The Ultimate Transition

If you know someone who’s about to pass or who has recently passed on — whether it was a natural end-of-life passing or a sudden, unexpected passing — take comfort in knowing that no one ever goes home alone.
John Holland and Koda, living inspiration for The Koda Fund

There are two defining moments in everyone’s physical lifetime, regardless of your religion, color, nationality, or geographical location: birth and death. While they’re totally different in the obvious way, I tend to view death as a form of birth. It’s just that death is your doorway to the Other Side, in that you’re born back into the spirit world.

Everything, including your soul, is always on its way to somewhere. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” Birth and death are basically the same process — it’s like walking from one room to another through a doorway; in this case, the only difference is the direction you’re headed.

As much as we might want to ignore the subject of our own mortality — many of us refuse to think about it, plan for it, or even accept it — some people also feel that by just talking about death, they’re somehow hastening it. Passing on — or transitioning, or whatever term you’re most comfortable using — is something that we all have to face eventually, whether it’s by coping with the loss of someone we love or preparing for our own passing.

Saying farewell to a loved one who’s dying can be one of the toughest things you’ll experience in this lifetime. No matter how ready you think you are, it’s never easy when the time actually comes. If you’re dealing with this at the moment, my heart goes out to you. Please say what you have to say to the people that are in your life now, so that you never have to say “I should have, could have, or would have . . .” or, “If only I had . . .” Try to live your life with an open hand, and enjoy and appreciate each and every moment you have with your loved ones and friends.

The Gathering

If you know someone who’s about to pass or who has recently passed on — whether it was a natural end-of-life passing or a sudden, unexpected passing — then I hope you’ll take comfort in knowing that no one ever goes home alone. Those on the Other Side are quite aware of an imminent passing and will gather together to welcome back a family member, friend, or even pet.

When someone is reaching the end of their natural life, a sense of peace often descends, as though they know that spirits are gathering to welcome them. When a person is approaching the final physical stages of what’s known as death, they often experience a gradual declining or dulling of the physical senses. Their sight, their hearing, and even their sense of feeling seems to grow dimmer and dimmer. It’s almost as if their light starts to fade or flicker standing on the border of this world and the next.

As their physical senses dim, their psychic senses heighten, becoming more evident and acute. It’s not uncommon that the dying person seems to develop a sense of knowing what’s happening or occurring in another place, whether it’s in another room or even a distant location. Their psychic senses — clairvoyance, clairsentience, or clairaudience — may become stronger prior to death.

Soul-To-Soul Connections

There have been documented cases where a person who is about to pass was able to project their spirit to friends and family who weren’t physically with them in the room. The loved ones were able to sense them and, in some cases, reported that they saw them. Others have documented how they appeared in dreams. You might have experienced this yourself with someone who was ill or close to death. It’s as though you just knew you had to go see that person immediately, even if they passed soon after you arrived. It’s almost as if their spirit was reaching out to you as a form of thought transference. The consciousness of the dying person is impressed upon the friend or relative even while the spirit of the latter remained in the body. I refer to this as a soul-to-soul connection.

This happened to my cousin many years ago when I lost an aunt to cancer. My mom was one of four girls, and one of her sisters, my Aunt Shirley, was given the news that her life would be ending soon due to cancer. Everyone loved my aunt, and she was especially close with her niece Dolly, my cousin. One evening, while Dolly was relaxing at home with her family, she got this overwhelming sense out of the blue that she needed to rush to the hospital to be with our Aunt Shirley, so she immediately dropped everything and jumped in her car. When Dolly arrived at the hospital, Shirley had already slipped into unconsciousness, and she passed peacefully afterward, holding Dolly’s hand. It was as though she’d waited for her to arrive.

During a soul-to-soul connection, the soul or spirit reaches out with love and chooses a person to be there with them. The person who gets the signal is often one with heightened psychic awareness. However, I’ve heard many stories of how sad someone felt because they weren’t able to be there for their loved one’s passing. Some people have told me of agreements they’d made to be together at the time of someone’s death, but alas it didn’t happen.

If you had such an agreement that didn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up. You could have been at someone’s bedside for a week, 24 hours a day, every day. Then the one time you go out to grab a coffee, your loved one passes. The person does not do so because they want to break your special agreement; the soul decides to leave so as not to put you through the pain of watching them go. They do this for one reason: they love you. The soul always knows when to leave or whether to stay and wait.

