Dr. Christopher W. Kerr is the Chief Medical Officer at The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Buffalo, New York, where he has worked since 1999. His background in research has evolved from bench science towards the human experience of illness as witnessed from the bedside, specifically patients’ dreams and visions at the end of life. Although medically ignored, these near universal experiences often provide comfort and meaning as well as insight into the life led and the death anticipated.
To learn more about death bed visions, shared death experiences, after death communications, and related phenomenon, go here.
To learn more about the power of dreams and dreaming, go here.
End Of Life Dreams Studied At Hospice Buffalo
November 8, 2019
Hospice Buffalo is gaining worldwide attention for years of study involving the vivid dreams that dying patients report having in their final days of life.
“Everybody I knew that was dead was there,” said the late Jeanne Faber, a former patient of Hospice Buffalo who is one of hundreds of patients who Hospice Buffalo interviewed on video shortly before her death about her very vivid end of life dreams.
She says the dreams became more frequent the sicker she became. “I have seen my mother, recently more. “I can’t say that my mother and I got along all those years, but we made up for it in the end,” said Faber.
“As soon as I started here, this seemed to be common knowledge among people who work with dying patients and who were closer to the bedside,” said Dr, Christopher Kerr, CEO of Hospice Buffalo. “I ended up studying it because as I came to appreciate that there was this kind of subjective or non-physical element to dying, that it was important an inherently therapeutic.”
The late Paul Schaefer reported dreaming about his late wife several times after she passed years ago. “She always kind of let me know that she’s fine. I get that feeling after a dream like that,” said Schaefer, who notes that the last one he had shortly before his death was different. “She wanted me to pack up some things for her, so I had this crazy dream I’m packing goods and I’m setting them for some reason up high, and everything went fine until I fell out of bed ha ha, and I really clunked.”
Paul died a few weeks after that interview with Hospice Buffalo researchers
In the final days of life, dreams seem to bring comfort and tie up loose ends, according to Dr. Kerr. “The thing you have to realize is the time for therapy and analysis is over. They’re nearing the end of their lives and people aren’t emerging from these experiences with questions; ‘what happened to me?’ They’re coming out of this with answers and meaning.”
The late Maggie Scheelar is convinced she saw her deceased sister. “So, I said Beth, you gotta stay with me. I’m alone, stay. And she says, I can’t, not now. Then she says ‘Soon we’ll be back, we’ll be together.”
Dr. Kerr does not believe it has anything to do with pain killing drugs or hallucinations. “We ruled out people who had confusional states. So these people are cognitively in tact.”
Hospice Buffalo researchers haven’t been focused on WHY these end of life dreams happen, but more on the fact that they DO happen with great frequency, and the hope that the rest of the medical world should not be so quick to dismiss end-of-life dreams.
“This was a very significant thing, but when I woke up, I was happy. It left me with a good feeling,” said Faber, who didn’t just dream about her pre-deceased relatives, but also the dog she missed. “Because she was a blind dog and I took care of her for so many years. I just lost her a year ago. All I could see her was running the fields…and not being blind anymore.”
“Personally, I just think it’s better story than the one we might think we’re seeing,” said Dr. Kerr. “Those things that we’ve truly loved and cherished are never really gone.”
Not only do these end of life dreams seem to help those dying, but also the loved ones they leave behind.
“In my opinion it’s real. To them, it’s real,” said Tammy, the mother of a Hospice Buffalo patient who experienced a comforting end of life dream.
Sue Olesky noticed how dreams brought her mother comfort before death. “She didn’t even talk about them as dreams. To her, they were something that happened last night,” said Olesky.
Norb misses his late wife, a former Hospice Buffalo patient. “But knowing how she died, what mood she was in when she died has put me at great ease over it, really.”
A documentary about this research recently won an award at the Barcelona Film Festival. A book about this research, titled, “Death is but a Dream” comes out in February, and ten countries have bought copies in advance. Netflix is also doing a full episode about this research next fall.
