Perhaps one of the most important moments of our life is the moment we die. Would it be helpful, depending on our physical and mental condition, to prayerful at that moment? Would it matter (as we take our leave of matter) what we pray about at that moment? If we aren’t in a condition to pray at that moment, would it matter what others praying for us are praying about? My friend’s terminal illness has motivated me to ponder this some more.
I am quite confident that there is a different life beyond this life. Like most other folks, I don’t know what happens when we die but I’m an engineer and like to know how things work and can’t help researching. I know I’m not alone in this. Even Bishop John Shelby Spong in his book, Eternal Life, A New Vision, expressed his frustration: “The only language I have to use in this book is the language of time and space. The subject I am seeking to address, however, is not bound by time and space.”
In previous posts I mentioned my interest in Qi Gong, Reiki and Shamanism. This has led me to investigate the relationship between these healing arts and the scientific domain of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is quite different from the classic Newtonian stuff I was taught in school. I won’t go into detail but it offers some insight into things that are difficult to explain in conventional ways.
One of ideas in quantum mechanics is the relationship between the observer and the observed. The observer has an impact on what is observed. This image demonstrates how we impact what is observed. By simply changing your perspective, the image changes from the young woman to the old woman.
Another interesting thing about quantum mechanics is non-locality. Something in one place can effect something in another place without passing any physical signal in between.
And apparently, at the atomic level, when an electron moves from one orbit to another, it is never in between. It disappears from one orbit and reappears in the other. (I wish I could do that when driving home at rush hour!)
What does this have to do with prayer, healing and dying? Well, I’m wondering if my mind is in a somewhat different space than my brain and body (just ask my wife, she’ll confirm that often it’s somewhere else ;-)). When I pray for someone or do Reiki for them, my mind is non-local to them even if they are in the same room — but they could be thousands of miles away. It seems the distance makes no difference. Research has demonstrated the positive impact of healing prayer by people at a distance.
If my mind is the observer in this and my body is part of what is observed, perhaps what’s happening in my mind will impact my body. This is how I think the Qi Gong I practice for my own well-being works.
So where is the soul or spirit in this? In the existence beyond this life, my soul or spirit is what I figure will be hanging out there. Perhaps my mind that’s doing this praying, and creating this post, can impact my soul. Based on my reading so far, a key time for that is at the moment of death. I was thinking that Jesus last words might be an example of this. Luke 23:46 quotes Jesus as saying “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. That seems to me to be a much more impactful prayer to have in mind at that moment than something like “Geez, my body hurts”.
Other traditions include a death prayer or meditation for the person dying to pray. This is different from having clergy present saying the prayers. Apparently Gandhi had one and said “Ram”, a name for God, at the time he was assassinated.
My study indicates it’s better to have someone else praying if one can’t – than no prayer at all. I have not been present with a dying person while Anglican clergy were present so I must admit I don’t know what our tradition offers here.
So a question for ordained readers of this post — what do you pray or suggest the dying person to pray?
I have been present for the deaths of both my parents and for the time when our old dog Kes was put to sleep by our vet. These were all powerful and very different experiences for me – perhaps the subject of another post.
If you are interested in reading more on quantum mechanics relating to this subject, here are a couple of books I’ve read so far: