenticated cases are on record where the relatives of a person, watching by the death-bed, have seen at the moment of death a cloudy form rising from the body of the deceased and hovering for a time in the room and then passing away.

Lady Mount Temple informed me that something of this kind was noticed by a psychic friend of hers, who was present at the death of Lord Mount Temple. Others present did not see it.

In a letter that has recently been sent me of a late well-known dignitary of the Church (a Dean) in New South Wales, he describes the death of his son a few years ago.

He says that at about 3.30 pm. he and his wife were standing one on each side of the bed and bending over their dying son, when just as his breathing ceased they both saw "something rise as it were from his face like a delicate veil or mist, and slowly pass away." He adds, "We were deeply impressed and remarked, 'How wonderful! Surely that must be the departure of his spirit.' We were not at all distracted so as to be mistaken in what we saw."

The following cases are recorded by Mrs. Joy Snell, in her book, The Ministry of Angels:

"It was about six months after I began work in the hospital that it was revealed to me that the dying often really do see those who have come from the realms of spirit life to welcome them on their entrance into another state of existence.

"The first time that I received this ocular proof was at the death of Laura Stirman, a sweet girl of seventeen, who was a personal friend of mine. She was a victim of consumption. She suffered no pain, but the weariness that comes from extreme weakness and debility was heavy upon her and she yearned for rest.

"A short time before she expired I became aware that two spirit forms were standing by the bedside, one on either side of it. I did not see them enter the room; they were standing by the bedside when they first became visible to me, but I could see them as distinctly as I could any of the human occupants of the room. I recognized their faces as those of two girls who had been the closest friends of the girl who was dying. They had passed away a year before and were then about her own age.

"Just before they appeared the dying girl exclaimed, 'It has grown suddenly dark; I cannot see anything!' But she recognized them immediately. A smile, beautiful to see, lit up her face. She stretched forth her hands and in joyous tones exclaimed, 'Oh, you have come to take me away! I am glad, for I am very tired.'

"As she stretched forth her hands the two angels extended each a hand, one grasping the dying girl's right hand, the other her left hand. Their faces were illumined by a smile more radiantly beautiful even than that of the face of the girl who was so soon to find the rest for which she longed. She did not speak again, but for nearly a minute her hands remained outstretched, grasped by the hands of the angels, and she continued to gaze at them with the glad light in her eyes and the smile on her face.

"Her father, mother, and brother, who had been summoned that they might be present when the end came, began to weep bitterly, for they knew that she was leaving them. From my heart there went up a prayer that they might see what I saw, but they could not.

"The angels seemed to relax their grasp of the girl's hands, which then fell back on the bed. A sigh came from her lips, such as one might give who resigns himself gladly to a much-needed sleep, and in another moment she was what the world calls dead. But that sweet smile with which she had first recognized the angels was still stamped on her features.

"The two angels remained by the bedside during the brief space that elapsed before the spirit form took shape above the body in which physical life had ceased. Then they rose and stood for a few moments one on each side of her, who was now like unto themselves; and three angels went from the room where a short time before there had been only two."

"About a month after the death of Laura Stirman, which I have just related, another friend of mine died in the hospital, a Mr. Campbell, a man of 45. It was pneumonia that carried him off. He was a good and devout man and for him death held no terrors, for he was sure that it was but the transition to a happier, more exalted life than can be lived here. His only regret at dying was that he would leave behind him a dearly-loved wife; but that regret was softened by the assurance that their parting would be only for a time, and that she would join him some day in that other world whither he was going.

"She was sitting by his bed, and, believing as he believed, was awaiting the end with resignation. About an hour before he died he called her by name, and pointing upwards, said, 'Look, L   , there is B   ! He is waiting for me. And now he smiles and holds out his hands to me. Can't you see him?' 'No, dear, I cannot see him,' she replied, 'but I know that he is there because you see him.' B    was their only child who had been taken from them about a year before, when between five and six years of age. I could plainly see the little angel with curly flaxen hair and blue eyes, and garbed in what I call the spirit robe. The face was just that of a winsome child, but etherealized and radiant as no earthly faces ever are.

"The father had been greatly weakened by the ravages of his disease, and the joyful emotion occasioned by seeing his angel child seemed to exhaust what little vitality he had left. He closed his eyes and sank into a placid sleep. He remained in that state for about an hour, the angel child meanwhile staying poised above the bed with an expression of glad expectancy on his radiant face. Occasionally he looked lovingly at his mother.

"The breathing of the dying man grew fainter and fainter until it ceased altogether. Then again I witnessed what had now become a familiar spectacle to me - the formation of the spirit body above the discarded earthly body. When it was complete the angel child grasped the hand of the now angel father, each gazed into the eyes of the other with an expression of the tenderest affection, and with faces aglow with joy and happiness they vanished.

"Later on in the day, the widow (Mrs. Campbell) said to me 'I am very glad my dear husband saw B    before he died; it was natural that B    would come for him to take him to the angels, for they loved each other dearly. I shall now be able to think of them as always together and happy.

And when I receive my summons I know that they will both come for me.'

"After I had left the hospital and had taken up private nursing I was engaged to nurse an old lady (Mrs. Barton, aged 60), who was suffering from a painful internal disease. She was a widow and her only daughter lived with her... The time came when the end was very near. The mother had been for some time unconscious, and the daughter was kneeling by the bedside, weeping, her face buried in her hands. Suddenly two angels became visible to me, standing on either side of the bed. The face of one was that of a man who, when he departed from this life, was apparently about 60 years of age. His beard and hair were iron-grey; but there was stamped on his features that indescribable something indicative of exuberant vitality and vigour, which shines forth from all angel faces I have seen, whether in other respects they present the semblance of youth or old age. The face of the other angel was that of a woman, apparently some ten or fifteen years younger.

"The dying woman opened her eyes, and into them there came that look of glad recognition I have so often observed in those whose spirits are about to be released for ever from their earthly tenements. She stretched forth her two hands. One angel grasped one hand and the other angel the other hand, while their radiant faces were aglow with the joy of welcoming to the better world her whose earthly pilgrimage was finished.

"'Oh, Willie,' she exclaimed, 'you have come to take me home at last, and I am glad, for my sufferings have been hard to bear and I am very tired.' Then she added, 'And you too, Martha!' With the joyous light still in her eyes her hands remained outstretched for perhaps half a minute. Then they seemed to slip from the grasp of the angels. All her sufferings were over.

"The daughter had raised her head at the sound of her mother's voice, and her tear-dimmed eyes seemed to reflect something of the glad surprise depicted on her mother's face.

"'I can doubt no more after this,' she said to me when her mother had breathed her last breath; 'I know that mother saw father and her sister, Aunt Martha. I know that they came to take her to her rest in heaven.'

"Eagerly she listened to me when I told her a little later how I had seen two angels depart with her angel mother. 'I believe it! I believe it!' she cried, 'but, oh, how I wish that I could have seen it too!'"



Contents | Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6

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