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God question. Don't read if offended by religious questions

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My family is Jewish. We also happen to be a very analytical, sometimes skeptical, and usually religiously lazy family. I myself believe in a sort of "God", or entity, that allowed for the beginnings of the universe, at some point, allowing for matter, and universes, or this universe to evolve from whatever that original source was. (vague, I know). My father believes in some higher power, also not a traditional God, but his has something to do with finding a higher power as a recovering alcoholic. My mother believed for most of her life that "God" was a man with a white beard who lives on a throne in the clouds, but you could always tell that her belief was more of a child's mind proxy for something that she doesn't really think is there now that she's an adult.

Today she said that she didn't have much strength left (she opted for more chemo instead of hospice, and this round, two days ago, will probably kill her, she's blind and can't get down more than 300 calories a day), and she said she's going to miss so much, and I asked her what she was going to miss. She said that she'll miss finding out who her children will fall in love with, she'll miss us kid's finding our total happiness, and that she'll miss my little brother's high-school graduation. Then (as my first two tears since my mother's diagnosis, one and a half years ago, rolled down my face)I asked her if she believed in the afterlife. She said that she has to, because she wants to see her mother, and that we'll get to see her later in heaven, but she won't recognize us because we'll be so much older. She also said that she'll be an angel on all of our shoulders.

Like I said, I believe in my God on a very basic level, which precludes me from even trying to think about the afterlife, because it would take to much guessing and time (I don't have a strong faith outside of empirical things). However, I could hear in the way she was saying her stuff about the afterlife, that she wasn't truly convinced. It was like she wanted to force herself to believe, because she's scared.

Here's my actual questions. For those of you caregivers out there who have been in a situation like this, where the person wants to believe in an afterlife, but probably doesn't; Do the patients begin to convince themselves of the afterlife the more they grapple with it because their mind makes them? Does a person without a clear belief in the afterlife at least to become at peace with death without a belief in afterlife? Do people ever reach the end while still scared? I always hear of people going in a contented state of mind, and nothing scares me more than my mother spending her remaining time scared and sad.

Thanks as always, and I love all of you who read and respond. You're all in my thoughts.


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Hi Ben,

Here now. I know you asked about caregivers and how they feel; I am a "patient" but I hope you don't mind if I give you my little take on it.

This is, to me, the Hugest part of who I am, and who you are. I am a spiritual being. I didn't used to think so. It took many hard knocks and dings to get to the point where I was willing to believe and to surrender to my Lord.

My Lord, my God, my Goddess, my diety, My whoever...it may be easier to consider, like your Dad says...higher power.

As with your Mom, She is probably scared of the end. She is also, a mature woman, and has had many years to mull over the fact that none of us ever make it out of here alive.

When my brother learned that he was going to die, he wanted to know if it was going to hurt; if he was going to suffer. He was assured that it would not hurt and that there would be people around to make sure he did not suffer. He called in the priest for spiritual help and that seemed to bring him comfort.

With me, I have had my close brushes with death. There was one evening where I knew I was going to die. I asked God to give me another chance. I was such a pitiful Godless wreck. At that time, I knew I would be sittin' in hell til the end of time....never to see the face of God. I know now how merciful He is. Not only did He give me another crack at life, He puts obstacles in my path that would demand I get humble enough to cry out for Him! And accept Him as my lord and savior.

Well, Ben, that was ten years ago.

I was diagnosed with cancer about 3 years ago. Since then, I have had my brushes with death. Many a night I didn't know if I would awaken the next morning or not. I was too sick to go to the hospital. I was content that if I didn't wake up, that I would certainly find myself in God's loving arms.

A little prayer whispered as I fell asleep was a huge comfort to me. It is not a Jewish prayer, it is from the New Testament. But, it was the most calming prayer ever for me.

I think that the more you talk to your Mom about what she believes in the afterlife, the more comfort that she will have. Not only that, but if you listen to what she has to say, it will also be comforting to you. If you would like to call in a Rabbi or some other spiritual guide, I think that would be a very good thing. Not only for her, but also for you and for the rest of the family.

My mother died fighting death. My dad died accepting death. I accepted my dad's death much more readily because of his acceptance. My mother's death is something that I and the rest of my sibs continue to struggle with. She had no peace.

Don't know if any of this helps. Hope it does.

