Not a New Phenomenon? Famous Departing Visions Throughout History


Maybe you’ve had a departing vision or witnessed someone you love talking to invisible visitors as death drew near. If so, you might be asking yourself, “What was this strange, yet profound experience? Have other people had encounters like this? Am I the only one and if not, why haven’t I ever heard about such things?”

Years ago a client told me how his father, after being in a comatose state, had an unusual pre-death encounter. As the family sat by the bedside, the once nonresponsive gentleman suddenly became very lucid, looked up toward the ceiling of the hospital room, raised his arms and with a delightful smile on his face called out to his deceased wife. Within minutes after this he died peacefully. Was this man alone in his experience? Believe it or not, the answer is no. Read the following and see what you think.

Waiting at the window

A seventy-year-old patient had seen her deceased husband several times and then she predicted her own death. She said that her husband had appeared in the window and motioned to her to come out of the house. The reason for his visits was to have her join him. Her daughter and other relatives were present when she predicted her death, laid out her burial clothes. Laid down in bed for a nap and died about an hour later. She seemed calm, resigned to death and, in fact, wanted to die. Before she saw her husband she didn’t speak about imminent death. Her doctor was so surprised by her sudden death, for which there was no sufficient medical reasons, that he checked if she had poisoned herself. He found neither signs of poisoning nor any such drugs in the house. [1]

Both of the above other worldly reports are called departing visions. Maybe you’ve had such a glimpse of the afterlife or witnessed someone you love talking to invisible visitors as death drew near. If so, you might be asking yourself, “What was this strange, yet profound experience? Have other people had encounters like this? Am I the only one and if not, why haven’t I ever heard about such things?”

Famous departing visions

I love enlightening people with the otherworldly premonitions experienced by well know individuals. These reports give everyday experiencers like me permission to embrace our own departing visions. Here are several accounts from some very famous people.

A Pope is visited

The controversial Alexander VI (1431–1503) was pope from 1492 until his death in 1503. His birth name was Roderic Llançol I Borja, and he was quite the character.

Borja lived the wild life before and while he was pope. Aside from having a family previous to becoming the most powerful religious leader of his time, he had a number of very colorful mistresses while in the papacy. Murder, thievery, obscene banquets, prostitution, drunkenness, incest and rape were all part of his legacy. Because the family Borja had such an interesting history, Hollywood turned the murdering dynasty into a television series. Called “The Borgias,” the program has popularized the debauchery and criminal activity recorded in the lives of Alexander VI and his dysfunctional family.

As was his life, death for this pope was also full of drama. Borja became ill with fever after dining with one of his cardinals. The theory is he was poisoned. One would think such a villain would never make it to the afterlife, but his last words have been reported as;

Ok, ok, I’ll come. Just give it a moment. (Va bene, va bene, arrivo. Aspettate un momento.) [2]

Who was he talking to? Was he being visited by deceased relatives, friends or perhaps a forgiving mistress from the other side? We will never know.

A beloved composer has a departing vision

Can you imagine composing a musical piece on your deathbed? This is just what Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) did. To this day, his classical works are played at most of the weddings I attend, but what gave him the spiritual strength to compose as he lay dying? Visually blind, suffering respiratory complications and afflicted with several strokes, this beloved musical genius was able to compose on his deathbed, Before Thy Throne I Now Approach.

During the hours just before his passing, he supposedly regained his vision. Because of this he was able to finish his composition. Another theory is that he was;
…seeing the unseen as often occurs in the last days of life. [3]

Extraordinary presidential departing visions

John Adams (1735-1826) was not only the second president of the United States, but in 1776 he was a leading supporter and defender of America’s independence from Britain. Interestingly, he died on the Fourth of July in 1826.
On the day of his passing, as he lay on his deathbed bed he said;

Oh, yes; it is the glorious Fourth of July. It is a great day. It is a good day. God bless it. God bless you all. [4]

He then lapsed into unconsciousness. Later, he awoke and mumbled;

Thomas Jefferson still survives! [5]

After this Adams left this life for the world to come.

As he was preparing to leave his physical body behind, there is no way he would have known about Jefferson’s death. His onetime political rival and good friend passed in a different location, just a few hours earlier on that same 4th of July day in 1826. While Adams was dying did his good friend Jefferson come for him?

One final note on Adams and Jefferson. Both of these men defended our freedoms and were our first presidents. I find it interesting that they both left this life for the afterlife, within hours of each other on the same day, exactly fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

A gifted pianist loses his fear of death

Frederic François Chopin (1810–1849), the famous Polish composer and extraordinary classical pianist is often referred to as the Poet of the Piano, but how many of us know he was terrified of being buried alive?

The gifted musician was ill for many years of his life and death was always just around the corner. When his passing was imminent Chopin’s sister rushed to his bedside. Just after midnight on October 17th, 1849, the composer awoke from a deep sleep. His physician then leaned over him and asked if he was suffering or in pain. Chopin replied, “Not anymore.” [6] After struggling for years with an overwhelming fear of death, the famous pianist finally died in the arms of his loving sister. He was only thirty-nine years old.

Did this best-loved composer who worried incessantly about being buried alive somehow come to terms with his passing? Maybe he had a departing vision or caught a quick look at what life without a physical body would be like. Was it this sense of reassurance that relieved him of his pain and allowed him to move on to the great celestial orchestra in the sky?

At Chopin’s request, his heart was preserved in alcohol after his death and has been kept in his homeland in a sealed jar inside a pillar at Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church. The pillar was dedicated to Chopin and when I last visited this church I noticed flowers continue to be placed here in honor of the musician.