Deathbed Visions

Have you ever been with someone who’s not long for this world and seen their eyes cast up as if they’re gazing at something not physically there? Have you ever noticed a dying person reaching up with their hands as if some invisible hands were reaching back out to them or witnessed them having a conversation with someone who’s not there? When you ask whom they were talking to, you might be surprised to find out they were having a conversation with someone who’s no longer living.

This phenomenon is known as deathbed visions (DBVs), which some people experience just before they pass. It’s less likely for such incidences to happen with a sudden passing, and more common with a natural death or prolonged terminal illness.

Many scientists and medical professionals who feel they’ve had to offer a logical and rational explanation of such phenomena believe that these extraordinary experiences are due to hallucinogenic drugs or a lack of oxygen to the brain. I understand and respect that their opinions come from a place of education and rational thinking. But I would also pose the question: Why is it that these deathbed visions often involve seeing someone who’s already passed as opposed to someone alive and close to the dying person?

My colleague David Kessler is a grief expert who has worked in palliative care and studied with Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the well-known psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies, who gave us the theory of the five stages of grief. His fascinating book, Visions, Trips, and Crowd Rooms, describes the phenomenon of what people see before they pass. He deftly dispels many of the misconceptions and doubts surrounding DBVs, and includes enlightening and revealing stories from a variety of sources.

I often say that no one ever goes home alone, and I believe that DBVs are evidence that we’re truly never alone. Whether our passing is slow or sudden, surprising or expected, there’s always a loved one to reach out and escort us back home. These experiences often help calm dying patients by lessening the fear of death. They can be extremely healing to the family and friends that remain after their loved one has passed.

If you know someone is close to passing, and they start to talk about someone visiting, the best advice I can give is to ask them questions about the visit, then listen with an open mind. You might be quite surprised by who showed up!

Hopefully, as the phenomenon of DBVs becomes more widely written about and accepted, it will assist us in recognizing that death is nothing to be afraid of, and that you should live your life in the here and now to the very fullest. After all, this life is important. Life is fleeting, and every moment we fritter away is a moment we will never get back.

ADCs: After Death Communications

There’s a special language that transcends time and space — a language that’s not constrained by the limitations of just words, but instead consists of signs, symbols, energy, and thoughts. This language can be heard and seen only when you truly pay attention. It’s the language of spirit.

Once a loved one passes and has settled again, they often do everything in their power to get your attention. When they send a sign, they’re trying to tell us that they’ve survived death, that they love us, that they want us to live our lives to the fullest. Be watchful and pay attention, as it could be they who sent you that rainbow; that familiar song you heard on the radio; that special dream in which they appeared happy, healthy, and strong. Equally, it may be one of nature’s beautiful creatures they so loved that suddenly appears, or the wonderful aroma of their favorite flower, or even a gentle touch on your face that you thought was just a breeze. They want you to know, “I love you, I am not gone, I am here right beside you. You may not see me, but I am here.”

These special signs are what are known as after death communications (ADCs). I also like to refer to them as “calling cards.” ADCs were brought to my attention by Hello from Heaven, a book written by Judy and Bill Guggenheim. Judy and Bill did extensive research into after death communication, interviewing more than 3,000 people who believed they’d been contacted by a deceased loved one. The book includes over 300 stories of ADCs, and Judy and Bill’s research powerfully concludes that an estimated 60 to 120 million Americans have experienced some form of an ADC. That amazing number of people tells us that ADCs are quite normal and happen all the time.

Many of us have experienced synchronistic events or received signs and symbols from those on the Other Side. It’s easy, however, to miss them or conveniently explain them away as coincidences. In fact, I recently received a sign that I came close to explaining away — even though I’ve been doing this work for many years!

I was walking past my kitchen counter one night, thinking of my mom who had passed a few years before. Suddenly I heard a clink. I noticed that the pens and pencils I had in a cup on the counter somehow all shifted to the other side of the cup. Earlier the pens and pencils were on the right of the cup, and now all of them lay to the left. I remember thinking to myself, Mmm, it must have created a breeze when I was walking by. Yeah, right! How fast would I have had to been walking to create that type of wind current? I thought about it and realized there is no way those pens could have moved on their own. With a big smile on my face, I said, “Thanks, mom! I get the message!”

