That Sacred In-between


This week, I want to consider what it means to experience and cultivate a sense of continued connection with people who have died. With this in mind, I invite us into a place of imagination and wondering. How might we ponder our connections with those who have gone before us — those who have loved us into being?

What is that sacred in-between? That space right before death where powerful things seem to happen?

The truth is, I don’t know.

Is it a new reality coming into being? Is it simply (but still, amazingly!) the human brain giving a euphoric experience at the end of life? Is it a liminality between what has been and what will be? Is it an expansion of time — either in reality, or perhaps, in a beautiful illusion during a near-death state?

I don’t know. All I know is that I find it to be comforting.

I mean this: Sometimes, when people near death, they rally quite unexpectedly and receive a burst of strength that seems unexpected. Some appear to experience joy. Or in a last bit of consciousness in their bodies, some experience the presence of people who have died before them.

Before she died two weeks ago, my grandmother Ruby was unconscious and on a ventilator. After the ventilator was removed, she died pretty quickly. But right at the end, she suddenly opened up her eyes, looked up and smiled, and a couple tears dripped down her cheek.

I don’t know what that is, but I find that to be comforting.

More dramatic, when my husband’s grandfather, Bill Knox, died a little more than a year ago, the family marveled at what he experienced. The night before he died, everyone was aware that the end was nearing. But for a few hours, he was suddenly and unexpectedly conscious and aware. He sat up, and for hours, he was in this in-between state. One moment, he would be fully engaged in conversation with one of his daughters sitting next to him, and the next moment, he would announce to everyone that he could see a person from his earlier life — someone who had died decades before. He would say some words aloud to them too. Then, he’d come back to conversation with his family, fully engaged. It seemed that everyone was present to him at once. This in-between state lasted for hours and was a very special, mysterious thing.

I don’t know what that is, but I find that to be comforting.

This week on this blog, I am writing with imagination about our continued connections with those who have died. In doing so, I never aim put a silver lining on loss in any way. I know these kinds of things can be hard to celebrate when loss is recent and grief is acute.

But at the same time, perhaps these kinds of moments can give some solace too. Recognizing this is all a mystery, perhaps we can be comforted by a sense of wonder.

Renee Roederer


This post is part of a series this week. Feel free to read the other pieces also:

“Someday, You’ll Be the Love of My Life”
The Fullness of Time?
“See You at the Table”

5 thoughts on “That Sacred In-between

  1. I lost my mother to suicide when I was 16. That is a hard loss to grieve. But in the last few months, I’ve had a sense of her presence more than at any other time of my life. It started with the wondering you speak of. One day after meditating, I found myself wondering, “How would things be different both for me and for the ongoing relationship between us if she were to apologize? What if she IS sorry–the way any loving mother would be? What if?”

    Even though she died 35 years ago; she’s been gone more than twice as long as she was here, that wondering has brought some healing. (It’s such an ongoing process for me and for many survivors of suicide, I think.) I appreciate the confirmation and validation of this post.


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