Continued Sporadic Breaths After Mom Was 'Gone'

Dear Barbara, I have two questions please, if you would help. 1. My Mother’s eyes turned color a few hours before she died. Do you know anything about this? 2. When my Mother was struggling (fighting) at the end the pulse oximeter displayed no numbers, the hospice nurse said, 'She's gone.' However, my Mother still 'breathed' these abrupt, jolted exhales for about 30 minutes and then these stopped. I want to know, please, did she die when the nurse said 'She's gone.' or when the last breath was exhaled?

To answer the first question, about your mom's eye color changing: I have not noticed this happening with others before. Most eyelids are at "half mast," or one eye will be partially open while the other is closed. So I didn't see a lot of really open eyes and no one asked me about a color change. 

That said, it doesn't mean it hasn't happened to others. As the energy leaves the body, there are so many unexplained changes. 

To address your second question about her continued breathing after the oximeter displayed no numbers: most often there will be no readings from the blood pressure cuff and you can't get a pulse reading by machine or by hand long before breathing stops altogether. 

The heart is still beating even when our less sophisticated machines don’t register them. The breathing will get slower and slower and the time between breaths will get longer and longer – all the while there is no pulse reading. It is just too faint/weak to register.

Not getting a reading doesn't mean she was dead. It says she was very close but as long as she was taking occasional breaths, I personally think she had not finished her labor. 

All that said, I have witnessed bodies of people who were presumed dead (no heartbeat, no breaths) make gurgling and even gasping sounds. It is just air or fluids releasing from the body. Life is gone, just the shell reacting to gravity and external movement.

Knowing the exact moment of death or what happens during the time of release is not what is important here. What is important is that we had the gift of being present at this sacred moment. We were able to say goodbye. In spite of the strangeness of something happening that we have never witnessed or even imaged —we were there.

Something More... about Continued Sporadic Breaths After Mom Was 'Gone'

If you are caring for a special person at end of life alone in your home, you may want to know what you can do for them during the dying process.  GONE FROM MY SIGHT teaches you what to look for and expect, then THE ELEVENTH HOUR explains what you and DO for your person.  They are both part of the bundle, End of Life Guideline Series. I encourage you to have everyone who visits or plans to help read these two booklets also. Then you are a team. Everyone knows what to expect and how to pitch in. Caregiving is hard. Equip yourself with tools that will support you.

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My mother woke up from a coma for two hours of transitional lucidity. Here eyes were a light green with gold light flowing from them. Her eyes are normally dark blue. For me it was a visual confirmation that she was transitioning into the light. There were other magical phenomenon during those two hours. She appeared to be reporting on “past life” happenings that were not part of the life she was leaving.

BK Books replied:
Carolyn, There is so much we don’t know about what the body sees and experiences in those final moments. Some day each one of us will find out when it is our turn to leave. Your mother gave you a peek into the other world she was experiencing. She gave you a gift. Blessings! Barbara

Katie Pitts

Hi Barbara,
I cared for my Mama in my home up until she passed. Hospice care was only for a week. I received their package of paperwork, along with one of your books," Gone From My Sight". I was told by the head/charge nurse not to read the book right away, but rather wait a while, so I did. Looking back though I had so wished I had read it after the nurse had left my home that day. It would have helped me so much and I would of understood so many things going on with my Mama. My Mama only lived 6 days later, from the first initial visit from Hospice. Please reiterate to others, that sometimes suggesting to wait on reading these booklets, may not be the best idea. Thank you.
BK Books replied:
Oh Katie, I am so sorry. Of course Gone From My Sight should be read as early as possible. I wrote it to be a guide for others as they live through a loved one dying. Its information is good to read anytime but in the months and weeks before death is when it does its best work. Reading it after the death helps us understand what happened but we need it most while all is happening. My blessings to you. Barbara


My mom’s brown eyes turned blue 4 days before she died. I have worked in hospice for over 10 years and I have only heard of this one other time. Thank you for all of your wonderful education and insight.
BK Books replied:
Hi Charlotte, I have never heard of eyes turning color before either until recently someone said their mom’s eyes changed color shortly before she died. I don’t know what that means. Blessings to you in the hospice work you are doing. Barbara


I was given the gift of being with Mom when she died. She just stopped breathing. That was it. Prior to that she was breathing as if in a deep sleep with me holding her hand. The morphine she was given was because of the cancer pain. When she stopped breathing little by little I felt her gently release her grip of my hand. I am so thankful and blessed God gave me that time with her. As her caregiver I have no regrets of all I did for her though I miss her being here.
BK Books replied:
Hi Joan, what a meaningful gift you gave each other. Your mom, her gentleness, You being with her during her last experience. Thank you for sharing. Blessings! Barbara


Just wanted to add that my father’s eyes were a different colour after death. Brown in life; olive green in death. It was startling. (I wasn’t able to say goodbye in person due to the pandemic—I saw him via FaceTime but knew it wasn’t the camera acting up bc his skin was the same colour.) I feel a strange relief and gratitude knowing someone else experienced something similar. Love and peace to all xo
BK Books replied:
Hi Lauren, you are now the third person to say their special person’s eyes changed color before they died. I don’t know why. Maybe someone will read this and give us an explanation. Blessings! Barbara

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