It’s important to stress here that ADCs are not facilitated through a psychic or a medium. You don’t need some sort of tool to receive or interpret them. These are spiritual experiences that happen spontaneously. They come in many forms and are usually quite personal. Some people have special signs that are unique to them. Here’s one touching story of undying love that I heard recently that reinforces this point.

Sand Dollars: Tokens Of Love

Jeri and David had this beautifully romantic ritual that they always did together. They would head off to the local beach, not to watch the sunsets but to stroll, holding hands and looking for sand dollars that would wash ashore. It was their special time together, and it would be rare for them not to bring a few sand dollars home. Every token became a special memory of their romantic walks together.

They married and had two young boys, and everything seemed almost perfect. It came as a terrible shock when David developed an aggressive cancer and passed away far too quickly. Jeri lost the love of her life, and their children lost a doting father.

One day, some months after David passed, Jeri was hanging out in the living room with her youngest son, Logan, who was eight years old at the time. They’d both been thinking about David a lot recently. Logan was starting a new school year, and she knew that he wished his dad could be there for this big day. Sensing Logan’s mood, Jeri reached out and whispered, “Do you want to join me for a walk down on Sand Dollar Beach?” Before she’d even finished asking, Logan had hopped off the couch with a smile and took her hand. That was his answer!

It was the first week in September, and the beach was practically deserted. Without a word, they both started looking for sand dollars, just as Jeri and David had done together so many times before. They walked up and down the beach, pushing mounds of sand aside, scouring the shore for their treasure. Yet no matter how hard they looked, they couldn’t find a single sand dollar. Logan’s face couldn’t hide his frustration and disappointment. Jeri looked up to the sky and said in her mind, David, please send us a sign. Logan is starting school tomorrow, and he really could use a hello from heaven from you right now.

Jeri turned away for a moment, so Logan wouldn’t see the tear trickling down her face. It was then that she noticed a small boat approaching the shore. She could have sworn it wasn’t there before, and she didn’t know where it had come from. The man in the boat stood up waving and yelling, “Hi! Are you looking for sand dollars?”

“Yes!” the two yelled back in unison, a resounding roar of excitement.

The man smiled and pointed, “Give that sand bar over there a try!”

Jeri and Logan thanked the man and ran across the beach. She glanced back for a second, but he’d already turned the boat around and left. She thought how strange it was that this man hadn’t asked them if they were looking for shells, sea glass, or even heart rocks. Instead, he’d specifically mentioned sand dollars!

Logan ran ahead excitedly, hoping to find just one memento. He soon saw, to his amazement and delight, a crisp sand dollar sticking out of the sand! Then another and then another lay before him. The more they looked, the more they found.

Jeri smiled as she heard her son shouting in joy, “Mom, mom, here’s another one!” They found so many, they filled every pocket they had. As they walked back up the shore, they counted a total of 43 sand dollars. Logan looked up at her, smiling, his eyes full of tears, “Mom, this is better than winning the lottery!”

In her heart, Jeri knew it had been David who’d helped them. She closed her eyes as she felt a gentle breeze caress her face like a kiss. Her skin tingled with his presence.

Logan kept asking, “Mom, how did the guy in the boat know what we were looking for? I bet it was Dad saying hi!”

Simple signs can be profound. A special symbol, unique to you, has a way of filling your heart. Now, whenever Jeri walks along that special beach, whether alone or with her sons, she knows that David will be right beside her.

I’m sure there will be many more sand dollars (and other ADCs) waiting for Jeri and her family.

ADCs Through Dreams

Over the years, I’ve heard thousands of stories of ADCs. One man’s house filled with the smell of pipe tobacco, immediately triggering memories of his dad lighting up his pipe. A woman told me she felt a kiss on her forehead and knew it was from her husband who’d passed suddenly. Another told me of the indent in the blanket on her bed, which was the same size of a pet that had recently passed. While there is hundreds of ways spirits use to reach out through ADCs, the number one way is dreams.

When you’re asleep, your mind is not working overtime. As it’s calm and relaxed, your left brain (the analytical side) is able to take a much-needed break. This is the easiest time for spirits to sneak into your consciousness and psyche. It may not happen right away, however. It took my mom a year to visit my dreams after she’d passed. I didn’t demand it, but somehow I knew it would happen eventually.

