I was chuckling at the latest episode of Rescue Me. Tommy Gavin, the alcoholic fireman, has had several brushes with death and always has these visions of darkness and feels dread. Lieutenant Ken Shay, who is somewhat portly, drops from a heart attack for a few minutes, and has visions of his mother, feels joy, smells a "bakery". Tommy sits there incredulous at Ken Shay's version of the death experience and more than a little annoyed that he's never had the feeling of joy or the bakery smells. Tommy keeps insisting there must have been at least one zombie in there somewhere.
Here's a clip (for mature audiences...)
When I worked in ICU, I had several experiences of patients knowing when their time was imminent. One woman, while another nurse and I were repositioning her, said to us "oh, I think I am dying" in a very pleasant, sing-songy voice, .. and then she flat-lined just like that. Most, if conscious, seemed to be in a pleasant mental state, and yes, naming loved ones that had gone on before them, seeing them in their ICU room. "That's Bill, my first husband, sitting right there in that chair". I couldn't see their loved ones, but it was usually a hallmark sign, and they'd pass away within 24 hours of these seeing their (deceased) loved one at the bedside.
This was an ICU in South Florida, an area of the U.S. sometimes referred to as "God's Waiting Room". Most of our elderly patients had adult children in other states. I can't tell you how many people (even if comatose) waited to pass until their whole family had arrived from points all over the U.S. And sometimes the dying seemed to wait until their whole family had been to the bedside to say their goodbyes,... and then passed when the family finally went for coffee or a break. I guess some dying people just wanted to spare their families the perceived discomfort of being there at "the moment".
There's the medical side of things where we believe if a person is in a coma that they are not aware of people being around, or of what is said. But we know from people who are anesthetized for surgery, and from the rare person whose been in a coma and come out of it; they can often report exactly what was said, who was present, and other details. Perhaps the consciousness travels outside the body more often than we think. After all, the body is just a vessel, right?
I've noticed that alot of people in the metaphysical world who have had near death experiences return .. more intuitive, more insightful, some.. tremendously psychic where they weren't prior to their death experience. I wonder why that is. Maybe it's something about opening up that -- channel, or experiencing the oneness of All-That-Is. I don't know. But it's tremendously intriguing to me.