Who You See Before You Die: Hospice Documenting Patients’ Mysterious Dream Experiences
By David Highfield
February 25, 2019
Death is one of the mysteries of life. But the dreams of patients at Hospice Buffalo in New York State are revealing something incredible about the process of dying.
Dr. Christopher Kerr and his team have been documenting dreams or visions of dying patients for years.
They’ve found that the dreams are often comforting and make death less scary.
It turns out, when we have little time left, many of us may see the people we miss the most.
They’ve recorded many of the interviews.
A man named Horace explained one of his dreams: “My wife all of a sudden appeared.”
A woman named Jeanne describes how vivid they are: “I remember seeing every piece of their face. I mean, I know that was my mom and dad and uncle and my brother-in-law.” She continued: “I felt good. I felt good to see some people.”
A patient named Maggie dreamt about her sister, who had passed away before her.
“So I said, Beth, you’ve got to stay with me,” Maggie said. “I’m alone, stay with me. She says, ‘I can’t. Not now.”
But then, her sister gives her a message: “And then she says, ‘Soon we’ll be back. We’ll be back together.”
Dr. Kerr didn’t start out believing. He’s now the Chief Medical Officer at Hospice Buffalo, and when he was first starting out, something happened that opened his mind. He thought a certain patient could live a little longer with IV fluids.
“I walked in and the nurse didn’t even look up,” said Dr. Kerr. “And she said, “No, no, he’s dying,’ and I said, ‘Why are you saying that?’ And she said, ‘Well, he’s seeing his deceased mother,’ and I was like [laughing noise] ‘Yeah, right.’”
He was skeptical, but he explained that he was proven wrong over and over.
“Everybody but me was able to prognosticate death in part based on what people were seeing or experiencing,” he said.
He says doctors aren’t trained to deal with these dreams, but he began studying them and realized that they’re therapeutic.
“Instead of having this fear of death,” said Dr. Kerr. “It almost transcends the fear of death to something bigger.”
In 10 years, he and his team have documented 14,000 cases. Eighty percent of his patients report dreams or visions.
“What’s clear is people are universally saying this feels more real and different than any dream I’ve ever had before,” he said.
KDKA met one of those patients during our visit, a man named Gregg Liebler.
Liebler: “My grandmother and grandfather are both passed.”
Dr. Kerr: “Have you had any dreams of them?”
Liebler: “Yes. I see them often.”
Liebler’s sister, Karen Paciorkowski, is a nurse at Hospice Buffalo.
“He was really close with my mom’s parents,” she said.
“The people who loved him and nurtured him, he says the most, were his grandparents and that’s who returns to him,” Dr. Kerr said.
He sees himself as a child, talking to them again.
Dr. Kerr: “But it feels good?”
Liebler: “It sure does.”
Liebler passed away less than three weeks after our interview.
“You’re physically declining, but inside, you’re very vibrant and alive,” said Dr. Kerr.
He says the dreams happen more often as death gets closer, and there are common themes, like upcoming travel.
A patient named Paul shared one of his dreams, “She wanted me to pack up some things for her, so I had this crazy dream, I’m packing goods.”
Sometimes the dreams allow people to address unresolved issues.
A patient named Patricia felt relief after delivering a message to her deceased husband: “I told him, ‘You should have taken care of this, and I want you to know that I’m really angry that you didn’t,’ and he smiled.”
When children are dying, they often don’t know any people who have passed, so they dream of deceased pets.
A girl named Jessica explains her dreams: “I dream about my old dog Shadow, that has passed away.”
“They’ll come of these experiences and say they want to go back,” said Dr. Kerr.
So what causes the dreams? Is there a religious, spiritual or scientific explanation?
“I don’t have one,” said Dr. Kerr.
He says his goal is just to record what’s happening and he’s not sure there need to be an explanation.
“When they wake up crying because they’ve been so deeply moved by something,” said Dr. Kerr. “That just should be respected. Period.”