Terminal Lucidity – Is it real? Singing on your death bed?

Terminal Lucidity – Is it real? Singing on your death bed?
November 30, 2015 LearnMusic.Guide

terminal lucidity

Now before you wonder what on earth a news article is doing on a music learning site about the moments before a human being slips off this mortal coil, stay with me for a while.

Firstly just to explain what ‘Terminal Lucidity’ is. As Scientific American explains “the term was coined only five years ago by German biologist Michael Nahm. His 2009 article in The Journal of Near-Death Studies was the first modern review article on the curious subject of cognitively impaired people becoming clearheaded as their death approaches”.

There have been some extraordinary cases of Terminal Lucidity and none no more extraordinary as Anna Katharina Ehmer. Profoundly disabled, Ehmer spent most of her life in the Hephata asylum, near Schwalmstadt in central Germany. Friedrich Happich, who was the asylum’s chaplain, wrote the following:

“Among the patients with the most severe mental disabilities who have ever lived in our institution. From birth on, she was seriously retarded. She had never learned to speak a single word… She gorged her food, fouled herself day and night… we have never seen that she had taken notice of her environment even for a second.”

anna katharina ehmer

However, moments before her death Ehmer seemed to ‘snap out’ of decades of an almost vegetable state and began singing. This miraculous scene was witnessed by both Friedrich Happich and Dr Wilhelm Wittneben, the asylum doctor. As Happich reported, “Specifically, she sang over and over again “Where does the soul find its home, its peace? Peace, peace, heavenly peace!” For half an hour she sang. Her face, up to then so stultified, was transfigured and spiritualized. Then, she quietly passed away. Like myself and the nurse who had cared for her, Dr Wittneben had tears in his eyes.”

So, what do we make of this Terminal Lucidity? It would seem that there are many other cases of cognitively dysfunctional patients coming back to life for a moment before death and singing songs and or communicating in a way that was previously inconceivable.

References above courtesy of Scientific American : http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2014/08/09/terminal-lucidity/#.VlxOO3bhBmM

Leave your comments below to have your say.

  • Claire Collier

    Like the thought of this, breaking into song on my death bed, what a way to go out!! Not sure if I believe the article, seems a little far fetched.

  • Russell Hammond

    Hi Claire,

    Thanks for your comments! I know what you mean…it does sound pretty mental…if you Google ‘Terminal Lucidity’ though there’s loads written about it and lots of cases documented.

  • Derek Anchan

    I wish no one has to endure the same plight as Katherina Ehmer, but I would like to go out singing like her. A scientific reason for Terminal Lucidity is fine, but I wouldn’t rule out the positive influence of singers she had heard at some point in her life. It must have really influenced her to break the shackles and come out of stupor.