All the best to you, your Mom and your family.

Cindi o'h

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Ben -

It is hard to respond after Cindi's beautiful response, but I am going to try...and this come from my heart.

I 100% believe that you should encourage your mom to stop thinking about or trying to rationalize about if there is or isn't an afterlife, but instead to ask God to give her the comfort, peace and confidence that death is not final. If she asks that the fear be taken away, it will be. If she is skeptical about praying, look at it this way -- it can't hurt anything to ask God with an open-heart for help, clarity and peace. He doesn't care when we ask for help, just that we ask for it. She may not recieve calm immediately, as we all need patience -- but she will.

I come from a family with a mom who has the strongest faith of anyone I know and a dad who has little to none. It has created an interesting dynamic for all of us as we go down this path.

I, like Cindi encourage you to spring a spiritual leader (priest, pastor, rabbi, etc) into your home --it will help all of you. I can't express the comfort that is received.

Your family will be in my prayers tonight. Please keep us posted.


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This may be an extended reply, but it is as deeply caring and relieving as any of you can imagine. I have to admit, I live in the northeast, new jersey/nyc, and the jewish population here is the largest in the world, including Israel. We are good friends with our Rabbi, infact, he may be my dad's (maybe my mom's) best friend. I posted this question purposefully stating that I am Jewish because, as a religion, it may seem mysterious to people outside of highly Jewish areas and there are many Christians on this site. Judaism is just the early form of Christianity and we believe in the same god, minus the forms the Judaic god took in the year of Jesus' birth. I have read a lot of forum issues and often read about how it is necessary to believe in the strength of Christ, something which does not necessarily apply to me. What scared me the most was that I would end up getting evangelical non-understanding posts regarding religion. Instead, I have gotten great advice, and knowledge that the people on this site, no matter how evangelical they are, understand that we are all humans on this planet, dealing with human problems, and we struggle with the acceptance that death is the end of earthly life, and it is not just spiritual, but psychological.

This is not superlative: I have never been more suprised and happy in my life for this coming reason: The people of this board are real people, and when they say, "we'll keep you in our thoughts", or ,"I wish I could hug you", they mean it...you mean it. Thank all of you for being who you are,


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I am also Jewish and I consider myself a spiritual person. My family is not religious. We did not belong to a synagogue but we follow the religious holidays to the fullest and we believe in G-d.

I believe very much in the afterlife and also reincarnation. That seems to answer a lot of questions for me. It also gives me comfort to know that when we leave our physical bodies our soul lives on. We meet the people who we love who have passed. And I believe they help us cross over through the light to the next plane of life.

Back in July, I was at a friends death bed. She was a wonderful lady who use to be my next door neighbor. She was 95 and was dying of Lung Cancer. You and I should have the mind this women had at that age. She had a photographic memory and was remarkable when it come to her remembering anything. She remembered everything and always gave dates when talking. She was like this up until the time she left us.

Anyway, she was in assisted living and hospice was called in. They were coming 2 to 3 times a day.

I was there everyday after work along with her daughter. This one night we experience something that was to us really strange but beautiful.

We (me and her daughter) were having a conversation about the afterlife; all of a sudden this aroma of flowers was so prominent in the room. It was actually overpowering. I have problem breathing. Nothing to do with my lungs. It is my nose. I have many allergies and a deviated systum. (sp) So I am actually mouth breather. When this aroma hit us, my nose opened up and I could breathe so good. It was wonderful.

A nurse came in to check Stella's vitals. and said "my Lord I smell flowers and there aren't any in here". We also had the most peaceful feeling, and when we looked at each other we had tears down our cheeks and we were smiling. It was so incredible moment. We knew she was going to leave us but we knew she would be happy and taken care of.

When the aroma subsided, I had very hard time breathing, more than usual.

Stella passed the next day, with her daughter by her side. She had been bedridden for 2 weeks, in and out of consciousness.

If someone told me this happened to them I really don't know if I would believe it or not. But it happened to us, and it was something I will never forget. I just got the chills now thinking about it.

I believe it may have been her guardian angel.

Stange things happen. There is just no way that I can believe that we die and there is just a void. That to me is unthinkable.

I am not afraid of death as I know it will be an amazing experience with a feeling of complete peacefulness.

