We want to share an account from one of our readers on the different encounters he has had with losing members of his family and the extraordinary experiences that came with them. We thank him for allowing us to pass his account on to you and hope you’ll enjoy his insight and the humanity and hope contained within.
Dennis Beck – Shared Death Experiences
I have put together my thoughts and experiences. I have written this in more of a journal style so I can also share it with my family. I’m including some statements related to my faith because this has had such a profound impact on my beliefs of an afterlife. I am interested in sharing this with my children and grandchildren to hopefully help them at future stages in their lives when this kind of strength will be necessary. This has been quite helpful for me to write down and I’m happy to share it with your readers.
Thanks to all of you for your interest.
I have created this special journal entry to share some touching and very meaningful experiences I have had related to the death of some of my beloved family members. Due to my personal faith, I hold them to be not only remarkable, but also very spiritual and sacred in nature. While those who read may want to pull out the more scientific observations of these experiences, I have added some of my own spiritual perspectives which I personally believe to be true. The Bible teaches that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). These experiences have strengthened my faith through my deepest trials and I am hopeful that they will be of benefit to the readers of this entry.
I have been comforted by the holy scriptures and the wisdom from leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I also have found great benefit from several books. These include Thy Son Liveth by Grace Duffie Boylan, Return from Tomorrow, by George G. Ritchie and two books by Dr. Raymond Moody, Life After Life, and Glimpses of Eternity: An Investigation Into Shared Death Experiences. Life After Life was originally published in 1975 and Glimpses was written in 2011. The books are both profound, but by reading them together I think the transformation of Dr. Moody’s perspectives on life, death and divinity over the 36-year period of his research are perhaps more profound.
Gertrude Marie Beck
On December 29, 1997 I received a call from one of my mother’s very best friends, Rosemarie Westhoff. She called me around 9:00 pm from Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana to let me know that my mother was very sick. She gave the phone to my mom and we spoke quite briefly. She was quite sick and sedated so we shared a round of “I love yous” for the last time before hanging up. I was grateful for the “I love you”; even though we loved each other very much, our family rarely shared such personal communication. This was one of a few times she said this to me in my life. I decided that I needed to go out to see her immediately, so I booked a plane for the first thing the next morning and left for Fort Wayne from our home in the Denver, Colorado area.
When I arrived in Fort Wayne the next afternoon I was picked up at the airport by Rosemarie’s son, and long-time family friend, Bernie. Bernie was in tears as he told me that they attempted to operate on my mom but the situation was too advanced and they were administering painkillers to her so she could spend the last few hours of her life in comfort.
We arrived at the hospital and I spent the evening with my mom and dad as she slowly transitioned away from her earthly life. Shortly after 10:00 pm I had an amazing experience. As my mom’s breathing quickly diminished, I saw the most wonderful things. I saw my grandfather and he was calling her name. He wasn’t actually calling her Gertrude; it was some sort of pleasant nickname that he must have had for her and I don’t’ recall the exact word. Next to him was my grandmother. They were both smiling as they greeted her.
It was quite sweet to see my grandfather. I had never met him before. He had been drafted into Hitler’s army and was killed by a fellow German soldier in Berlin on April 28, 1945, at the end of World War II as he attempted to get back to his village to be with his family. I had only seen one picture of him, but I immediately knew it was him without even seeing his face. I credited this to the fact that I, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had done posthumous temple ordinances for him several years earlier. This is a way we honor our ancestors and seal our families together as eternal units beyond the grave. Sometimes we have special feelings when we do this work in our temples and I remember feeling a loving closeness to him during one of those special ordinances.
In addition to seeing my grandparents I noticed that we were in a most beautiful setting. There were green hills that were filled with flowers. Everything was bright and incredibly beautiful. If felt so uplifting to be in the presence of this beauty. But unfortunately, it all ended quite soon, lasting no more than 10 to 15 seconds from what I can recall. I was left in the darkened hospital room with the lifeless body of my mother. My dad was talking to her, thanking her for all the things she had done for us and I shared with him that mom’s spirit had already departed. In later discussions with my father, he confirmed that he did not have any of the experiences that I had encountered that evening.
Part 2 of this story happened nearly 9 years later. I had a business trip to Prague and I decided that I wanted to visit the village where my mother and her family had grown up in Ober Silesia, Germany, which is now part of Poland. It was about a 4 hour drive but I felt it would be worth it to see my mother’s homeland, especially since it had been inaccessible since it had fallen to communism. I had fallen asleep on the last leg of my flight from Frankfurt to Prague and woke up just as the plane was in the late stage of descent. When I looked out the window I immediately got chills all over my body. The sun was shining on the most beautiful rolling hills. I had unmistakably seen these hills before, on a cold December night in Fort Wayne, Indiana when my mother passed away.
