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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

Near Death Awareness

I am often asked by those at the bedside of someone who is dying, “do they know that I am here?” My answer is always, “yes.”


I have had the honor of being present for at least two thousand last breaths and it is in those moments where my lessons have become so valuable. Dying is such a sacred, private, and intimate moment that should be respected in the most compassionate way. Despite how many last breaths I have witnessed, I make sure never to compare them, or question them, or assume anything at all about them. I find myself being open to all of it; the magical, beautiful, curious, and unpredictable part of death.


I do believe there is a sense of awareness from those nearing death. I believe they know when they are dying, when they are close, and who is present in those last moments. It is because of this that I encourage those at the bedside to be mindful of what they say and do, knowing that despite them being unresponsive and non-verbal, they do feel the energy in the room, especially from those preparing to say goodbye.


I struggle when people ask me to not bring up the word “hospice” or let their person know they are dying, because I truly believe they already know. They know their body way better than we do, or ever will, and when it starts to decline, and prepares to die, they know. And when those at the bedside are distracted by their phone, things going on in their life, and even their emotional response to seeing their person dying, they are aware of that too.


When someone is dying, I imagine a curtain opening, or the window they are looking through, suddenly becoming cleaner than it ever was before, offering them a view that is undisturbed by the debris that life attaches to it. Their view becomes suddenly very clear, honest, often even startling, maybe even a little scary, leaving them to see things exactly as they are.  This does not necessarily only happen days or hours before death, it can happen months or weeks as well.


I have witnessed a blank stare through glazed or glossy eyes, that looks as though they see right through you, and way beyond you to things no one else can see. I notice the relief in the eyes of the family members when I mention that, as it validates what they have experienced, and they feel less fear when they learn it happens often. I look at it as though their curtain has opened, allowing them to be gifted a view specially just for them, usually bringing them peace and comfort, rarely causing fear. This is also when the visions, the voices, and visitors appear, something else I have had the honor of hearing about.


This near-death awareness is what helps me to understand why they might take their last breath the minute someone walks out the door, or moments before they walk back in. I think in many ways, they choose when to let go, hoping it isn’t the last thing you see, perhaps also wanting some privacy. Therefore, I remind those who feel a sense of guilt for not being there, that they do not take with them who was there at the last breath, they take with them who was there all along.


They know who has been there, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and especially in their heart. They know. They hear the conversations, they feel the energy, they know their own body, and they have a front row seat to their last days and hours in a way that is hard to understand. Some people will not, and cannot, accept this, which I can appreciate, but based on my experience, I believe it all to be true.

I like to think of all of this as a special language that only those who are dying can speak. These experiences, while often scary for most people, can bring a sense of peace to the person going through it. They see the hand extended in their direction, reminding them they won't be going alone, and seeing someone from their past who died long ago, comforts them, and reassures them that wherever they go, people they love will be.


My advice for those of you who are feeling uncertain about what someone you love is experiencing, is to ask if they are afraid. And if not, accept what is happening. And if they are unable to verbalize to you what they are experiencing, look for signs of fear and pain, which are usually noticeable, and if no signs of discomfort, again, make peace with it. Contrary to what many think, I truly do not believe that any of this is a reaction to medications, the diagnosis, confusion, or hallucinations. I believe this is all a part of the dying process and when this happens, they are preparing to let go. What they need from you is your support, love, acceptance, and a safe place to share with you what they are experiencing.

Perhaps if everyone could make peace with the awareness someone has when they are dying, we would all be more respectful with what we bring into their room.



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