Sorry this was so long. It was just something I felt I had to tell you.

I pray for peace for your mom. And know one day you will be with her again.


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Maryanne. The funny thing is, for such a skeptical family, not only do we belong to a synagogue, but my parents have major rolls in it, and my dad is virtually the "man behind the curtain", our Rabbi's go to guy on everything (and he's a converted Catholic). We all just go through life our own way, and whatever God is out there, appreciates that. I know my mom just recently lit a Yartzeit candle for my grandmother's passing's anniversery, but she didn't know what prayer to say, and she felt badly about it. I told her that whatever is listening out there, doesn't care if you say a protocal prayer, Jewish, or Christian, or Hindu, etc... The real protocal is that whomever you are talking or praying to, knows that you have something to say, and it means something to you. Your response wasn't too lengthy, mine are always "too long". I got chills reading what you said. I do believe you, and I thank you for sharing, it is helpful. Thanks so much,


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Hi Ben,

It was good of you to raise these questions. I will try to respond as a kid and caregiver of a wonderful Mom.

I grew up going to church as a kid. Neither of my parents were particularly religious - as it turns out my Dad is very spiritual, but quite opposed to organized religion of any kind. My Mom, as I discovered after she was diagnosed with SCLC, didn't have faith in God. Long story short, her brother was killed in a terrible accident when she was a teenager and she became embittered about her religion.

My Mom did, however, take to praying every day after she was diagnosed and that seemed to give her some peace. She was eternally grateful for each "bonus" day.

On death, Isaac Asimov once said: "Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome."

I think Mom was always scared of dying. I think it became more pronounced when she learned that her death would be due to her cancer. Like most people, she was afraid of the unknown and was not convinced that there was an afterlife.

I don't believe that ever changed on a conscious level for Mom, though circumstances were such that there was a relatively easy transition to death. As with many people in her situation, she was rarely alert during the last two weeks of her life and when she was she was quite confused and childlike.

She also took to seeing 'people' who we couldn't see, which is quite normal. At one point, my Mom asked me if I could see the Pope (John Paul II) in the corner of the room. I couldn't, of course, but I asked her if he was speaking to her and she said "I don't know." She was quite relaxed about it and seemed comforted by the fact that I acknowledged her vision. I was stunned that she was seeing the Pope of all people, as we aren't even Catholic - but the mind works in mysterious ways.

She also pointed to people who were sitting on her bed and asked if I could see them. I would ask her to describe them, though she couldn't, but again she seemed happy that they were there. I've often wondered since then if my Mom achieved some spiritual peace during the many unconscious periods at the end of her life and/or if her brain stepped in and eased her path (this is easier to accept on a logical level). What is comforting to me is that there is much literature that suggests that these visions are quite helpful to patients who are transitioning from life into death - often easing there fears.

As you can imagine, my brother I were terribly scared to witness her death - and probably even more scared of trying to help guide her through the process (although like everyone, you find a way). In that regard, the transition was hard on us.

I'll finish this rambling post on the following note: As a result of Mom's death, I am more convinced than ever that there must be an afterlife. I cannot conceive that my Mom's beautiful soul isn't out there somewhere for me to find when the time comes. It's only in death that we can truly appreciate that our bodies are solely the vessels charged with transporting our spirits.

My prayers are with your Mom, you and your family.


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Ben, I really want to respond fully to this amazing, beautiful and inspiring post you began and my beloved friends have continued. I am a nice jewish girl, with a christian quarter in my family and I hear your questions loud and clear.

I don't have time to do your questions and everyone's responses justice right now. hold that thought, and know that you are heard here, as are your moms concerns.

more later,


bunny (a.k.a. amilah :wink: )

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I'm old and saw so many people having last minute

questions about death and what comes after.

Just in my family, my father deeply religious accepted death very peacefully,

my mother also accepted but on the comdition

that she would be around at all time for her children, she still is around me 30 years later.

My husband accepted death, the priest visited

him and helped him find peace in his last days,

his presence is continously with me helping me


So I'm sure there is life after death because

spirit do not die just leave the body that they

used for so many years.

Talking to your mother about what comes after

death is normal it is a passage from a spititual

being living in a material body and death takes

the body away and leave the spirit to live forever.


