Studies Indicated That Saintly Figures, Including Mary, Appear At Hour Of Death
By Michael H. Brown
A classic scientific study from the 1970s indicated that holy figures -- including the Blessed Mother -- have appeared to those reporting what are now known as "near-death experiences."
According to scientists Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson -- two researchers who penned a study entitled At The Hour of Death -- an exhaustive survey involving 50,000 terminally ill patients observed by more than 1,000 doctors and nurses just before death turned up not only strong evidence that the soul transcends death but also data confirming the intercession of saints, as well as Christ, Who appears most frequently.
"A heart attack patient in her sixties saw St. Joseph, her patron saint to whom she used to pray," noted the scientists in a book first issued in 1977 -- quoting the source of the reports as further describing how she communicated with the saint and told him she wanted to finish her work on earth instead of dying at that particular moment -- a choice often given to those who have near-death experiences.
"She told him that she still had things to do, that she would stay in bed and get better.
"The apparition calmed her," continued the report. "She was serene and peaceful, in a religious sense, and she began to get better several hours later."
Also quoted in the study was the case of an engineer stricken by coronary thrombosis. In this case the religous figure may have been Christ, Who is reported in many different ways by those who have brushes with death. "He saw a 'bearded man' standing at the opening to a long golden corridor," reported a doctor surveyed by the authors. "He was shaking his head and motioning him to go back and said, 'Not now. Later.'
"This made the patient very happy. He said I [the doctor] need not give him medicine anymore: 'I am not wanted up there,' [said the man]. It was right after this experience that he started getting better."
In another case the phenomena were connected to a picture. This occurred, reported Osis and Haraldsson, to a Catholic woman.
"She had a picture of the Blessed Mother facing her," they wrote. "She was gazing at the picture. Later she told me that Mary had come out of the picture and said: 'Don't be afraid. I don't need you yet. I will come back later.' This woman had a new baby to care for.
"When the experience occurred, she thought that she was dying. She was happy to see Mary -- it was so beautiful to see."
There was also a case involving St. Gerard -- saint of the impossible. The female patient reporting this event said the saint was dressed like a monk with sandals and a gray gown -- without the splendor she expected.
One Christian in India -- a nurse -- had a close brush with death. "I felt myself going up," she said in the survey. "There was a beautiful garden full of flowers. I was sitting there. Suddenly I felt beaming light and Jesus Christ came to me. He sat and talked to me. Light was all around."
While religious figures don't appear to everyone (often it is deceased loved ones, and in other cases simply unnamed angels), and while those in other religions have reported figures associated with their own belief systems, Christian figures -- especially Christ -- do crop up with what appears to be increased frequency with those who are devout and there are cases in which they appear even to those who don't hold Christian beliefs.
Another researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross -- a medical doctor who studied 20,000 cases but whose research was later held to question when she strayed into unorthodox belief -- related the account of a two-year-old who had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to a drug and was declared dead! "While the physician and his mother waited for the arrival of the father, the mother desperately touched her little boy, sobbing and pleading with him," wrote Dr. Ross. "After what seemed to her an eternity, her little two-year-old opened his eyes and said in the voice of a wise old man: 'Mommy, I was with Jesus and with Mary. Mary kept telling me that my time was not right, I had to go back. I tried to ignore her, and she realized that I was trying to ignore her. She pulled me gently by the wrist and took me away from Jesus and said: 'You have to get back, Peter. You have to save your mommy."
Later that son -- who spoke way beyond his years in that extraordinary event -- was her consolation in many events in life, the mother realizing that had he not returned it would have like "hell and fire."
While Jesus is so frequently seen, even by those with little belief, why doesn't Mary appear to all who "die" and return?
First because Jesus is the One mediator. And secondly, perhaps, because she is in the highest Heaven -- not immediately visible to all.
There is also a third factor, enunciated by Dr. Ross.
"The ones we meet," she wrote, "are the ones we have loved the most."
[Resources: books on near-death experiences]
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