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The Sunday Read: ‘What Deathbed Visions Teach Us About Living’

The Daily

The New York Times

News, Daily News

4.597.8K Ratings

🗓️ 7 April 2024

⏱️ 27 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


Chris Kerr was 12 when he first observed a deathbed vision. His memory of that summer in 1974 is blurred, but not the sense of mystery he felt at the bedside of his dying father. Throughout Kerr’s childhood in Toronto, his father, a surgeon, was too busy to spend much time with his son, except for an annual fishing trip they took, just the two of them, to the Canadian wilderness. Gaunt and weakened by cancer at 42, his father reached for the buttons on Kerr’s shirt, fiddled with them and said something about getting ready to catch the plane to their cabin in the woods. “I knew intuitively, I knew wherever he was, must be a good place because we were going fishing,” Kerr told me. Kerr now calls what he witnessed an end-of-life vision. His father wasn’t delusional, he believes. His mind was taking him to a time and place where he and his son could be together, in the wilds of northern Canada. Kerr followed his father into medicine, and in the last 10 years he has hired a permanent research team that expanded studies on deathbed visions to include interviews with patients receiving hospice care at home and with their families, deepening researchers’ understanding of the variety and profundity of these visions.

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Hi, my name is Phoebe Zerwick, and I'm a contributor to the New York Times magazine. For this week's


Sunday Reed we'll be sharing a recent article for the magazine about death


bad visions,


visions that people experience as they're dying.


These visions can begin days, weeks, maybe even months before someone passes away,


and they can cover a whole range of subjects,


but they tend to center on the patient's earlier life


and lived experience.


As death approaches, people will begin to see friends and relatives, even pets whom they


loved, who preceded them in death.


They might even hear the person speak or smell their perfume.


People describe these deathbed visions as real


than real, is different from any other kinds of dreams that


they've ever had.


So this story is based on the research by a physician named Dr. Chris Kerr,


who works at Hospice Buffalo.


He believed that these deathbed visions were completely different


from delusions or hallucinations brought on by medication.


And so Kerr's team interviewed his patients and their relatives.


They found that these experiences were common among a majority of patients, an astonishing 88% in their


first study.


Dr. Kerr often says that he hasn't discovered anything new.


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