The Good Funeral Awards

The Art of Dying

20 May, 2014

TheArtI’ve been reading Peter Fenwick’s The Art of Dying.

I picked up The Art of Dying expecting it to be a medical account of how we die. It’s written by a neuropsychiatrist.

After a few pages, it turned out to be nothing of the kind.

Dr Fenwick focuses on those odd events that carers and nurses experience when tending the dying. They are not events described in medical textbooks, but the his research revealed them to be commonplace. The book provides a compelling case for ‘spiritual’ and other unexplained phenomena around death.

The dying often catch sight of a figure in their room. It’s usually a deceased person, a close relative or friend, who comes to get them. Sometimes other people can see them, especially children, but not always.

One man who fought in the First World War, suddenly saw the comrades he lost in battle. They gathered around the bed. The dying person can negotiate with the visitors to stay on for a while longer, to says final farewells. But after such conversations, they are usually very happy to go.

Dr Fenwick also describes the emotional reactions of loved ones.  A mother, a brother or a son might have a peculiar feeling at a certain time about the deceased. It later transpires the person has died at exactly that time – this can also happen when the death is completely unexpected.

Usually these ‘hallucinations’ involve the deceased reassuring the bereaved that they’re okay. They’ve just passed over into a different world.

Hear Peter Fenwick explain it for himself at TEDxBrussels.