译者：徐嘉茵 & 邵海灵
Any patient near to death can have a spiritual experience. I’ve seen it
In my job as hospital chaplain, I know people don’t have to be religious – these experiences can happen to anyone
chaplain/ˈtʃæplɪn/ N. A member of the Christian clergy who does religious work in a place such as a hospital, school, prison, or in the armed forces. 医院、学校、监狱、军队等地执行宗教仪式的神职人员。
I could see that Harry was a little hesitant. After some inconsequential chat he decided to tell me about a strange experience he had had. He didn’t want to tell the doctors because he was worried they would think he was mentally ill. This sort of thing didn’t happen to ordinary people like him.
He told me: “I was in the room looking down on my body. There were a lot of people around me, looking anxious and talking to me as they connected tubes and injected my body. ‘Come on Harry, fight, stay with us! We are not letting you go that easily.’ I looked on dispassionately as if totally detached from this scene. To my right I could see a beautiful light and was starting to turn towards it. But then I felt myself drawn back into my body and the next thing, I was waking up in intensive care. I almost felt resentful at being brought back.” Harry had had an out-of-body experience.
One of the features of my job as a hospital chaplain is that people who are very ill, and those who are approaching their death, tell me about these spiritual experiences. They are very real, often vivid and intense, and anyone can have them. There can be delight and joy, light and a feeling of being loved, or there can be threat, darkness and deep malevolence.
malevolence /mə’lev(ə)l(ə)ns/ n. a desire to harm other people 恶意、怨恨、狠毒
People may describe them as a glimpse of heaven (or hell); others may feel they have connected with something bigger than themselves. They might use the word “transcendent” (not exclusively a religious word) or refer to God. They may have sensations of being held, of presence, of warmth suffusing them, usually accompanied by a feeling of peace.
transcendent/træn’sɛndənt/ adj.beyond and outside the ordinary range of human experience or understanding 超然的
So many people have told me about seeing a dead relative as they were going for an operation or were close to death, and feeling reassured that things would be OK. Relatives have told me how the dying person behaved as if they could see someone else in the room. It wasn’t a look of fear, but of curiosity or even recognition and pleasure. One daughter told me how her mum looked past her and said: “Look – Dad’s here, he’s come for me.” Dad had died years before.
I have met a lot of people who tell me they have seen angels. They generally have wings and quite often look like something from a renaissance religious painting, but not always. The type of experience I have heard most often is the glimpse of an afterlife.
Albert, who had been a gardener, had a particularly vivid one. He found himself by the gates of a beautiful garden. They were made of ornate wrought iron with flowing patterns. It was perfect weather, sunny but not too hot, great for the plants, and he could see the garden stretching into the distance. There were all manner of plants and he felt drawn in. As he walked through the gates there was a glorious scent. He described it as heavenly. There was a special kind of soft light and music coming from somewhere.
As he took in the scene with all his senses he realised he had the choice to stay or step back. He felt that he had better go back for his family and reluctantly dragged himself away. His son told me: “We realise now that this happened when he was having his stroke. We thought we had lost him.”
Albert believed he glimpsed heaven, the place where he would go when he died. His fear of what happens after death had been removed altogether. He added: “You know what, if I get another chance to go into that garden I am not going to come back.” His son nodded in agreement.
A variant of Albert’s story is to be at the end of a long tunnel with a special light at the other end that people feel drawn to. Often there is beautiful music that they have not heard before and cannot properly describe. In all these cases there is an absence of pain and anxiety, and they may feel joy.
Whatever your beliefs about these spiritual events, they can be truly transformative. The person having them can be wary of talking about them because of the fear of being disbelieved as irrational, or that others will say their experiences were the product of a diseased mind. That is a shame because they can be so helpful in preparing someone for their death. They can be soothing and healing.
I have learnt never to make assumptions about people I am professionally engaged with. Time and again I have been surprised by the experiences people have and who has them. You don’t have to be religious to experience them; they can and do happen to anyone.
There is a danger of thoroughly medicalising death when it is a profoundly spiritual experience and unique to each person. In supporting a dying person our role is to be open to whatever their reality is, to travel with them and (as long as it is not harmful) to affirm that experience.
本文原载于 The Guardian