Dr. Christopher Kerr was 12 years old when his father died. In the man's final moments of life, Kerr said in a recent TEDx talk, his father reached out to him and told him to hurry because they needed to catch a plane to go on a fishing trip. It was the last time Kerr saw his father.
Death has followed Kerr in one way or another throughout his life, he said in the talk. He tried to avoid and defy it for many years as a medical student and then as an emergency room doctor. But since going to work in hospice care in 1999, Kerr has discovered a hidden value in the dying experience.
Kerr now serves as chief medical officer at the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care in New York and recently published a report on the dreams and visions of dying patients.
As Kerr's patients approach death, many of them report having vivid and comforting dreams. The dreams frequently involve deceased loved ones, reaching out to them in some way to let them know everything is okay.
Time and again, Kerr and his fellow researchers found that these dreams help give patients a sense of meaning and spiritual comfort as their death approaches.
"End of life experiences represent a rich interconnectivity between body and soul, between the realities we know, those we don't, between our past and our present," Kerr said in his TEDx talk. "Most importantly, end of life experiences represent continuity between and across lives, both living and dead."
Occasionally patients dream about past trauma and find themselves reliving painful experiences from life. But their dreams, Kerr said, sometimes help them heal spiritual wounds even as their bodies decline.
"I'm inspired by the strength of the human spirit and its endless quest to heal what is harmed and what is broken," Kerr said.
Watch Kerr's powerful TEDx talk above.
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