There is one additional point I wanted to make re: "When A Doctor Dies…" posting which was referred to in the original NY Times article. The doctor referred to his own father's last days in which he seemed to be speaking to an invisible presence which seemed to be his own father.
This point was quickly dismissed since the point of the article was the father's attitude toward his own failing body. I would like to bring the reader's attention, however, to the well-known phenomeon of death-bed visions.
This has been described by many health care providers [nurses and physicians] who observe dying patients. Hospice nursese are so familiar with this phenomenon that they regularly alert family members to expect this to occur with their own dying loved-ones.
A large study of over 1000 health care providers was published in the 1970's called AT THE HOUR OF DEATH. The authors were Osis and Harraldsson and analyzed the phenomenon in both Western cultures as well as Indian society. Their conclusion was that this represented a metaphysically valid spiritual experience of dying individuals.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross MD also described the same experience in dying children. In order to counter the claim that the dying merely hallucinate their closest loved-ones, she performed a type of scientific 'study'.
Before the critically ill children were truly near death, Kubler-Ross asked them who they would like to have around them if the were 'really sick'. Almost universally the children mentioned their parents.
These same children, when their time of death was near, never described seeing their parents, unless their parent had already died. This was a powerful demonstration to Kubler-Ross that the experience was a deeply spiritual one.
The phenomeon represents the presence of deceased relatives who are present to make the passage from life to death less frightening. It may correspond to some of the reports from the near-death experience as well in which dead relatives are encountered.
I would those readers who are curious to explore the phenomenon. Some have witnessed this themselves. Others may know nurses who have worked in ICUs or in Hospice.
Pay attention–it is a strong clue to the presence of a deeper spiritual dimension to reality.