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I was thinking about your Mom's worries about not finding you when you are old and gray. Tell her not to worry. A mother always knows her children. Consider the herds of zebras. They all look alike. Yet, the pony will suckle the mother and the mother will always find her pony. Consider other herds in nature. The same thing. The mother always knows. Tell her to take a good whiff of you before she goes! :P

And you can smuff her back.

By the way, the farthest distance in the world is from the head to the heart. I encourage you to try not to intellectualize on this subject too much. You will do better by thinking with your heart.

Cindi o'h

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I really don't have much to add to what's been said except about my dad and prior to his death he went through a period of *questioning mixed with fear* Fortunately, he was lucid enough that we shared our own individual beliefs.

I had a strict Catholic upbringing and adding to that mix, both of my parents are Italian and there isn't any better word to describe them other than *old fashioned* Old fashioned about EVERYTHING! I am a product of the 60's and I am sure, gave both my parents *fits* I questioned every single thing and our household was one in that...communication was open. I was very comfortable discussing and asking about anything and everything. We had many discussions about God, spirituality. I have always felt the closest to God *outside*...never within the confines of church, per se and my dad knew that.

On the day my father passed away it was stormy and raining...bitterly cold too. I needed to get away for a few minutes, so I went and sat outside. I found myself pleading with my dad to give me some sort of a sign that he was ok and that he had *made it to heaven* About 30 seconds later, a swallowtail butterfly landed on the patio table...she had tattered wings, and her color had paled but she was there, nonetheless. It was mid January!!! I choose to believe that was my sign and that I was not hallucinating, LOL and Benny, I was so comforted.

The day we went to the mortuary there was only one vehicle in the parking lot and it was a white truck and belonged to an electrician (knew that because of the writing/advertisment) and the license plate was from the town my parents had just moved from a year prior. My dad was an electrician all his life and the town on the license plate was 400 miles away! When we went in, I asked who the truck belonged to and they did not know..we were the only family in there.

The day my mom had her biopsy and was put in a room for recovery, one of my brothers came running down the hall and had me follow him. My mom's room was right next door to a room that was labled *The electrical room*...we just smiled at one another. There were all kinds of empty rooms and she could of been put in any one of them.

Before my dad died he put those little malibu yard lights all over the backyard. They weren't the solar kind but were wired...anyway, over the years, one by one they have given out and my mom has replaced them with the solar kind, with the exception of one...it never ever goes on anymore...except when I come to visit.

In May, our house burned to the ground and we were to be away for the weekend and the ONLY picure I went back and got..was the last pic taken of me and my dad. I don't know why I went back and got the picture but on some level I knew I had to.

I know none of this probably helped with your questions but I think as long as your mom can talk to you about what she's thinking, that in itself is comforting. I know my dad was fearful for a time but our closeness and talks really did help him. I KNOW in my heart Benny that we go to a better place..one filled with light and love.

Hugs for your mom, Benny


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Your Mom will know those she loves, it won't matter what you looked like here, because this is just a shell. A much loved shell, but one that doesn't transition the way our souls do. I know that my Father experienced much of what you've described, but in his final days he found his Faith, and the comfort of a different future.

Keep an open mind to the possibilities.

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Hi Ben: Shortly before my dad died, I told him I love him and that he could take my love with him beyond this life. He beamed and gave me a big hug. I rather think that our capacity for love is a good assurance that there is an aftrlife. After all, love is eternal, right?

I am a ex-catholic, and Irish. I guess I am not ex-Irish..ha ha. I am not religious. I guess I am a kind of cafeteria catholic. I pick and choose what I want to believe. I was particulary stuck by Maryanne's post. The flower smell she talked about is the "Odor of Sanctitiy" that is described in people's accounts of their interactions with saintly people. I believe in the odor of sancity phenomenon. I have never smelled it myself. I think that rencarnation is highly likely too. I also think that many people on their deathbeds have visitations from helpful entities that ease their dying. My dad saw his mother and had converations with her.

I also think, that no matter what we may belive or not believe about the afterlife, we will all be surprised. I guess I believe in the Big Surprise, so I believe in an experience after death.

Ben, tell your mother you love her and that she can take that love with her when she dies. That is how we will know one another after this life. Our love will show the way.

