Vitor Moura sent me an interesting article by NDE researcher Bruce Greyson, which appeared in the December 2010 (Vol. 35, issue 2) edition of Anthropology and Humanism, a journal published by the American Anthropological Association. Titled "Seeing Dead People Not Known to Have Died: 'Peak in Darien' Experiences," the article lists a number of deathbed vision cases. As far as I know, only the abstract is freely available online.
There are so many cases, I can't excerpt them all. What follows are some of the more interesting ones. All of the quoted material is from Greyson's article and consists of Greyson's summaries in his own words.
One very early case was written up by Dr. Henry Atherton in 1680. The doctor's teenage sister,
who had been sick for a long time, was thought to have died. Indeed, the women attending to her saw no breath when they held a mirror to her mouth and saw no response when they put live coals to her feet. Nevertheless, the girl recovered and related a vision of visiting heaven, which her relatives dismissed as “dream or fancy.” The girl then insisted that she had seen several people who had died after she had lost consciousness. One of those she named was thought to be still alive; however, her family subsequently sent out inquiries and confirmed that the girl was correct.
It's interesting that even in that more religious age, her family’s knee-jerk response was a skeptical dismissal. Some things never change!
A case written up in 1882 by Frances Power Cobbe
described a woman who, as she was dying, suddenly showed joyful surprise and spoke of seeing three of her brothers who had long been dead. She then apparently recognized a fourth brother, who was believed by everyone present to be still living in India.... Sometime thereafter letters arrived announcing the death of the brother in India, which had occurred prior to his dying sister recognizing him.
In 1885, Eleanor Sidgwick wrote up an interesting case involving a singer identified only as Julia X, who had been briefly employed six or seven years previously by an affluent lady. Now the employer was dying. On her deathbed she was coolly discussing business matters, when
[s]uddenly she changed the subject and said, “Do you hear those voices singing?” No one else present heard them, and she concluded: “[The voices are] the angels welcoming me to Heaven; but it is strange, there is one voice amongst them I am sure I know, and cannot remember whose voice it is.” Suddenly she stopped and, pointing up, added: “Why there she is in the corner of the room; it is Julia X.” No one else present saw the vision, and the next day, February 13, 1874, the woman died. On February 14, Julia X’s death was announced in the Times. Her father later reported that “on the day she died she began singing in the morning, and sang and sang until she died.”
Here's one reported by pioneering psi researchers Edmund Gurney and F.W.H. Myers in 1889.
Gurney and Myers also described the case of John Alkin Ogle, who, an hour before he died, saw his brother who had died 16 years earlier, calling him by name. Ogle then called out in surprise, “George Hanley!” -- the name of a casual acquaintance in a village 40 miles away -- before expiring. His mother, who was visiting from Hanley’s village, then confirmed that Hanley had died 10 days earlier, a fact that no one else in the room had known.
In 1899, Alice Johnson described the case of the dying Mrs. Hicks, who
looked earnestly at the door to the room and said to her nurse, husband, and daughters, “There is someone outside, let him in.” Her daughter assured her there was no one there and opened the door wider. After a pause, Mrs. Hicks said: “Poor Eddie; oh, he is looking very ill; he has had a fall.” Her family assured her that the last news they had heard from him [her son, who was thousands of miles away] was that he was quite well, but she continued from time to time to say, “Poor Eddie!” Some time after she died, her husband received a letter from Australia announcing their son’s death. He had suddenly become feverish the day of his mother’s vision and was found dead, having fallen from his horse at about the time of his mother’s vision.
Another early psi researcher, James Hyslop, wrote in 1908 about a case involving two children both suffering from diphtheria.
Jennie, age 8, died on a Wednesday, a fact that was intentionally kept hidden from her friend Edith. At noon on that Saturday, Edith selected two of her photographs to be sent to Jennie, providing evidence that she still thought Jennie to be alive. Shortly thereafter she lapsed into unconsciousness, but that evening she awakened and spoke of seeing deceased friends. Then suddenly she said to her father, in great surprise, “Why, papa, I am going to take Jennie with me!” She then reached out her arms and said, “O, Jennie, I’m so glad you are here,” lapsed back into unconsciousness, and died.
One of the more interesting stories in Hollywood history is the development of Technicolor, which is vividly described here. The system was the brainchild of Herbert Kalmus and his wife Natalie. It came as news to me that Natalie Kalmus, in 1949, reported a deathbed vision perceived by her sister Eleanor. In her final moments, Eleanor
began calling out the names of deceased loved ones whom she was seeing. Just before she died, she also saw a cousin named Ruth and asked, “What’s she doing here?” Ruth had died unexpectedly the week before, and Eleanor, because of her condition, had not been told.
Ian Stevenson, best known as an indefatigable researcher of children’s past-life memories, wrote up a case in 1959. The dying person was an elderly lady.