I love asking audiences, “Who’s had a dream of a loved one, when you knew for a fact that it really was them?” Immediately, a sea of hands will go up. Whether the dream happened days ago, weeks ago, or even years ago, the memory of that special ADC is usually as fresh for the person as though it were dreamed last night.

When I ask people to describe what happened in the dream, what was said, and how the person looked, the answers are usually always the same. First, their loved ones always appear healthy and vibrant, even if there was illness, age ravaged their bodies, or they passed due to some trauma. They appear smiling, healthy and perfect. Many people distinctly remember saying in their dreams, “What are you doing here — you’re dead!”

The messages that come back in a dream are usually short. Without opening their mouths, spirits will use thought to convey that they live on, that they’re alive, and that they still love you. Most important, they want you to go on with your lives here, to be happy, and to know that they’ll see you again. In these special dreams, you may just get a hug that feels so real, so loving, that when you wake up, you have tears in your eyes. Have faith and trust that it really was them who came to visit and held you close in that loving embrace.

Of course, not every dream you have of a loved one is a legitimate ADC. It may be your own mind working through your bereavement process, especially if the dream is disturbing or your loved one appears in a distressing or negative way. You’ll know which ones are genuine ADCs because they’ll have a sense of clarity to them, being more detailed, loving, enjoyable, and above all, positive.

I recommend keeping a journal beside your bed to record your dreams, whether they’re ADCs or not. This will get you in the habit of paying attention to and retaining details of your dreams. If you want to have an ADC dream of a loved one, then a good way to start is to spend some time in quiet reflection or meditation. Send a thought out to that person. Gather up all the love you have in your heart and think of them. Ask them to appear in your dream, and tell them that you’re ready and willing to receive a message.

Remember, while you may just get that person, don’t be surprised if you get a message from someone you least expect!

Common Signs of ADCs

You might have already detected a spirit presence yourself at some point, even if you didn’t totally realize it. For example, have you ever felt a loved one standing beside you, but you explained it away as wishful thinking or your imagination? Or seen something out of the corner of your eye, but when you looked at it directly, it was gone? Have you ever heard your name being called and no one was there? These are all typical examples of ways your loved ones will try to make their presence known to you, as well as some of these other most popular ones:

  • Feeling a loved one’s presence
  • Finding shiny coins, such as pennies and dimes
  • Electrical items switching on and off
  • Phones ringing and the name of the person who passed being displayed on the caller ID
  • Nature signs, such as the appearance of rainbows
  • Sudden appearances of specific animals, birds and insects — butterflies are a big sign!
  • Same set of numbers keeps showing up
  • Scents coming from no known physical source
  • Items going missing and then suddenly appearing out of nowhere
  • A favorite song playing on the radio just as you think about someone
  • Synchronistic events and other strange coincidences
  • Seeing someone off in the distance who seems to be a duplicate of a loved one who has passed
  • A loved one’s name showing up just when you were thinking about them

These are just a few examples of the many different ways in which your loved ones may try to get your attention. Trust me, they’ll try anything to reach out to you. Try not to demand a sign; it’s more likely to come when you least expect it. Just as you have a life here, so do spirits on the Other Side, so they may not always be at your beck and call.

No matter what ADC you receive, they’re always meant to be loving, joyful, and positive. They are usually received exactly when you need it. They shouldn’t be scary or frightening or cause you more grief. Again, it’s spirits’ way of saying, “I love you, and I’m with you always.”

If you believe in ADCs but have yet to experience one, know that spirits often take their cues from you. If they know that you’re still emotional and an ADC may upset you or increase your sadness, they might pass a message through someone else until you’re ready to receive one directly.

When you feel you’re open and ready to receive a sign, put a loving thought out to them. Ask them to show you a sign, one that you’ll know is from them. Keep an open mind, without a set expectation of what you want your sign to be. You may get the same symbol over and over or you could get a different message every time. Trust me, they know when you’re ready and how to get your attention. Be thankful for them, cherish them, and hold them close to your heart, for they truly are hellos from heaven.

Reprinted with permission of the author from Bridging Two Realms: Learn To Communicate With Your Loved Ones From The Other Side by John Holland (Hay House, 2018).

John Holland is an internationally renowned psychic medium, spiritual teacher, author and radio host.  Visit

See also:
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How To Be An Evidential Medium