Premonitions of a death

The handsome and charismatic John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963) was the 35th president of the United States of America. He was also the youngest man ever elected to that office. Though he was “easy on the eyes” and a political force to be reckoned with, this isn’t his only claim to fame. The dashing and controversial Kennedy was the youngest President to ever to die in office. On November 22nd, 1963, an assassin’s bullets killed him as his motorcade made its way through the streets of Dallas, Texas.

Most people don’t know that the young president had a departing vision. On his arrival in Dallas he said to special assistant Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.;

If someone is going to kill me, they will kill me. [7]

What a powerful, prophetic statement. President Kennedy had this premonition, just hours before his violent assassination.

Prime Minister of India has a spiritual forewarning

Indira Gandhi (1917–1984) was an incredibly strong and dominant figure in India for almost two decades. She was also Prime Minister on four different occasions.

A political genius, Gandhi started a family planning program, addressed food shortages, and authorized the development of nuclear weapons in 1967. Sadly this little powerhouse of a woman was assassinated by her own bodyguards.

Sikh militants fired thirty-three bullets into her chest and abdomen, killing her at her own residence.

The night before her assassination Indira Gandhi said the following;

I don’t mind if my life goes in the service of the nation. If I die today every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation. [8]

Like President Kennedy’s departing vision, we have one more famous political leader predicting her upcoming assassination just hours before the deadly shots are fired.

Death is the great equalizer

It’s often been said that death is the great equalizer. No matter what the size of our bank account or our position in society, all of us are going to eventually die the physical death. Sadly, our culture does little to prepare us for this great event. Many medical personnel, mental healthcare providers, educators and clergy are death phobic, so they are of little help.

Thankfully the departing vision is also a great equalizer. Examples of this spiritual event have been documented throughout history and can be found in all major religions. Visitations from deceased loved ones, angels or religious icons occur in all cultures and these experiences are incredibly similar to one another. Whether it’s a U.S. president born in the 1700s, a 18th century Jewish religious leader, a politician in India born in the early 1900s or my dear friend who just passed a year ago, a deceased loved one is always there to gently escort us to the afterlife.

A personal goodbye

Understanding the nature of the departing vision definitely lessens grief. As I end this chapter, a relative of mine is physically dying in England. Due to a series of very unfortunate events, he has been seriously ill for the last few years. Several days ago he decided enough was enough and this dear man stopped eating and drinking. Currently, he is also having fantastic departing visions.

His wife made her way to the afterlife shortly after his illness set in. The feisty blond with the thick northern accent was his soul mate, and loved by all. During her visits to the states she would lather herself in suntan lotion and “bake” for hours in a lounge chair. This British cousin loved our sunshine.

When she died suddenly, her husband was devastated. We didn’t know if he would survive the loss. For a short period of time he has remained, but now it’s time for him to go too.
As this relative prepares to pass he is having visions of his devoted wife. She has come to escort him to the other side. The family isn’t frightened by these visitations. They are comforted when he calls out to her. Soon he will escape his paralyzed body, and then husband and wife will have a glorious reunion.

So, peace be with you two. Be sure to stop by Disneyland before you take off for the heavens. Someday we will meet again.

1- Osis, Karlis, At The Hour of Death, New York, NY, Avon Books, 1977 pg 4
2- Last Words Quotations (Note, Died, Leave, Dying) @ Web.
3- Johann Sebastian Bach’s Strokes. Acta Clinica Croatica (Sisters of Charity Hospital), 2006. 1. Web.
4- Last Words Quotations (Note, Died, Leave, Dying) @ Web.
5- Ibid
6- Tran, Anh. Chopin, the Poet of the Piano. Web.
7- 10 Famous Last Words of Famous People. Web.
8- Finley, L. Blake, and Brummund. Ruth, Indira Gandhi: Universal Woman of Courage, Compassion, and Social Justice. Web.

A Texas State Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Carla Wills-Brandon has published 12 books, one of which was a “Publishers Weekly Best Seller.” She has also lectured across the U.S. and U.K., and has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs, such as Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael, Montel Williams, Art Bell’s Coast To Coast Radio Show, Uri Geller’s Coast To Coast Radio Show and Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher.

Carla has also been investigating spirituality and other related phenomenon for over a decade and three of her books, Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope From the Afterlife “One Last Hug Before I Go” and “A Glimpse of Heaven” discuss this in depth. She is considered to be one of the leading researchers into deathbed visions. In her private practice, grief work, lectures and workshops she teaches people how to integrate these unusual encounters into everyday living. For more information visit

About Carla Wills Brandon

Carla has published 13 books, one of which was a "Publishers Weekly Best Seller." Her most recent books, "One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions," “Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope From the Afterlife," and "A Glimpse of Heaven: The Remarkable World of Spiritually Transformative Experiences," are all proving to be a great success, proving physical death is not the end.. She has also lectured across the U.S. and U.K., and has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs, such as Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael, Montel Williams, Art Bell’s Coast To Coast Radio Show, Uri Geller’s Coast To Coast Radio Show and Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher. Recently she returned from Italy where she presented her research on the Departing Visions of the dying and those who love them, proving these experiences are universal and not bound by culture. Also considered a clinical relationship and trauma expert, many of her media appearances have been dedicated to discussing healthy intimacy, recovery from sexual abuse and trauma resolution. She has also appeared on several programs with her husband Michael, as the two clinicians often see couples in their private practice as a couple.

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