In the last few years, I have experienced four deaths that were very close to me. It has not been easy, but I have learned so much about this very sensitive yet private and delicate topic. I decided I would write out some of my thoughts about death, and maybe it might even help some others who are grieving.
Facing Death as a Sacred Experience
Facing death is truly a sacred experience. Death is the bridge between heaven and earth and, at the same moment a person takes their last physical breath, every material thought falls away and we who are left behind suddenly remember what is important: love, family, faith. It is sacred, because an individual transitions to the next world, a world none of us are really sure about, but on some level feel and know there is “something” beyond.
My First Two Recent Experiences With Death
Three years ago, my stepdad passed away. It was my very first experience of a close loved one passing on. It was for me, and for my family, one of the most sacred and spiritual experiences we had. On his last day of life, we stood around him in a room, with the sun pouring in the window, gathered together, singing heavenly songs as he took his last breath on this earthly realm. His soul was ready, and the moment he took his last breath, I saw in my mind how he was now galloping through fields without the limp he had carried through this life. I knew he was around me and through his death, my spirituality was strengthened as I knew without a doubt this life is temporary and we all will be reunited fully in the same form again.
Last year, my grandmother passed away at the age of 99. I was there shortly after she passed, and we knew she was finally free of her Alzheimer’s disease. As a ritual apart of our faith, I had the sacred honor of washing her body in preparation for her burial. It was such an honor to say goodbye to this part of her being, while her soul flies free. I was in charge of planning her funeral, writing her eulogy and preparing the prayers. I had an experience after her death that she came to me and was finally free and her true self again, full of vitality and sparkle. I seemed to almost see her whisked away into a sparkly midst- which must have been her radiant soul entering into heaven.
My Third Recent Experience With Death
Three months after that, my uncle was in the hospital. When we got the call, I knew and felt in my heart this was it for him. I knew this from what we experienced with my stepdad. I cried as I joined his family in the hospital room that night. But it was sacred. Sincerity is never stronger then when a group of individuals is facing a death. Suddenly, nothing else matters. Everything is washed away, and it’s only love as our hearts break. I stayed in the hospital room for many hours with the family in his final days as we shed tears, shared stories and honored him. When he took his last breath, my heart broke, yet I saw his soul fly. He was pure light again. He later visited me in a dream where I saw him in all white, trying to scream and shout through me to get in touch with his wife who was still here. I shared this dream with my aunt and she was touched. After that, I know she has also experienced him reaching her from the other side as well.
My Fourth and Most Difficult Experience With Death
This year was the last of the four deaths: my baby niece, Emily. She died unexpectedly when she was nine months old from SIDS. Her death was a completely different experience for me. It was tragic. There was no warning. She died suddenly and that was it. It was final. This death made me angry. It caused me to question my faith. My heart wept all through the night in that hospital room. Why would God let this happen? I knew and felt she was ready to go. She was done. I knew it on some level. But that didn’t make it easier. I held her little, chubby body shortly after she took her last breath. It was devastating.
A few weeks after she passed, I saw her in a dream. She was filled with joy and had several child-like balloons in the shape of clouds, rainbows and circles that all read: “Thank you, Katie!” I felt pure happiness and peace and I knew she was thanking me for being in her brief earthly life.
Death: A Trigger to Question Everything
Through the deaths of these four individuals close to me, it definitely is not easy. Seeing death takes a toll on the mental and emotional parts of you. And although I must say it is easy to question if life after death is real, you question: “Can it be?”
But after reflection, there is something each of these deaths have in common. These four individuals each came to me after their death. Either a dream, or a feeling or an expression came to me offering me peace that they were still alive beyond death. Yet although I know life goes on after death, being faced with it, I think even the very most faithful may even begin to question as you are witnessing the reality of it and it is no longer just a thought you learn in church.
I don’t blame anyone for questioning. At the moment of death, everything that we have spent our lifetime creating—such as the facades of being better than anyone else, or money, careers or cliques that separate us as humans—is suddenly all washed away without a trace. Suddenly, you’re in the same boat as anyone else. Suddenly, none of that matters at all anymore and you only wish to love. Your heart shatters and in that depth of pain, the light of love can flood in. Something I have noticed each time I️ have faced death is that my heart has been so heavy yet renewed all at the same time. When you are faced with death, it shakes your reality especially if it’s so sudden and you witness it first hand. Death causes you to truly reflect and revaluate your entire life. It’s like a purging of the old and somewhat of a rebirth as you re-question so many things.
As shattering as some events in life may be, it’s also a gift as we rebuild ourselves when we hit the depths of sadness or grief. And as gory as it may seem, because of this I have learned to appreciate funerals. They are an honoring of that soul and it is a very tender and sincere time for a group of people to gather.
Death opens our hearts. Nothing else matters anymore. It cuts open the hard walls of ego and separatism and immediately, the gates of our hearts are flooded open. And in the moments facing death, we may question if this is true, as our faith may suddenly seem crushed in our grief. But I know that we go on, that somehow the consciousness we have continues in a new form. I know also this life is shorter and more fleeting than we think, and it is only part of our soul’s journey.
Have you had any experience with grief in your life? Did it transform you and yours as it did with Katie and her family?
9 thoughts on “The Powerful Experience of Death: Guest Post by Katie Danner”
Thank you for sharing these experiences, as they can be so hard to put into words. I do think there is a big difference between the expected end of life and the sudden unexpected death. One is a celebration of a life well lived, and a chance to remember loving times. The other, well, it is just hard and unfair. But they both teach us something. I’m sorry for your losses.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost 3 close to me at the end of last year as well. One elderly, one to cancer in 50’s and another in his 20’s to overdose. It is the 23 year old that is hardest to recover from, so sudden. Praying for comfort and peace and sending hugs your way.
I’m so sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing your experiences. What a testament to your faith though!
It is never easy when we lose those that we love… This past year I lost 2 uncles within weeks of each other and it was quite difficult….
I am sorry for your loss, and thanks for sharing your experience. So beautifuly written.
wow this is so intense but so good! i lost a few friends in the past but never really dealt with the grief of it.
I am so sorry for your losses. But thank you for sharing. Death is something we don’t really talk about that often because for some reason, maybe we think if we talk about t we are breathing it to life. But it is so important to talk about it.
I am so sorry for your loss. Its never easy to deal with it. But accepting that every one has to taste death one day or the other made it easier for me to accept and move on.
Beautiful thoughts Katherine. I also had a remarkable dream when my mother (your Grandmother) passed away. It was touching as well as comforting for me. I’ve also had several dreams where my brother (your Uncle) and I have had nice conversations…again, comforting. I miss them. I’m grateful for them, and expect to see them again, the Lord willing. love, dad.