WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - Death Bed Visions (DBVs) are real to those who experience them and some believe may give the rest of us a glimpse into what happens after life.
They're the quiet conversation of hospice nurses and grieving families. They can't be proven or disregarded but that may not be what's really important.
Most Death Bed Visions happen within the days or hours before passing, when the person begins to see already deceased friends, family (and in rare cases, pets) in the room. These experiences have been documented throughout history.
While the majority of DBVs involve a visit from someone once close to them, there are cases where the dying report seeing angels or religious entities. In all cases, family members have played audience to their dying relative having a full conversation with someone else in the room.
Sometimes the dying will ask if everyone else can see them or they will openly acknowledge that their visitor is here to take them.
For observers, the experience is usually disturbing but the dying almost always seem relieved, happy and calm after their DBV. They are typically more at peace about their circumstances, if not excited about the news they just received.
Hospice nurses say patients experiencing "terminal agitation" (pain, irritation, depression) will suddenly calm.
We sat down with a group of nurses from Liberty Hospice to hear their stories. For them, DBVs are not uncommon and they've even witnessed them within their own family.
Family members may be quick to explain away a DBV or convince the dying that no one else is in the room. Given the calming effect they have for patients, nurses will often counsel family and friends to instead let their loved one enjoy the experience instead of reasoning them out of it.
The phenomenon is common and while typically a sign of impending death, should not be belittled.
No conclusive evidence has ever been drawn to support or dispel DBVs.
Critics often chalk them up to a lack of brain oxygen or medication-induced hallucinations but hospice nurses will shake their heads. If brain oxygen was to blame, everyone would have a DBV – and they don't. If it was medicated, how would you explain the un-medicated DBVs?
Death Bed Visions are part of a cluster of near-death phenomenon that hospice nurses have observed. Some patients will ask for a window to be opened in the room shortly before passing.
Some hospice nurses and family have reported a physical experience when someone passes. At the moment of death they can feel an "energy" go through them, the hair on their neck stands up or they experience an almost electrical shock.
The need to pack a suitcase or get ready for travel is another common experience of the dying. They seem to be in a rush to get somewhere and insist on getting affairs in order.
Watching the dying have a Deathbed Vision is baffling for everyone the first time but hospice nurses say they've grown to appreciate them as a part of life and a reminder to make the most of the time they have.
These men and women joke that their job title is usually a conversation killer. People don't understand hospice or feel uneasy asking about their line of work. For them, it's a calling and a privilege.