When the doctors said that she did not have long to live, her grandchildren gathered around her bed. Suddenly she seemed much more alert, and the expression on her face changed to one of great pleasure and excitement. She raised herself slightly and said, “Oh, Will, are you there?” and fell back dead. No one named Will was present, and the only Will her family could recall was a great-uncle who lived in England. Not long after, her family received word from England that her brother Will had died about two days before her death.
Some near-death experiences include elements of deathbed visions. In 1968 John Myers
related the case of a woman who, in an NDE, perceived herself leaving her body and viewing the hospital room and saw her distraught husband and the doctor shaking his head. She reported that she went to heaven and saw an angel and a familiar young man. She exclaimed: “Why, Tom, I didn’t know you were up here,” to which Tom responded that he had just arrived. The angel then told the woman that she would be returning to earth, and she found herself back in the hospital bed with the doctor looking over her. Later that night, her husband got a call informing him that their friend Tom had died in an auto accident.
Another NDE with a deathbed-vision component was reported by pediatrician and NDE researcher Melvin Morse in 1990. A cancer-stricken 7-year-old boy
told his mother that he had traveled up a beam of light to heaven, where he visited a “crystal castle” and talked with God. The boy said that a man there approached him and introduced himself as an old high school boyfriend of the boy’s mother. The man said he had been crippled in an automobile accident, but in the crystal castle he had regained his ability to walk. The boy’s mother had never mentioned this old boyfriend to her son, but after hearing of this vision, she called some friends and confirmed that her former boyfriend had died the very day of her son’s vision.
Traveling up a beam of light sounds somewhat like the classic "tunnel" experience, and the crystal castle is reminiscent of the buildings constructed of glass or other transparent materials that are often reported by NDErs and mediums. These structures are sometimes said to be made of pure thought.
In their 1993 book Final Gifts, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley reported the case of an elderly Chinese lady, terminally ill with cancer, who
had recurrent visions of her deceased husband calling her to join him. One day, much to her puzzlement, she saw her sister with her husband, and both were calling her to join them. She told the hospice nurse that her sister was still alive in China, and that she hadn’t seen her for many years. When the hospice nurse later reported this conversation to the woman’s daughter, the daughter stated that the patient’s sister had in fact died two days earlier of the same kind of cancer, but that the family had decided not to tell the patient to avoid upsetting or frightening her.
The same authors related
the case of Peggy, a young hospice patient dying of lymphoma. One day, she seemed to the visiting nurse much more bright, radiant, and active than usual. She reported that the previous day she had been drifting in and out of sleep, remembering back to a happy time in her childhood when she and her brother were taken in by a beloved aunt. She woke up with a start when she felt a warm, caring hand on her shoulder, and looking around behind her saw her aunt, who lived in another state, smiling and touching her. She felt her aunt with her off and on all day, and late that night her uncle called to say her aunt had died at the same time that she was first awareof her presence.
A case reported in 1995 by a medical doctor, K.M. Dale, centered on a 9-year-old boy, Eddie Cuomo,
whose fever finally broke after nearly 36 hours of anxious vigil on the part of his parents and hospital personnel. As soon as he opened his eyes, at 3:00 in the morning, Eddie urgently told his parents that he had been to heaven, where he saw his deceased Grandpa Cuomo, Auntie Rosa, and Uncle Lorenzo.... Then Eddie added that he also saw his 19-year-old sister Teresa, who told him he had to go back.... Later that morning, when Eddie’s parents telephoned the college, they learned that Teresa had been killed in an automobile accident just after midnight, and that college officials had tried unsuccessfully to reach the Cuomos at their home to inform them of the tragic news.
The oldest case included in Greyson's study dates all the way back to A.D. 77 and appears in Book 7 of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. It concerns two Roman brothers, Corfidius the elder and Corfidius the younger. (In those days of high infant mortality, it was not unusual for siblings to share the same name.) The elder brother was pronounced dead, and funeral arrangements were made. Unexpectedly, however, the elder Corfidius spontaneously revived and announced to amazed onlookers that
he had just come from the house of his younger brother. He reported that the younger brother requested that the funeral arrangements he had made for the now-revived older Corfidius be used for him instead, entrusted the care of his daughter to his older brother, and showed his older brother where he had secretly buried some gold underground. As the older Corfidius was relating the account of his NDE, his younger brother’s servants burst in with the news that their master had just unexpectedly died; and the buried gold, of which no one else knew, was found in the place indicated by the revived older brother.
P.S. The term "peak in Darien," used to describe deathbed-vision cases, comes from Keats' poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," and refers to the moment when Cortez and his men climbed a peak in Panama and discovered the Pacific Ocean lying before them -- a wholly unexpected vista. The Peak in Darien was the title chosen by Frances Power Cobbe for her 1882 book on life after death, which includes some deathbed visions.