I read Dr Gwande’s book, Being Mortal, when it first came out in 2014. I very much appreciated reading end of life stories from a medical point of view. I was a hospice volunteer off and on for over 25 years and had a very different perspective on how healthcare decisions are made within families when no doctors, nurses or social workers are around. The one thing he and I agree upon is that fear of death and dying seems to be nearly universal.

But I don’t fear death anymore… because in 1971 at age 30 I was swept away by a raging river and drowned. It was easy, peaceful, loving; a wonderful experience of leaving my body and awakening to higher consciousness.

At the end of a profound near-death experience, I was given the choice to stay or return to my body and share the information I gleaned about life after death to help others overcome this crippling fear through teaching the art of conscious dying. And that became my life’s work over the past almost five decades since my NDE. I returned to education and earned two Master’s Degrees: Psychology and Hypnotherapy. I developed an intense interest in physics because I suddenly got the big picture during my NDE. Stephen Hawking was my hero. I studied World Religions trying to find words to describe all that I experienced.

My message is that we don’t die. The essence of who we really are leaves behind the SCUBA gear we wore to be able to interact in this physical dimension and travels to another dimension in full consciousness. Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who spoke with hundreds of dying patients about their experiences, said that dying is like taking off an old worn-out overcoat and stepping outside into the sunshine. Exactly! Once out of our body, no matter how it died, we suddenly remember who we really are.

In 2007 my work led me to develop an online course and I trained a number of people around the world to become what I called Transition Guides to coach people near the end of their lives through the process that begins with having The Conversation(s) with oneself, with one’s family and with one’s doctor, and filling out the appropriate paperwork so everyone knows what the decision is at the time one must be made. 

As part of a family support team, Transition Guides honor the person who is leaving and facilitates whatever is necessary based on the patients’ values to reconcile their lives, which is better done before one crosses over, and practice conscious dying. We know that hearing is the last sense to go and we can talk to someone who even seems to be in a coma and guide them peacefully into the arms of their loved ones waiting on the other side of the veil.

To die is to awaken to full consciousness and all this frantic activity trying to keep a body that is dying alive one more day, as physicians including Dr Gawande are bound to do, could well be holding back the being’s spiritual rebirth. It’s all about perspective. We can’t keep human bodies from dying but if dying were seen as awakening, we might practice a better way of assisting in that process, even by having peaceful family “deathing” rooms in hospitals.

A few years ago I put my Transition Guide training course into a (large print) workbook so that caregivers and patients could learn together how to prepare for a peaceful dying/awakening experience. “Beyond the Veil: Our journey home” is available from amazon.com and all major online booksellers.

Diane Goble