Don M

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Your question really brought a lot of thoughts and memories to me. My parents were raised as Christians. They didn't go to church much after they were married. Most of their time was spent raising us kids especially my mom's time. My dad was an alcoholic. I attended many churches as a child. When I married a Catholic I attended the Catholic church. I could never tell you what religion I am now or ever was. All I can say is that I have a lot of faith. Faith that was not easily come by.

Johnny had a very storng faith. Still he was afraid of death. The reason for that is quite simple. He was raised in Oklahoma during the dust bowl days. The sermons he heard were those about hell and damnation. He believed in Jesus but when he faced death what he had been taught as a child caused him fear. It seemed that there was nothing a person could do to save themselves from Hell. Later he read in the Bible that we are to love God and our neighbors and that scripture gave him hope. Still the last months of his life he was afraid.

Sense his death I have learned a lot about Faith and God. I learned it thorough prayer and meditation. I learned it though heartbreak and self doubts. I learned it because the connection between me and Johnny was so stong that he made sure that I did.

From the first day after his death I experienced many strange things. I had never had those experiences after my parents or brothers died. Johnny had told me that he would never leave me. I truly believe that he has kept that promise.

It doesn't matter what you call God. All that matters is that you believe that there is a higher being. That He will see you through. Talk to your mom and like the others have said take someone to see her who can talk to her about God or just listen to what she has to say. Don't be surprised if you don't learn some things from her. She has probably already had some experiences that she doesn't understand and has not felt sure enough to tell anyone. If you watch and listen you might see something.

I can not believe that life ends when our body dies. To what purpose would life be? Each day I struggle with questions about life and death. I am so sure one day that Johnny is with me and then I start to doubt what I know in my heart. Yet when I ask God to give me what I need to get through each day He finds a way to do that. Ways that I would never have dreamed of and those strange things still happen to me. Maybe not as often but when ever I doubt I start to have the experiences again.

You and your mom and your whole family will be in my prayers. The God I believe in understands even those who have trouble always believing. So I will say God Bless you. Lillian

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My mom, for the past few years, has talked about seeing a representational dove of her mother and grandmother, their favorite animal, and there have been strange times when a dove has flown by at an extremely convenient moment. I know she cares more about afterlife signs than a firm belief in the beyond. She just told me today, after we had a tearful talk about our beliefs in god, that I should always know that whenever I saw a dove, I should know it was her. Here's the crazy thing: I'm extremely empirical, I need evidence, I'm rational to a fault, and yet, I believed her. I'll never look at a white bird the same again. I believe, and love all of you for what you have written,



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oh, I love Don's answer. that's it, exactly and any rabbi, priest, guru or imam worth a spit would tell you the same.

Ben, a friend I made here who is Christian fasted with me (long distance, of course) on yom kippur, and we dedicated it to my long-late grandfather and her husband, who has LC. it was the first fast in my adult life that meant anything to me, and it was powerful. further proof that god is love.



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I do believe in god with all my. heart.I also am a patient,scheduled for upper right lung removal a week from today and am very scared.I ask God every night to help me through this.Will also pray for your mom.My feelings are it doesent seem to matter what we believe in or the religion,what matters is the peace we get from our beliefs.if it brings peace and its helping us to feel better thats a wonderful thing.I got alot of support here and i know you will too.If your Mom believes in the hereafter and it brings her peace thats good as we all need that inner peace.love to you both


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You have brought many emotions and memories to those here with your question. I thank you for that. The responses have been so eloquent, and filled with compassion and love.

I also can't add much to these responses....just know that I pray for the peace, love and comfort of God to be with your Mom and you and the rest of your family. It is wonderful that the two of you can share these feelings with each other. I guarantee you will treasure them forever.

I encourage you to hold her, tell her how much you love her..share past memories and what they mean to you.....and just give her unconditional love and patience, sending her off in peace and love...sending you hugs of peace and love


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I was raised catholic but have become a Unitarian-Universalist. The joke is that we're hedging our bets that all the world's religions have a bit of the truth but no one religion has all of the truth.

What can I say? In times of trouble we all turn inward.

I recommend turning outward, too. POsting my worries, fears and daily joys here is a source of strength for me. I know that all of our positve energy combines as a force that will and does combat this beast we're all fighting....call it cancer...call it fear. It is deadly but there is hope and that is what fuels my soul today. Hope.

Do not despair.

In prayer and hope for a better tomorrow.


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