By the time my mother-in- law was dying, I had been a student of those facing the end of life for many years. They taught me to expand my awareness and be open to the mystery of visions and the messages that they can contain. Comfortable with this phenomenon, I was looking forward to the possibility that my mother-in-law, Emily, would have and share a vision, perhaps of family members who had died before her.
My teenage son adored Emily, and the feeling was mutual. But while he desperately wanted to be with his beloved grandmother at the end, he was going away to a camp near the border of Idaho and Canada. I attempted to assuage his pain by assuring him that when she died, I was certain her spirit would be free to check on him or send him a message. I hoped I was right.
Three days before her death, Emily was transferred to the hospice inpatient unit. As she was settling in, she pointed to the end of her bed and asked, “What is that duck doing at the end of my bed?” I was silently disappointed that her vision was of a duck, not someone or something I deemed more significant. But a duck it was, and I was puzzled as to the possible meaning. Remembering that only the person experiencing a vision had the power to direct it, I suggested, “You can tell the duck to go away”. She shooed it away, reporting it moved from the bed to the corner of her room, where it did not bother her.
Day two: She reported that, once again, that duck showed up at the end of her bed. Again she shooed the duck back to the corner of her room, where it didn’t bother her.
Day three: She reported that duck showed up on her bed again, but that day, it didn’t bother her. That was the day she died. After her death, I faxed a letter to the camp for my son, describing in detail her comfortable death. I didn’t mention of what I thought was an insignificant duck vision.
The next day, I received a faxed letter from the camp counselor.
“We took your son and the letter to the top of a snowy knoll, to share the letter in private. Funny thing is that a duck showed up and began to circle our heads.”
This was the dead of winter, and no duck should have been in the area. Understanding the significance, I immediately sent word about Emily’s duck vision. It felt as if it was his grandmother’s message to him. And he was, indeed, comforted by the story. For reasons unknown, I still had not shared it with any other family members.
At her funeral service, my brother handed me a fetish bag, which I opened to reveal…a duck. Puzzled as I held it in the palm of my hand, I asked, “Why did you give me a duck?” He replied, “Well, in the Zuni [Indian] tradition, it’s the duck that carries the spirit into the next world.”
Ah! The duck held messages for us all, and I was grateful for the additional affirmation.
If you are lucky enough to hear about the vision of someone who is dying, I encourage you to share it and discover the message it contains for you and for others. It’s a part of being open to the mystery of dying.
Tani Bahti, RN, CT, CHPN, offers practical guidance to demystify the dying process. A RN since 1976, Tani has been working to empower families and healthcare professionals to enable the best end-of-life experience possible through education and the development of helpful tools and resources. The current owner of Pathways, Tani is also the author of “Dying to Know, Straight Talk About Death and Dying,” a book that SevenPonds considers one of the most helpful books on the subject available today. Founder Suzette Sherman says, “This is the book I will have at the bedside of my dying parents some day, hopefully, a very long time from now.”