Interesting it is what hospice workers see. The accounts can be remarkable. Handled correctly, death, even "difficult" death, is full of grace. Remarkable is how those approaching the end of the earthly trial often experience what mystics do.

There are the angels:

Many dying see angelic figures. We just had an account on this. Angels are very prominent. They are waiting to guide us home, as well as comfort the dying in the final moments. "There's an angel who comes and stands by my bed," said one woman who was dying from cancer of the brain. "Right there," she said, pointing to the corner of her bedroom. Let's take a look at this.

"Visions of angels, loved ones who have died before us, family members who are far away, sweet smells, beautiful flowers, and angelic choirs are frequent experiences for those who are dying, " writes a hospice nurse named Trudy Harris (in a book called Glimpses of Heaven). "We can try to explain these things away in lofty, scientific terms, but eventually we come to know that we are not meant to understand everything. In time that is a relief, since we no longer waste time trying to give our understanding and meaning to a dying person's experiences."

Those gifts -- the aromas, the music, the apparitions -- fit the phenomena reported around mystics such as Padre Pio and Maria Esperanza. The visions of angels are like visions they had. The music is similar to the heavenly choir reported at Betania, Venezuela (where Maria reported apparitions). The smell is like the "odor of sanctity."

"Visions of those who have gone before them, angels, beautiful music, and personally comforting experiences permeate the minds and hearts of those who are dying," said the nurse. "The imprints of their shared experiences are left with us to ponder and more importantly to provide a platform for our own lives.

"When patients and friends who were dying would say to me, 'Today is my day' or 'I saw my name on the marker' or 'I heard them call my name' or 'My son is here with me now; he said it's time to go,' at first I simply did not understand.

"When many others told me about seeing angels in their rooms -- being visited by loved ones who had died before them, or hearing beautiful choirs or smelling fragrant flowers when there were none around -- I assumed it was the result of the medications they were taking or possibly dehydration. But when others who were dying and not on medication and not dehydrated were saying the same things, I started to listen."

Can there also be darkness?

That's why we pray for the intercession ("now and at the hour of our death") of Mary, who is Queen of Angels. It is why we must always pray for protection. One dying physician, reported Trudy, described "a creature" that came into his bedroom.

But that spirit was dispelled when he commanded it out in Jesus' Holy Name.

Far more often are the angels -- especially for those who pray.

One man who died and came back -- an artist -- recalled in another book that "angels rarely appear in their glory" because their light is too powerful. "The times that angels have appeared to me in their full glory was almost unbearable," he said. "The brightness that radiates from them is brighter than the light from a welding torch. Brighter than lightning, beautiful beyond comparison, powerful, loving, and gentle are words that fail to describe them." No artist, he says, could ever really portray one.

"When they spoke of angels, they were always described as more beautiful than they had ever imagined, eight-feet tall, male, and wearing a white for which there is no word," noted Trudy.

That's what the dying see: a radiance beyond that of earth. The angels are always by us -- but especially at the transition! They come the more we pray.

We are never alone, and especially not at the crucial moments. Trudy saw that first-hand.

A life of devotion to others, she says, "brings sweet contentment in the end."