In my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, I devoted an entire chapter to the fascinating topic of ‘end-of-life experiences’ (ELEs), which incorporate a number of phenomena that occur in the final days and hours of someone’s life. These include experiences of the dying such as deathbed visions, but also a number of perplexing cases that involve quite healthy people close to or caring for the dying person. One such ELE is the ‘dying light’, where those caring for the dying have described seeing a bright light surrounding the person as they pass away, exuding what they relate as “a raw feeling of love”.
Surprisingly, reports of the ‘dying light’ are not rare. As I pointed out in Stop Worrying…, neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick was amazed to find in a survey of palliative carers that one in every three reported accounts of “a radiant light that envelops the dying person, and may spread throughout the room and involve the carer”. In a similar Dutch study, the numbers were even more staggering: more than half of all carers reported observations of this light!
After my book was published, I came across another, high-profile example of the ‘dying light’. Olivia Harrison, wife of former Beatles guitarist George Harrison, gave this account of his passing for the Martin Scorcese-directed documentary about his life, George Harrison: Living in the Material World:
There was a profound experience that happened when he left his body. It was visible. Let’s just say, you wouldn’t need to light the room, if you were trying to film it. He just…lit the room.
Olivia Harrison’s testimony sounds very similar to Peter Fenwick’s description, “a radiant light that envelops the dying person, and may spread throughout the room”, and seems befitting of the passing of a man who was very interested in mysticism, consciousness, and being personally prepared for our own death. As Harrison himself put it on one of the songs on his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass, “nothing in this life that I’ve been trying, could equal or surpass the art of dying”.
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