Episode 152: Dreams of the Dying

These events are distinct from ‘near-death experiences,’ such as those recalled by people revived in intensive care units. ‘These are people on a journey towards death, not people who just missed it.’
— Pei C. Grant, director of the research team at Hospice Buffalo.
The dreams and visions loosely sorted into categories: opportunities to engage with the deceased; loved ones “waiting;” unfinished business. Themes of love, given or withheld, coursed through the dreams, as did the need for resolution and even forgiveness.
— Jan Hoffman of the New York Times, February 2, 2016.
“We should be opening the door with our questions, but not forcing patients through it. Our job is witnessing, exploring and lessening their loneliness. If it’s benign and rich with content, let it go. But if it brings up serious old wounds, get real help — a psychologist, a chaplain — because in this area, we physicians don’t know what we’re doing.
— Dr. Timothy E. Quill, palliative care medicine expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center

Humanity at large has been fascinated, confused and humbled by dreams and the threshold of death since time immemorial. But what would the crossroads of these two phenomena look like and how might it help us better understand our minds and our lives? This week we're joined by Lucy Iselin to examine a New York Times article published in 2016. The thought-provoking article includes insights and perspectives from professionals in hospice care, stories from the terminally ill and those who study end-of-life experiences. How might this article and its subject matter encourage empathy through further observations of dreamers and their experiences? How do dreams of the dying differ from those whose hold on life is firmer? What can these dreams tell us about the most deeply-buried concerns and memories of dreamers late in life?

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