This view convinced me that I definitely needed make the journey to Knispel (now Księże Pole, in southern Poland) and visit the homeland. When I arrived there, which wasn’t easy to find, I came across what I believe was the hill I had seen. It is pictured below.
The picture of this peaceful, gently rolling farmland can’t do justice to the beautiful vision I had at my mom’s passing but it brought a very special sense of closure to me and also gave me beautiful insights into the eternal nature of life as well as the heavenly nature of our earth, which is a fundamental part of my Christian faith as part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The experience I had with my father’s passing was very different, but still quite remarkable in my opinion. It is quite unusual, compared to other things I have read about shared death experiences.
My father had had quite a bit of dementia, even before my mom passed away in 1997, so it had been difficult to communicate with him over his final years. He eventually was admitted to a nursing home during the last weeks of his life. On Saturday, September 10, 2005, I was reading a rather sad poem about the early passing of a little boy, entitled Little Boy Blue, by the poet Eugene Field:
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair,
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
“Now, don’t you go till I come,” he said,
“And don’t you make any noise!”
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of the pretty toys.
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue,—
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face.
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through,
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue
Since he kissed them and put them there.
I realize the poem is a real “Tear Jerker” but something unusual came over me as I read the poem. I had been feeling fine beforehand, but while reading the second stanza I started to cough uncontrollably and my eyes, nose and throat had incredible stinging sensations. Tears and mucous were pouring out of me and I had a really hard time breathing. Then, just as soon as it had started, perhaps no more than 20 to 30 seconds later it all went away and I was feeling fine, other than having to extensively wipe my eyes and nose. During the whole time I was filled with feelings about my father and his life, particularly as a young boy.
About 30 minutes later my sister called and let me know that my dad had just passed away of pneumonia. I asked her what time he died and the time she shared was, to the best I could determine, exactly when I was reading the poem. I have cried many times in my life and I know what it feels like. This was not normal crying. It amazes me that I could feel something so intensely close to my father’s passing, especially since he was over 1000 miles away. These were not ordinary tears of sorrow.
Hannah Catharina Davidson (Beck)
Hannah is my sixth child of seven. Her younger sister, Rachel was born to my second wife 13 years later, so for much of Hannah’s life she was the baby. My baby. We were quite close and she was a wonderful, charming person who was full of personality. She would light up any room when she entered.
When Hannah was diagnosed with stage 4, ALK+ lung cancer she was pregnant with her 4th child. As an eternal optimist I was convinced that she could beat the odds. Hannah found strength in spending time with me in the hospital and due to the Covid 19 restrictions only her husband, Ross, and myself were allowed to spend time with her. I was blessed to spend many of the last weeks of her life, comforting her to the extent possible, singing hymns and sharing hopeful, positive thoughts.
Hannah gave premature birth to Elsie on Jul 13, 2020 and we were encouraged that she would now be able to focus on more aggressive treatment therapies so she could recover and live to raise her family. My optimism, however, was unfounded and on July 17, the day after her 29th birthday, she passed away, early in the morning at University of Utah hospital.
I arrived in the room to see her around 5:00 am and was present when she took her final breaths. I expected that I would have some sort of experience similar to what I had had with my mother, many years earlier. Unfortunately, there were no such experiences. When we had arrived in the early morning she was being sustained by the nurses who were manually ventilating her. Once they stopped the manual intervention she took her last few breaths and passed. I felt quite sure that her spirit had already left her physical body earlier which is why I missed any special experiences. It was sad, but I didn’t think much of it because my entire soul was in deep grief over the loss of this wonderful child and the impact this would have on her beautiful, young family.
It wasn’t until about 9 months later when my wife told me a very uplifting story, just in passing. Hannah’s mother-in-law, Ann, had been staying with Hannah’s three, older children in a nearby apartment at the time Hannah had passed away. Ann was awakened at about 3:00 am by noise coming from the children’s bedroom. She didn’t know why, but she was sure that Hannah was in the room. She went to look and didn’t see or hear anything. It wasn’t until a few hours later that she learned that Hannah had passed away.
There is so little we know about these kinds of experiences, but for me it was very comforting. If Hannah could indeed choose her final steps as she departed this life I would want her to be with her children to share a last moment of earthly love with them. We don’t know the details but I am grateful to know that her spiritual presence was (hopefully) felt by those whom she loved and cared for the most, her children.
For another account of the afterlife from one of our readers, please see My Husband Had a Near-Death Experience. This is What He Saw.