The celebration of life is very much part of farming. For me, the joy comes during lambing and from the amount of media attention this annual event receives, many who may not be directly associated with a farm, take part with me, albeit from a distance. What is less well publicised is the inevitable death that follows. At first, I didn’t cope particularly well when one of my sheep keeled over. After 10 years, I still feel every loss but accept death as a natural process.
Accepting animal demise on my farm got me thinking about humans and how we perceive death and the process of dying. This all lead me to Dr Peter Fenwick, a neurological psychiatrist who maintains that, as a specialist in both the brain and mind, he is well placed to comment on near death experiences and what he calls death bed phenomena.
He did an hour long interview (YouTube); the first half quite heavy going, but the second half, an absolute revelation and time listening so well spent. My tiny column here doesn’t allow me to go into any details and I wouldn’t want to spoil the experience of listening to Fenwick for my readers, or to influence other people’s interpretation of what Fenwick is saying.
Suffice to say, Fenwick deals pragmatically with the whole process of dying and what can be expected by all involved. I can only speak for myself, but I came away with a feeling of tremendous relief and a new-found inner peace. Literally and figuratively, Fenwick provided me with a light at the end of the tunnel about a topic that has always engendered in me feelings of disquiet. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about death bed visitors – encountering long lost family members who might appear and help with what he refers to as “the transition”.
The idea that I may be reunited with my late parents in my ultimate hour of need is comforting beyond description. But how might a conversation with them go? Well, I can imagine my father tactfully suggesting that it might be best not to over salt his favourite meal (chicken soup of course) and my mother would certainly be bemoaning the fact that, during my life, I didn’t read nearly enough Dickens.
But seriously, if humans experience near death experiences and indeed receive death bed visitors, do animals experience the same? Or is this a uniquely human phenomenon? Food for thought.