Blogging for Transformation
THE SHARED DYING EXPERIENCE OF CLIFTON FURUKAWA MD AND HIS SON
FROM PARTING VISIONS BY MELVIN MORSE AND PAUL PERRY
“I know what happens after death” Dr. Furukawa told me. He was an internationally recognized allergist as well as a compassionate clinician. He has written textbooks and medical journal articles that have been responsible for many of the advances in Pediatric allergies. I spent six months working with him in his allergy clinic at Seattle Children’s Hospital and have discussed many difficult cases of asthma with him.
Still I knew little of his personal life. So I was unprepared for the late night phone call I received from him in which he told me about the out of body experience he had had in relationship to his son’s death.
In a calm and clinical manner Furukawa told me about the pain of watching his son drown at a lake in Washington State. He had taken his son to go crabbing for crawdads, on a glorious summer morning. No clouds were in the sky, as he gazed out at the water, it flowed seamlessly into the sky. It was difficult to separate the two. He parked his car on the ramp that allowed boat entry into the lake, and went down into the water to set traps.
Suddenly, and inexplicably, his son jumped into the car. He smiled and waved at his father. Then tragically, he released the parking brake, laughing and smiling as the car slowly rolled into the lake.
Dr. Furukawa frantically clawed at the doors to the car trying to open them, gesturing to his son to try to open them as well. His son floundered and panicked, accidentally locking the electronic locks. The car continued its slow roll into the lake. He desperately tried everything, pounding on the windows, trying to find something that would break the glass, anything to free his son, but the car eventually became completely submerged under the water.
Beside himself with fear, Dr. Furukawa jumped into the lake and desperately tried to push the car out of the lake back onto land. He felt himself being trapped and pulled under as the car continued to slowly sink. Suddenly he felt as if he was out of his physical body, watching himself. The scene was so vivid that he could see the hairs on the top of his head ad even look around at the mountains and the water.
He felt completely at peace and emotionally detached as, from this puzzling vantage point, he watched himself struggle to save his son. “At this point I had the sort of empathy that one might feel with a patient,” he told me. “I felt sorry about what I was seeing yet I really had no feelings”.
As he watched himself, he became aware that there was a being behind him “watching the two mes”.
Furukawa had a sense that he would die if his struggle continued. As he considered this option, the spirit spoke to him without actually speaking, conveying to him that he had a choice to continue to struggle until he died or to return to his body, which would then be in great emotional agony. He chose to return. He saw his son engulfed by the most brilliant light I had ever seen. “I saw his face, it was aglow with love, he was at peace, even joyful, as I endured unthinkable agony.”
“It was the worst emotional pain I have every experienced,” he told me.
Through the pain of losing his son, Furukawa experienced some positive changes. For one thing, he now has a greatly decreased fear of death. He also sees a greater meaning to life. “Since the death of my son, I think I know what happens when we die”. He told me. “That knowledge has been a great relief to me.
Months later, he was lying in bed with his wife. They had not even begun to process their grief. Suddenly he heard a voice saying “they are all your children”. He knew it was the spirit that came to him when his son passed. He understood this to mean that his work with children was too important for him to have taken what Dr. Furukawa called the “easy way out” to have proceeded to join his son in that light that waits us all when we die.
Contact Dr. Morse at firstname.lastname@example.org